Madeleine McCann's parents lose challenge over Portuguese case against ex-detective Goncalo Amaral

Madeleine McCann’s parents have lost a legal battle over Portuguese detective’s remarks

Madeleine McCann's parents have lost a court case arising from claims in a bestselling book and documentary by a former detective implicating them in their daughter's disappearance.

Lawyers for Kate and Gerry McCann, who live in Leicestershire, argued that Portuguese authorities had breached their right to respect for a private and family life in the way the courts there dealt with their libel claims against Goncalo Amaral.

Mr Amaral, who led the police search for Madeleine in 2007, claimed in a book, TV documentary and newspaper interview that the McCanns were involved in their daughter's disappearance.

In a judgment published on Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights found the couple’s reputation had been damaged by the fact that they were made official suspects in the case for a short time, rather than Mr Amaral’s comments.

The ECHR said: "The Court considered that, even assuming that the applicants' reputation had been damaged, this was not on account of the argument put forward by the book's author but rather as a result of the suspicions expressed against them, which had led to their being placed under investigation in the course of the criminal investigation (the prosecutor's office decided to take no further action in July 2008) and had led to intense media attention and much controversy.

"The information had thus been brought to the public's attention in some detail even before the investigation file was made available to the media and the book in question was published."

Madeleine McCann disappeared in May 2007. Credit: PA

They added: "It followed that the national authorities had not failed in their positive obligation to protect the applicants' right to respect for their private life."

The applicants' complaint concerning their "right to be presumed innocent" was also rejected, because Mr Amaral's book was published three days after the decision to take no action against them.

Madeleine McCann’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

The ECHR also found the claims did not appear to have impacted on the McCann's "social relations" or their campaign to find their daughter.

It said: "While the Court understood that the book's publication had undeniably caused anger, anguish and distress to the applicants, it did not appear that the book, or the broadcasting of the documentary, had had a serious impact on the applicants' social relations or on their legitimate and ongoing attempts to find their daughter."

The McCanns now have three months to appeal against the decision.

Their three-year-old daughter disappeared during a family holiday to Praia da Luz, Portugal, on May 3 2007. She would have turned 19 in May.

In July 2013, Scotland Yard launched its own investigation, Operation Grange, into Madeleine’s disappearance.

Speaking in May this year, Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell from the Metropolitan Police, who leads the operation, said: “Fifteen years on from Madeleine’s disappearance in Praia Da Luz our thoughts, as always, are with her family.

“Officers continue to investigate the case and our dedicated team are still working closely with law enforcement colleagues from the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria as well as the German Bundeskriminalamt.

“At this time, the case remains a missing person’s inquiry and all involved are committed to doing what we can to find answers.”

Despite numerous appeals, millions of pounds in public donations and the backing of high-profile celebrities, Madeleine has not been found.

Madeleine would have turned 19 this year Credit: PA Images

Earlier this year German investigators found new evidence against the prime suspect in her disappearance, a prosecutor revealed in an interview on Portuguese television.

Convicted sex offender Christian Brueckner was declared a suspect in the case by Portuguese officials in April as a 15-year legal deadline approached, and he has been under investigation by German officials for two years.

In May the McCanns said it was essential they find out the truth as they marked the 15th anniversary of their daughter’s disappearance.

In a message on the Official Find Madeleine Campaign Facebook page, the McCanns’ post read: "This year we mark 15 years since we last saw Madeleine.

"It feels no harder than any other but no easier either. It’s a very long time.

"Many people talk about the need for ‘closure’. It’s always felt a strange term. Regardless of outcome, Madeleine will always be our daughter and a truly horrific crime has been committed. These things will remain."