Portuguese ex-detective who criticised Madeleine McCann’s parents in Netflix documentary jailed for planning robberies

A former Portuguese detective who featured in the recent Madeleine McCann Netflix documentary has been sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison over his role in two robberies.

Paulo Pereira Cristovao, a long-time critic of Maddie’s parents who angered them with a controversial book about her disappearance, was convicted of participating in the planning of two violent break-ins at properties in Lisbon and the nearby resort of Cascais.

State prosecutors had accused him of being a key player in an organised gang by giving accomplices information about victims and the target homes.

The former officer, who left the Policia Judiciaria after a torture trial former Madeleine McCann chief investigator Goncalo Amaral was also implicated in, will remain a free man pending an appeal.

It emerged Pereira Cristovao was facing trial in March when he played a prominent role in Netflix documentary The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

He admitted involvement before the trial at a court in Cascais which ended last month with judges retiring to consider their verdicts.

But he denied prosecution claims he was a gang ringleader and insisted after the guilty verdict on Friday he had been convicted of crimes including kidnapping which he had not committed.

His defence lawyer told the hearing he had returned £8,500 commission he had received for one of the raids, to a victim.

All but one of the 17 defendants were convicted over the 2014 raids, led by police officers with false search warrants who used the illegal operations to steal cash and other valuables.

In one, a couple and their daughter were kidnapped and the culprits took more than £100,000.

Two police officers, both sacked before trial, were jailed for 17 and 16 years each.

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The alleged leader of a hooligan group nicknamed Mustafa, already behind bars and awaiting trial over a violent attack on Sporting Lisbon players during training, received a six year, four-month prison sentence.

Prosecutors alleged Nuno Mendes, better known as Mustafa, received instructions from Pereira Cristovao and passed them on to a relative who then got the convicted police officers to carry out the raids.

The former officer, a former president of Sporting Lisbon who has served as head of Portugal’s missing children agency, admitted after learning his fate he was "shocked and surprised" and confirmed he would appeal.

The 51-year-old has been a constant critic of Kate and Gerry McCann and called for them to be arrested for leaving their children alone in their Algarve holiday apartment after Madeleine vanished in May 3 2007.

He claimed in a 2008 book called The Star of Madeleine that the toddler was dead and her body had been dumped at sea.

His novel, based on the real police investigation which he claimed was hampered by interference from British authorities, ended with two fictional officers gazing out at the Atlantic Ocean following a huge land search.

He mysteriously claimed two of the McCanns’ holiday pals – the so-called Tapas Seven – were "fundamental" to discovering the truth about Madeleine.

The couple’s spokesman Clarence Mitchell called his comments ‘hurtful and distressing’ and accused him of trying to profit from the McCanns’ misfortune.

Pereira Cristovao wrote his book ahead of his 2009 trial for torturing the mum and uncle of a missing girl into making a false confession while he was still a PJ inspector.

He went on to head Portugal’s association for missing children after being acquitted.

Pal Goncalo Amaral, who overturned a libel damages ruling over his best-selling book The Truth of The Lie which the McCanns are appealing at the European Court of Human Rights, was found guilty of falsifying evidence in the same case.

Joana Cipriano vanished aged eight from Figueira, seven miles from Praia da Luz where Madeleine was staying, in September 2004.

Her mum Leonor and uncle Joao were sentenced to 16 years for murdering her despite their claims they had been tortured into falsely admitting blame.

Judges ruled Leonor had been injured at a PJ station in Faro but could not say how she sustained her wounds.

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