By Jon Clarke in Silves

A LAWYER who twice oversaw searches at a reservoir looking for Madeleine McCann in 2008, has slammed the Portuguese police and state over the ‘shameful’ way the case was handled.

Marcos Aragao Correia organised two searches around the Barragem de Arade alongside the Spanish detective agency, Metodo 3, who were hired by the McCann family.

As well as insisting their findings – including bones in a bag weighed down by a stone and a child’s sock – were ‘ignored’ by police, he claims the ‘corrupt’ government of the time orchestrated a cover up.

In a damning interview by email with the Olive Press, he drew parallels with another missing girl, Joana Cipriano, who vanished at the age of 8, just 10 miles from Praia da Luz, where Madeleine went missing in May, 2007.

Joana Cipriano Netflix 1
Joana Cipriano. Photo: Netflix

Writing from his home in Madeira, he slammed the way the mother of the girl, Leonor Cipriano, who he represented as a lawyer, had been tortured by police into signing ‘a false confession’ that she had killed her daughter.

And he described it as particularly ‘shameful’ that the same group of detectives, led by Gonzalo Amaral, was later tasked with investigating the case of missing Maddie, who vanished while on holiday in Praia da Luz.

“It is totally shameful that the Portuguese Government, led by the corrupt socialist Prime Minister Jose Socrates, allowed Amaral, already accused of torturing Leonor, to again be responsible for an investigation into the disappearance of another child, Madeleine McCann.”

The father-of-four continued: “And soon it was found that the same ‘script’ of the police was always to accuse the parents of the children without any evidence.”

He added: “The Portuguese State is in fact a dictatorship disguised as democracy.”

Marcos Correia
Marcos Correia

In the shocking case of Joana, she had vanished in 2004 without trace, as she ran an errand to her local grocery shop, in Figueira, for her mother at dusk.

Incredibly, both her mother and uncle were accused of killing her after police claimed she had walked in on them in bed. 

Detective Amaral – who was eventually removed from the Madeleine case – built up the accusation and claimed Joana was killed and her body was ‘fed to pigs’.

But it proved to be a total fantasy and Amaral received an 18-month sentence for perjury and covering up his officers’ dirty work, while two of them also received a prison sentence for the attack.

Leonor Cipriano With Poster
Leonor holding a poster pleading for information about Joana

“After months of trial, we were able to prove, with a final and unappealable decision, that Leonor was brutally tortured by the Portuguese Judiciary Police (PJ) forcing her to sign a false confession saying that she had killed her own daughter,” Correia explained to the Olive Press this week.

He claimed Amaral had overseen the entire 48 hours of beatings and Leonor later picked him out in an ID parade.

The father-of-four added he was supported by both the Portuguese Bar Association and Amnesty International in the long miscarriage of justice, which only saw the mother exonerated after over a decade in prison.

This came, despite shocking photos showing Leonor with appalling injuries after two days of interrogations in an Algarve police cell.

Torturaleonorcipriano
Shocking images of Leonor after her ‘interrogations’

And incredibly, Correia added: “The same Portuguese State that admitted the torture but refused to arrest any of the convicted officers, including Goncalo Amaral, accused me of defamation for having said what the Courts had already said… that is, that Amaral was involved in the torture of Leonor and covered it up.”

He eventually won the case, forcing Amaral to apologise and pay his costs.

Now based in his native Madeira, he has left the legal profession to support his children and set up a museum for his father, a famous writer and poet.

He insists that ‘protection’ of his children is his main concern, after years of battles with the Portuguese judiciary and police.

“We cannot count on the State, especially the Portuguese State, to help us if something bad happens to our children.

“After 16 years of institutional neglect, only a miracle could now find Madeleine McCann’s remains.”

His remarkable insight came as police continued to search the large reservoir and surrounding area of the Arade lake today.

It comes after a good new tip off about the main suspect, Christian Brueckner, came in to the chief prosecutor leading the search in Braunschweig, in April.

