The parents of missing British youngster Madeleine McCann accused a Portuguese police officer of cynically trying to “wear us down” by delaying Monday's final day of their libel case against him.
“The legal case has been running now for over five years and we want to get justice for Madeleine,” said Gerry McCann, the girl's father, after a scheduled hearing in Lisbon was postponed when policeman Goncalo Amaral dismissed his lawyer at the last minute.
“Today is a blatant and cynical attempt to wear us down and it's Madeleine who is suffering.”
Amaral, the police officer who led the initial investigation into Madeleine's disappearance, published a book on the case in which he claimed the couple hid the girl's body and faked an abduction after she died accidentally.
The McCanns, whose daughter disappeared in Portugal in 2007, are suing him for libel and had flown from England to Lisbon to deliver personal impact statements at the Palace of Justice.
However, Amaral sacked his lawyer shortly before the session was due to start, and the court postponed the hearing until July 8.
“We're exasperated that the hearing has been cancelled once again at Mr Amaral's request. This is the fourth time that this has happened,” Gerry McCann told reporters outside the court.
During the proceedings, the McCanns' lawyers had tried to show that Amaral's book, “The Truth Of The Lie”, had hampered the search for their daughter.
The couple are seeking 1.25 million euros ($1.7 million) in damages.
“We took on this case because of the pain and distress that Mr Amaral has brought to us... and every time he postpones the case like this it brings us more pain and distress,” said Madeleine's mother Kate McCann.
Madeleine disappeared from the holiday home where she was staying in the Portuguese seaside resort of Praia da Luz a few days before her fourth birthday, as her parents dined at a nearby restaurant.
Portuguese police closed the case after a 14-month investigation, but British detectives opened their own review into Madeleine's disappearance last year.
Officers from Scotland Yard this month completed an eight-day search of land around Praia da Luz, although last week they said their efforts had not uncovered any new clues.
“What is clear is that the searches haven't found any evidence to show that Madeleine has been seriously injured or is dead,” said Gerry McCann.
“So as far as we're concerned, there's a good chance that she's alive and we have to keep searching for her.” - Sapa-AFP