Julian Peribañez relentlessly tracked down leads in the Madeleine McCann case, even infiltrating the seedy underworld of sex trafficking to try to find the missing 3-year-old.
OXYGEN BY JILL SEDERSTROM
When 3-year-old Madeleine McCann vanished from her bed in the middle of the night, one investigator was willing to stop at nothing to find her, going on high-speed car chases, leading covert operations, and even infiltrating the seedy, dark underworld of child trafficking in the months after her disappearance to try to uncover the truth.
Julian Peribañez was consumed with the case, even answering calls to a tip line on his own cell phone at all hours of the night to gain new clues about what may have happened to the missing 3-year-old, who was thought to have been abducted in May 2007 while on a family vacation in Praia da Luz, Portugal.
The investigator, who had grown up watching police movies and James Bond flicks, worked for Metodo 3, a private investigation firm hired by the McCann family and wealthy benefactor Brian Kennedy to explore avenues that weren’t being considered by police in Portugal. In Netflix’s new docu-series “The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann,” which delves into the infamous case, Peribañez’s search efforts are examined again.
“I said ‘Go for it. Delve into what you know you can delve into, below the surface of what’s going on, and the criminal factions in that area in Portugal, and Spain and Morocco. Find out what you possibly can’ and they went about it, I have to say, with great gusto,” Kennedy said of hiring Metodo 3 in 2007 in “The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann.”
After meeting Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, Peribañez said the mission became “personal” and he set off to Portugal where he spent eight months on the ground working the case.
“Julian was someone that was very thorough and very energetic, and he was unforgiving with certain things, of pursuing people,” Patrick Kennedy, Brian’s son, said. “He was the type that would go all out.”
Brian had asked Patrick to help manage the investigation, so Patrick and Peribañez worked together on occasion in the case.
Peribañez did all sorts of things while in Portugal. Investigators tracked leads from potential witnesses, worked with sketch artists to create images to release to the public, searched an abandoned property where the young girl was rumored to be, and tailed possible suspects.
“We found names and addresses of pedophiles in the Praia de Luz area. We’d follow them. We weren’t allowed to do that, we needed permission of the police to do that, but quite frankly I didn’t care,” Patrick said.
Peribañez said his status as a private investigator gave him “more freedom to investigate than being a cop.”
For example, when Robert Murat, a British-Portuguese real estate agent who seemed overly eager to help in the case, emerged as a potential suspect, investigators put a tracker on his car to try to see where he went and who he might meet up with up (Murat later discovered the device).
Peribañez also followed Sergey Malinka, a business associate of Murat‘s who was also considered a suspect in the case, and even offered him up to “half a million or something” to talk about the case after being instructed by his boss to suggest the money.
Malinka denied knowing anything about the case and refused the money.
There was high media scrutiny about both men at the time; however, after looking closely at both suspects Peribañez said it seemed unlikely either were involved.
But Peribañez didn’t stop his investigation here. He was intrigued by another similar case in Portugal in 2004, which involved the disappearance of a local girl named Joana Cipriano. Her mother said the 8-year-old had left her home to go to the store in the Portuguese village of Figueira and never returned.
Police later claimed the girl was killed by her mother and uncle after she walked in on them having sex. Police said they chopped her up and placed her body parts in a small refrigerator at the home before throwing her remains to the pigs. Her mother, Leonor Cipriano, and her brother, João Cipriano were both sentenced to jail for the crime, ABC News reported in 2007.