Sunday Express Exclusive Interview with Sofia Leal
THE wife of Portuguese detective Gonçalo Amaral has denied they are locked in a personal battle with Kate and Gerry McCann and has spoken of their pity for the distraught couple.
By James Murray
“Everyone thinks we are fighting the McCanns but this is not true,” said 38-year-old Sofia Leal in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Express.
“I tell people all the time that they are having to endure the hardest pain in the world, which is losing a child.
“As a mother I cannot imagine what kind of pain that is. It is so hard.
“Like Kate McCann, I am a Catholic. The image of pain in the Catholic church is not Christ on the Cross but Mary holding her child in her arms. It is the pain of the loss of a child and there is no worse pain in the world. We are sorry for that.”
That pain was etched on the face of Kate McCann when she made a fleeting visit to Lisbon last week to meet her lawyers and to appeal for help in finding her daughter, snatched in May 2007 from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz on the Algarve.
Close to tears, Kate said: ‘‘She’s six now but we’ve just got to keep going. It has been very harrowing and draining. But there is no choice, she needs us to find her and bring her home.”
In Portimão, 20 miles up the coast from Praia da Luz, Sofia spoke of the anguish suffered by her husband, who coordinated the McCann investigation. The McCanns are suing him for £1million they believe he has made with his book about the case, The Truth Of The Lie, and a documentary.
They are particularly angered over his claims that Madeleine is not alive. Civil servant Sofia says her 49-year-old husband suffered post traumatic stress after he was removed as head of the Madeleine investigation in September 2007. He took early retirement the following month, even though he lost two-thirds of his pension.
“It was a bad time for Gonçalo,” said Sofia. Even in his sleep he was going over in his mind what had happened to him and how his career was brought to a premature end.
“I heard him talking in the night because of nightmares. Everything he did, every action he took was going through his head.
“I was worried because he is such a calm, tender man but luckily over the past few months the nightmares have stopped.” Sofia, who works in the Portimão mayor’s office and is responsible for three major projects, including a new Algarve airport, speaks English fluently and is both amused and angered by comments aimed at her husband from some people in Britain. “We know how Gonçalo is portrayed in Britain, the caricature of a foreign detective missing the clues, but the reality is that you will not find a better detective in Portugal.
“There were many times in the investigation when his bosses said, ‘You have done enough’ but he kept working and working, chasing all the leads.
“There are satellites which probably have close-up pictures of what was happening on the ground that day. He tried to get the images but he couldn’t. The US said the satellites were trained on Morocco at the time and that was it. That is what annoys him because he says the inquiry was not completed to his satisfaction.
“Goncalo loves me and our three girls very much but he lives for his job. For him an investigation is like a mathematical equation.
“One and one has to make two. Until the answer is found he will not give up.” From the proceeds of the book her husband has bought a Jaguar car but she insists he has not made a lot of money and that he will defend the legal action.
“We are now living on one-third of our budget for the month but that is OK for us because he made the right decision,” she said.
“If he was financially motivated, he would have stayed in his job for the full pension but that is not his way.”
His 25-year-old daughter from his first marriage, also called Sofia, has just passed a law degree. His wife has a daughter Rita, 11, from her first marriage and she has a daughter, Agnes, with Gonçalo who will soon be six.
This week there is a double birthday celebration, Sofia’s today and her husband’s 50th on Friday.
“We will see all our family and friends and enjoy ourselves,” she said. “We are so lucky to have three beautiful girls in the family.
“Gonçalo is very proud of them all. He is very good with them at home but my only complaint is that he is not strict enough with them. He lets them do what they want where I have to be a little stricter.
“He never yells at them but he can also be a little overprotective. He is always worrying about them having accidents in the playground or wherever. I could not wish for a better father.”
The couple met 10 years ago through a friend and married in June 2000. They spent their honeymoon in the Azores, where her husband dreams of spending his retirement.
in Sunday Express