A senior Portuguese detective who interviewed Kate McCann and accused her of being involved in the death of her daughter is facing trial for trying to torture a suspect into confessing.

Leaked court papers reveal that Tavares Almeida is one of three officers accused of beating Virgolino Borges, a railway worker, during nearly eight hours of interrogation.

According to witness testimony the officers bound him with handcuffs behind his back, beat his bare feet with a fence post until it splintered and punched him repeatedly in the stomach, kidneys and back.

Almeida is the second leading detective to be accused of torture. Chief Inspector Goncalo Amaral, the investigation’s former co-ordinator, stepped down earlier this month amid separate allegations that he concealed evidence of the torture of a woman jailed for the murder of her daughter.

Last week the appointment of a fresh police officer to head the inquiry raised Gerry and Kate McCann’s hopes that it could be refocused on to the search for their daughter.

He is Paulo Rebelo, Portugal’s second most senior police officer, who is conducting a full review of the case. This will include reinterviewing all the holidaymakers who were staying at the Ocean Club resort when Madeleine disappeared.

Last week he made clear all lines of inquiry were open including the possible abduction. Detectives are, however, still setting store by forensic science tests, which they claim suggest Madeleine died in the apartment.

There have been doubts about the reliability of the results. This week further analysis by the Forensic Science Service could prove critical in determining whether the McCanns and their friends face further questioning. Robert Murat, the only other suspect in the case, this weekend broke his silence to ask police to lift his status as a suspect. He said: "It’s five months, my savings are gone, Mum’s doing what she can. It’s very, very difficult."

The disclosure of the legal action against Almeida further threatens the credibility of the Portuguese police. According to the court papers, dated Oct. 4, Borges was interrogated by Almeida and his colleagues over a theft on March 3, 2000. Following searches at his home at 7 p.m. and locker at work at 7:40 p.m., Borges was taken to the policia judiciaria station in Lisbon. During the questioning, which went on until 2:30 a.m., Borges claims he suffered bruises to his throat, stomach, feet and a gash in his head.

The testimony states: "He was handcuffed behind his back and grabbed by an officer in such a way so he couldn’t double up and was punched various times in the stomach. Then they took off his shoes and with a fence post started beating his feet until the post began to splinter."

The injuries were confirmed by his wife the following night, who claimed she saw abrasions and bruises to his abdomen and back after he had been released without charge.

Almeida admits that he conducted the interrogation but says he cannot remember who was in charge and what happened.