Kate McCann's son asked about claims she 'hid Madeleine'

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Media captionGerry McCann: "Sean and Amelie are not immune to the media"

Kate McCann was asked by her son about claims she was involved in the disappearance of her daughter Madeleine, a court has heard.

Mrs McCann was speaking at a Portuguese libel case relating to the claims - made by ex-police chief Goncalo Amaral.

The court heard her son Sean had asked about whether she "hid Madeleine", but she told him the Portuguese detective had said "a lot of silly things".

Madeleine was three when she went missing in Praia da Luz in May 2007.

At the time, her siblings - Sean and his twin sister Amelie - were aged two.

Mr Amaral - who coordinated the original investigation into Madeleine's disappearance - alleged in a book that she had died in the family's holiday apartment in the Algarve, and that Kate and her husband Gerry had simulated her abduction and hidden her body.

He made the claims in a book about the case that has been a bestseller in Portugal.

'Severe damage'

On Tuesday, Mr and Mrs McCann both delivered personal statements at Lisbon's Palace of Justice in the libel case brought by them against Mr Amaral.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The McCanns are suing Mr Amaral, who coordinated the original investigation into Madeleine's disappearance

Mrs McCann told the court her son had brought up the allegations after he heard them on the radio on a school bus.

"Sean asked me in October, 'Mr Amaral said you hid Madeleine'. I just said that he said a lot of silly things," she said.

Mrs McCann also told the court the detective's claims had done "severe damage" to efforts to find her daughter.

She said that when she had first found out about the allegations she was "quite desperate because of the injustice I felt towards my daughter and our family as a whole".

"It was very painful to read and I also felt anxious and fearful because of the damage I felt it was doing here in Portugal," she said.

Mrs McCann said she was aware the couple did not have a high level of support in the country, telling the court she found that "distressing and upsetting because we need the Portuguese people to help us to find Madeleine".

She said: "It also makes me feel uneasy and uncomfortable when I come to Portugal because I think people are thinking negative or really bad things about us."

'Very painful'

But Mrs McCann added after the hearing: "It's never too late for someone to come forward with key information. And if this action helps us to reach that step, then it's a positive thing, and that's what we're aiming for."

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Image caption Kate McCann, pictured on Tuesday in Lisbon with husband Gerry, told her son the claims were "silly"

Speaking outside the court, Mr McCann also spoke about the couple's efforts to protect their children from press reports related to the case, saying: "Obviously they are not immune to the media. They hear things, they go to school, they hear the radio.

"They hear the theories and Sean has obviously asked Kate explicitly, 'Why did Mr Amaral say you hid Maddy?' - so we will have to deal with that and we are doing everything in our power."

"We hope that the current investigation being run by the Metropolitan Police does lead to a real breakthrough."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Amaral made his claims in a book that became a bestseller in Portugal

He added the couple feared their daughter's kidnapper could strike again, and said the perpetrator must have been laughing at Mr Amaral's claims.

The McCanns are suing Mr Amaral, his publisher and a company that produced a documentary based on his book for 1.2 million euros (£1m) in damages.

'More pain'

The libel case has faced substantial delays, the last of which came in June after Mr Amaral sacked his legal team at the last minute.

Kate and Gerry McCann said the delays had caused them "more pain and distress".

No date was set for the next hearing as investigators look into Mr Amaral's financial affairs.

Closing speeches are not expected to take place before September.

The hearing comes as the police investigation into the case has seen renewed activity in Portugal.

Police have questioned suspects and searches have been carried out in connection with Madeleine's disappearance.