Christian Brueckner And Maddie
Christian Brueckner and Madeliene McCann

First made aware of the plans for ‘an action’ on May 7, the Olive Press was told last Thursday that a search was ‘24 hours to 48 hours away’. We chose to stay quiet.

Coordinated between a female prosecutor in Portimao and her counterpart in Braunschweig, Hans Christian Wolters, around 10 German BKA detectives are working with over 20 Portuguese police and ‘up to five’ detectives from Operation Grange, in London.

Yesterday, police with sniffer dogs combed the edge of the reservoir, while divers entered the murky water.

During the course of the day at least three sacks of materials dug up had been put in Ford Ranger SUVs, which had driven down from the BKA’s headquarters in Wiesbaden.

Sources claimed photos of main suspect Brueckner had appeared of him beside the lake, while police were allegedly specifically looking for fibres of the pink pyjamas Madeleine was wearing on the night she vanished.

While sources in Germany told the Olive Press the new tip was ‘entirely credible’ and came from a totally different source, it ties in closely with ‘underworld sources’ who had told Correia about the lake in 2007.

The lawyer had first heard the claims that Madeleine had been killed and dumped in the lake within 48 hours of her kidnap, on Sunday, May 6, just three days after she vanished.

Jon Clarke Barragem Do Arade
The lake that is being searched. Photo: Jon Clarke

He had first visited the lake with detectives from Metodo 3 in December that year and had finally identified the site where he thought she was dumped on December 10.

While he immediately told police investigating the case he claimed they ‘did nothing’.

He also claimed (and sued the Portuguese Post Office) that a recorded letter with information on the kidnap which he sent to the McCanns’ home in Rothley, in the UK, had been seized by Portuguese police.

Today, he once again recalled his anguish to the Olive Press, writing: “The clues I received shortly after Madeleine disappeared pointed to her having been kidnapped, raped and murdered and her body thrown into a lake in the Algarve. 

“I didn’t know at the time which lake it was, but I soon communicated all this data to the Portuguese Judiciary Police, who completely ignored it, and then to Metodo 3, the Spanish detective agency that was later hired by Madeleine’s parents to look for their daughter.

“Metodo 3 did its best to search for Madeleine and discover what had happened to her. It was the only ‘institution’ that listened to me.

“The work that Metodo 3 was carrying out in the field in Portugal in the meantime gathered several clues from different sources that also reinforced that Madeleine had been kidnapped, raped and murdered shortly after her disappearance and that she would never have left Portugal.

“After exhaustive research on all the lakes in the Algarve, I therefore hired a private company of divers from the Algarve to carry out searches in the Arade lake, however, as we did not have the support of the Portuguese police (although I had requested this), our means were quite limited and the budget I had offered quickly ran out, so a few days later we were forced to abandon the search.

“However, very suspicious material was found, such as bags tied with heavy stones, which was handed over to Method 3.”

The searches, that had cost €1,200 per day, took place in February and March, 2008 and included mostly British divers, who lived in the area.

Marcos Correia With Sock From Arade Lake
Marcos Correia with sock found in Arade Lake

Among items found was tape and a 17-foot long piece of ‘knotted cord’ that Correia believed could have been used to tie up the toddler.

Metodo 3 later said they believed Madeleine had been switched from one vehicle to another at a parking spot on the main road between Arade and nearby Silves.

A truck driver had later come forward to say he had spotted a woman passing what looked like a small child to someone at the time.

Concluding, the length of time it has taken to return to the lake, Correia insisted the Madeleine case had taken ‘far too long’ to solve and was a ‘abandoned at the highest level by the Portuguese State, and her parents, clearly innocent, were persecuted’.

“Thank you very much for your interest in the work I have done on behalf of Madeleine McCann and her parents,” he added. “Many people directly donated money to Madeleine’s parents. I donated my work, time and also money.

“As the resumption of searches starts again at Arade dam, I hope you can disclose everything in the name of public interest.”

We are carefully analysing a total of eight key legal documents he sent us and plan to release them at a later date.

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