Following the disappearance of 3-year-old Madeleine McCann from a Portuguese hotel room in 2007, police scrambled to figure out what happened that fateful night. Investigators pursued several leads, eventually leading them to Robert Murat and his business associate Sergey Malinka. Now, years later, Malinka claims that the search for truth in the McCann situation has ruined his life. Who is Sergey Malinka and how did he become associated with the infamous missing child?
Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, had put their three kids to bed on the night of May 3, 2007 and went with friends to eat at a restaurant close by, agreeing to check on the children every 20 minutes. Partway through the meal, Kate arrived back at the apartment — but Madeleine was gone. Later, one of the friends, Jane Tanner, would claim she saw a man holding a sleeping child walking towards the home of Robert Murat, a local property consultant who lived near the hotel. Further suspicions were raised about Murat after he offered to act as an interpreter for the British family, as he spoke both English a Portuguese fluently.
When Robert Murat was officially named a suspect twelve days after the disappearance, police raided his home. That's when they turned up his connection to Sergey Malinka.
"I remember when I found out that Robert had been interviewed by police, I was like, 'Woaw, this is the guy I'm doing a website for...' To me he was just a normal guy who lives with his mom," says Malinka in Netflix's "The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann."
Malinka goes on to explain that at the time he had been a 22-year-old who owned his own computer company in the same town. He had been employed by Murat for the purposes of creating a property website. Malinka wound up in Praia de Luz as a young entrepreneur looking for success after his family fled from Russia following their economic downturn in the late 1980s.
"I don't really know [Murat] that personally ... We have a strictly customer [sic] relationship," Malinka can be seen telling a Sky News reporter at the time in the new docu-series.
Malinka claims he was then taken in an unmarked car and driven hours away without any information as to why while police raided his apartment, taking his computers for their investigation. Malinka says he was later aggressively interrogated, during which police used intimidating tactics to coax answers from him.
Police found little to nothing connecting him to Murat beyond the website, but a call made from Murat to Malinka around the time of Madeleine's disappearance had investigators wondering what the two discussed. Neither Murat nor Malinka could remember the phone call at all; both thought that Murat had perhaps simply accidentally dialed Malinka.
Although ultimately not enough evidence connected Malinka to a potential crime involving Madeleine (meaning he was never officially even declared a suspect), pornographic material did turn up on some of the computers seized by police while investigating him.
"There's no way I can prove — because they confiscated not just my hard drive. It was a lot of CDs from the clients," says Malinka in the documentary. "They said they find [sic] pornography there. Show me one computer in the world that doesn't have a cookie or something from a porn site. I'm not saying I did have it or I didn't have it, what I'm saying is they should have defined which computer had it and which didn't because it's just a statement there was something there."
Watch Out Of Sight: The Disappearance Of Madeleine McCann Friday, March 29 at 9/8c, only on Oxygen
With both the pornography lead and Malinka's connection to Murat, tabloids began offering baseless speculation on his supposed nefarious inclinations, with some claiming (without any evidence) that he was a child molester and involved in the Russian mob.
"It was almost impossible to live a normal life after I was interviewed by police because wherever I go, I would be looked at," says Malinka. "I've been called a pedophile, I've been called a sexual predator, Russian mafia, human trafficker. It was just out of order."
In March of 2008, Malinka was still being harassed about his alleged connection to the McCann case: his car was destroyed and the Portuguese word for "speak" was scrawled in spray paint beside it, according to The Evening Standard.
"They thought [that I was] hiding something. I know that if you look at it, it's just a car and it doesn't mean anything. But for a young guy who always dreamed about this car, it was sort of the greatest achievement I had done in my life, do you know what I mean?" Malinka recalls. "This one missed phone call has pretty much ruined 10 years of my life. That's what actually broke me in this case. It really hurt me."
Later in the series, Murat explains that he was privately interviewed by Brian Kennedy, a multi-millionaire who became independently interested in the McCann case. Kennedy had hired an illegal private investigator, Julian Peribañez, to bug Murat's car, searching for even more clues. The same investigator also began looking into Malinka's life, hoping to find more evidence there, as well.
"My first experience of private surveillance was when I saw the same cars in my rear view mirrors. I made a list of certain numbered plates and I found out, yeah, it's the same cars that were following me," says Malinka.
Kennedy and the investigators began offering Malinka money for more information, but Malinka declined, saying that he had nothing to give in exchange.
"We did a thorough investigation on him but the more that we looked into it, the less I thought he was involved," said Peribañez. "Neither Malinka nor Murat. I don't think they have nothing [sic] to do with it. Nothing."
Malinka had chosen to stay out of the public eye, until he began attempting to crowdfund a book on his experiences with the investigation. The Kickstarter project was cancelled in December of 2017 for unexplained reasons.
"I could never have imagined ... that something as simple as one missed phone call could have such a profound impact upon so many lives," Malinka writes in the book's description. "That the price for the mistakes of others could be this high. Anyone could be in my place, but this story is about me. I am writing these words to describe what I have been through, to clear my name in the hope that my story might reach the conscience in others. I have faith that decency and understanding still exists under the layers of personal agenda’s and greed that has cloaked the past years."
In a November 2017 video explaining the motivations behind the project, Malinka says his impetus for the creation of the book was the upcoming birth of his child.
"I'm about to become a father," says Malinka. "I don't want my fame to reflect on my child's life. I want him to have a full, worry-free life — as any parent would. The major point of view of [the] public has been formed by the media and a lot of the things that they said and published [about me] were wrong. Dishonest. There was a lot of slandering and facts that weren't checked before they published them."
Malinka has not returned Oxygen.com requests for comment on the book or the ongoing investigation into McCann's disappearance.
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