A former Portuguese detective who starred in the recent Madeleine McCann Netflix documentary has been jailed for seven and a half years.
Paulo Pereira Cristovao, a long-time critic of Maddie’s parents who angered them with a controversial book about the mystery 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.
Paulo Pereira Cristovao, 51, is accused of involvement in two burglaries, in Lisbon and the nearby town of Cascais, but reportedly claims he was only a ‘carrier pigeon’
The ex-cop, 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 yesterday he had been convicted of crimes including kidnapping which he had not committed.
Gerry and Kate McCann, pictured, have criticised the new Netflix programme, saying it ‘could potentially hinder’ the search for their daughter
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.
Madeleine McCann (pictured) vanished from the resort of Praia da Luz in Portugal in May 2007, while on holiday with her family
Two police officers, both sacked before trial, were jailed for 17 and 16 years each.
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 ex-cop, 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.
The youngster the day she went missing from the family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz
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 mother 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.
The ex-Judicial Police officer has previously suggested that Madeleine was snatched and taken to a secret network of caves under the resort she was last seen alive.
Madeleine vanished from the resort of Praia da Luz in Portugal in May 2007, while on holiday with her family.
Apartment 5A in Praia Da Luz in Portugal, where Madeline McCann went missing from in 2007
Christmas video made by Gerry and Kate McCann making appeal for the return of Madeleine
Netflix said the series had access to ‘never-before-heard testimonies from those at the heart of the story, including friends of the McCann family, investigators working the case and from those who became the subject of media speculation and rumour’.
It said: ‘The Disappearance Of Madeleine McCann goes beyond the headlines and takes a unique look at the facts of the case as well as its impact on media standards around the world.’
Kate and Gerry McCann previously said in a statement: ‘The production company told us that they were making the documentary and asked us to participate.
‘We did not see – and still do not see – how this programme will help the search for Madeleine and, particularly given there is an active police investigation, it could potentially hinder it.
‘Consequently, our views and preferences are not reflected in the programme.’
Scotland Yard launched an investigation, Operation Grange, after a Portuguese inquiry failed to make any headway on Madeleine’s disappearance.
In November last year, a further £150,000 was granted to the investigation to allow it to continue until March 31.
Force bosses have been applying for funding from the Home Office every six months to continue the inquiry, which has cost about £11.75 million so far.
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 mother 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.
How the disappearance of Maddie McCann has unfolded over 11 years
May 3: Gerry and Kate McCann leave their three children, including Maddie, asleep in their hotel apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, as they eat with friends in a nearby restaurant. When they return, they find Maddie missing from her bed
May 4: A friend of the McCanns reports of seeing a man carrying a child away in the night. Meanwhile, airports and borders are put on high alert as search gets underway
May 14: Robert Mural, a property developer who lives a few yards from the hotel, is made a suspect by Portuguese police
May 30: The McCanns meet the Pope in Rome in a bid to bring worldwide attention to the search
August 11: Police in Portugal acknowledge for the first time in the investigation that Maddie might be dead.
September 7: Spanish police make the McCanns official suspects in the disappearance. Two days later the family flies back to England
July 21: Spanish police remove the McCanns and Mr Mural as official suspects as the case is shelved
May 1: A computer-generated image of what Maddie could look like two years after she disappeared is released by the McCanns
May 12: A review into the disappearance is launched by Scotland Yard, following a plea from then-Home Secretary Theresa May
April 25: After a year of reviewing the case, Scotland Yard announce they belief that Maddie could be alive and call on police in Portugal to reopen the case, but it falls on deaf ears amid ‘a lack of new evidence’
Kate and Gerry McCann mark the fourth anniversary of the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine with the publication of the book written by her mother in 2011
July 4: Scotland Yard opens new investigation and claim to have identified 38 ‘people of interest’
October 24: A review into the investigation is opened by Portuguese police and new lines of inquiry are discovered, forcing them to reopen the case
January 29: British officers arrive in Portugal as a detailed investigation takes place. During the year, several locations are searched, including an area of scrubland near the resort
October 28: British police announce that team investigating Maddie’s disappearance is reduced from 29 officers to just four, as it is also revealed that the investigation has cost £10million
April 3: Operation Grange is handed an additional £95,000 by Theresa May to keep the investigation alive for another six months
March 11: Cash is once again pumped into keeping the investigation alive, with £85,000 granted to keep it running until September, when it is extended once again until April next year
March 27: The Home Office reveals it has allocated further funds to Operation Grange. The new fund is believed to be as large as £150,000
September 11: Parents fear as police hunt into daughter’s disappearance could be shelved within three weeks by the new Home Secretary amid funding cuts
September 26: Fresh hope in the search for Madeleine McCann as it emerges the Home Office is considering allocating more cash for the police to find her