The Portuguese detective leading the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann was sacked yesterday after he accused British police of helping her parents to cover up their role in their daughter’s death.

Chief Inspector Gonçalo Amaral, who has been the driving force behind briefings that the couple were responsible for the disappearance of their daughter, was dismissed from his position as director of the Polícia Judicia in Portimão and demoted to the rank of inspector.

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The detective was summoned to a meeting with Alipio Ribeiro, the national director of the Polícia Judicia, in Faro, after telling a Portuguese newspaper that British police were helping to protect Kate and Gerry McCann.

Mr Ribeiro had earlier criticized officers who spoke to the press. “The police should be discreet and keep quiet, but there is always someone who talks,” he said in an interview in August. “Sometimes it is someone who knows nothing and just wants to be a protagonist.”

Mr Amaral’s extraordinary attack came after two weeks of new claims that have cast doubt on the Portuguese police case that Mrs McCann killed Madeleine accidentally at their holiday apartment on May 3.