Maddie case hovers over EU talks in Portugal

2nd October 2007, Comments 0 comments

2 October 2007, Lisbon (dpa) - The so-called "Maddie" case loomed large Tuesday over a meeting in Lisbon that saw EU justice ministers discuss a "child abduction alert." The meeting's host, Portuguese Minister Alberto Costa, greeted colleagues at the city's Expo area having read media reports that one of his country's chief investigators had strongly attacked his British colleagues over the handling of the affair. "British police have only been working on what the McCann couple wants and suits them," Gonca

2 October 2007

Lisbon (dpa) - The so-called "Maddie" case loomed large Tuesday over a meeting in Lisbon that saw EU justice ministers discuss a "child abduction alert."

The meeting's host, Portuguese Minister Alberto Costa, greeted colleagues at the city's Expo area having read media reports that one of his country's chief investigators had strongly attacked his British colleagues over the handling of the affair.

"British police have only been working on what the McCann couple wants and suits them," Goncalo Amaral, the coordinator of the investigation on the case, told the daily Diario de Noticias.

Amaral was commenting on British reports on an e-mail sent to Prince Charles and alleging that the four-year-old child had been abducted by a former employee of the Ocean Club holiday apartments in the Algarve.

Despite an international media campaign launched by her parents, there has been no trace of Maddie since she went missing from the family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, in southern Portugal, on May 3.

Tuesday's accusations were just the latest in a growing list of blows exchanged by the proud Portuguese and the British over the handling of the affair, which has risked straining diplomatic relations between Lisbon and London.

And while officials in Lisbon would not publicly acknowledge as much, it is believed that Costa took advantage of Tuesday's talks to discuss the case with Britain's secretary of state for justice, Bridget Prentice, also present at the meeting.

"Cooperation between the British and the Portuguese police has been very fruitful, and I very much hope it will continue to be so. We just need to get on with the work. I have no further comment to make," a visibly irritated Costa told a British reporter when asked about the reports.

Local reporters interpreted the response as a strong caution directed at the Portuguese police.

"The message was: stop talking and get on with the work," the Portuguese colleague explained to his British colleague.

In any case, it's the Maddie controversy, rather than Tuesday's informal talks among EU justice ministers, that was expected to dominate the next day's newspaper headlines.

For those who have to deal with missing children on a regular basis, this is a shame.

While no comprehensive EU-wide statistics exist, data from individual members suggests thousands of children go missing each year.

In 2005, a total of 1,850 such cases were reported in Italy and just over 1,000 in Belgium.

Statistics from Britain show 846 children were reported missing while as many as 70,000 ran away from home between 2002 and 2003.

DPA

Subject: German news

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