I'd like to tackle a delicate subject that has bothered me for two years. Ever since the damages trial at Lisbon in July 2014, I have played one particular part over and over in my head. To explain my thoughts properly, I will start at the beginning, the moment Kate and Gerry began this particular litigation against Goncalo Amaral.
In 2009, a 36 page writ detailing the McCanns' reasons for suing Goncalo Amaral was handed to The Sunday People. The accurately translated documents, revealed claims from the McCanns that the couple suffered from:
"permanent anxiety, insomnia, lack of appetite, irritability and an indefinable fear".
It also stated that Kate was:
"steeped in a deep and serious depression".
During the trial, we first see the subject of the McCanns' state of mind being questioned, on day 1 of the trial, 12th September 2013.
Susan Hubbard, the wife of Father Haynes Hubbard, an Anglican priest who was said to have consoled Kate and Gerry during their time in Portugal, was asked:
"Did they feel ashamed, anxious?"
Mrs Hubbard refused to answer the question.
Day 3 of the trial, 19th September 2013; Alan Pike, a Clinical Partner & Trauma Consultant at The Centre for Crisis Psychology, is called to give evidence. When questioned about Kate's Mental health, he states that:
"In the summer of 2009 Kate was not well at all as a direct result of reactions to the documentary."
Now before I go any further, let's just add some spice. Alan Pike has become a close friend of the McCanns. He first met the family on the 5th May 2007, after Mark Warner requested he come to Portugal, to offer the McCanns support. It's true that he's a clinical partner at The Centre for Crisis Psychology. All sounds very swish doesn't it. You would imagine he's a psychologist...right?
Pike claimed, in court, that Kate McCann suffered secondary trauma as a result of Goncalo Amaral's book.
In the following quote Pike gives his opinion on how Kate's mental health had been affected:
"The secondary trauma is sometimes more violent, more rooted and more extreme than the original trauma (Madeleine's disappearance). It is more difficult to cope with."
Poor Kate. Seemingly it WAS the book that caused the ambassador to become "steeped in a deep and serious depression".
I mean it had to be, Mr Pike, a credible witness, a psychologist, a...wait, are we sure Pike was a psychologist? Are we sure he was in a position to give a diagnosis? Let's pick up the questioning from the lawyers for Guerra & Paz (the publishers of 'The Truth of The Lie')
GP - "What exactly is your profession?"
AP - answers he is a Crisis Counsellor.
GP - asks whether he is a psychologist?
AP - says he has some competences in psychology (psychology was one of the elements in his degree).
GP - asks again "are you a psychologist?"
AP - says no.
So Pike, isn't a psychologist after all. He is in no position to diagnose depression, and in no position to give an evaluation of Kate's mental health prior to Madeleine's disappearance, after which, any pre-existing mental health problems would be masked by what a stranger could easily put down to (what Pike continually describes) as an 'abduction'.
Let's give Mr Pike credit though, he's clearly not some wide-eyed, gullible, man...
AP – They were surprised with the book because the final Report said they were innocent.
GP – Have you read the final report?
AP says "no".
GP – How do you know then what its conclusions are?
AP says the McCanns told him.
...oh he is. The final report didn't state the McCanns were innocent at all.
Next up, was the star witness (sarcasm), for the prosecution. The one and only Michael Wright, self confessed media monitor, and husband of Kate McCann's cousin..
Day 4, 20th September 2013:
Wright is questioned as to the effects of the book upon the McCanns.
"The fact that people in Praia da Luz believed the conclusions of the book was terrible for them because they were already depressed. It was a time of great anger and sadness. During the week-end we talked about the effect of the book."
Gradually Judge Maria Emília de Melo e Castro, is being given a picture that backs the McCanns' claims within the writ, that Kate is "steeped in a deep and serious depression".
Isabel Duarte, the McCanns' lawyer, is keen to push the matter further, as she questions Michael Wright:
"Is Kate depressed?"
At this point the plan was blatantly obvious; Wright would answer yes, and the depression angle would be firmly cemented.
However, at this point something happens that in my opinion, alters the entire case.
Judge Maria Emília de Melo e Castro, overrules the question, and states that this is only something that can be confirmed by Kate's doctor.
Depression isn't mentioned again by either lawyer until day 12, July 8th 2014. I had the privilege of being sat in the gallery during this hearing. I heard the Judge ask Kate McCann if she suffered from depression, this question was translated to Kate, who then answered. Kate floundered, seemingly excusing the severity of anything she may have been feeling. She began by saying:
"Depression can come in many forms"
An odd reply, given that the McCanns had based a huge part of the case upon Kate being "steeped in a deep and serious depression".
The judge then asked:
"Were you diagnosed with a clinical depression?"
"No. Depression is over-diagnosed, over used term to diagnose those who feel a bit down, clinically I wasn't depressed."
Say what now?
With that one reply, Kate destroyed one of the couple's main reasons for their claim.
Question is (I know I took a while getting there, and I thank you for sticking with this), why did Kate effectively sabotage her own case?
It's obvious from the writ, from Alan Pike, and from Michael Wright's testimony, that the plan was to push the depression element. That was, until a doctor was mentioned.
Being diagnosed with depression from a qualified doctor, would have been one of the easiest things for Kate to achieve. So why didn't she do so? Given the circumstances, a doctor would have had to take what Kate said (regarding the disappearance of Madeleine), at face value. Let's be honest, given her occupation, she wouldn't be struggling to find a sympathetic GP.
With half a million big ones at stake, a trip to the doctors would be the first thing the McCanns would have done. Given that both would have undoubtedly attended court cases in the line of their work before, they would know how the system worked.
I ask again, why didn't they secure their claims?
Would it be beyond the realms of possibility that if medical records had been requested, to prove or disprove the presence of depression, that further mental health issues would be revealed; issues that pre-dated the disappearance of Madeleine. Issues, that if read out in court, could pour more suspicion upon Kate McCann. The records would be useless as evidence had they not gone back to a time prior to May 2007, as determining when the depression started would have been paramount to the case.
With thanks to Anne Guedes, Joana Morais, and the Pamalam blog for court translations, and for avoiding the screaming banshee outside the Palacio Justiça Lisboa :D
Transcripts from the trial can be read here: