The McCanns told a court of their “devastation, desperation, anxiety and pain” when a former Portuguese detective accused them of faking their daughter’s abduction and hiding her body.
Gerry and Kate McCann delivered personal statements at Lisbon’s Palace of Justice in the libel case brought by them against Goncalo Amaral over his claims in a book and documentary about their role in the girl’s disappearance.
The couple both gave powerful descriptions of the impact that the allegations have had on them, their other children and their struggle to find their daughter after she went missing in Praia da Luz on the Algarve in 2007.
Wearing a black dress with floral print, Mrs McCann was the first to give her statement and answer questions from the judge and the lawyers for both sides.
Answering questions from judge Maria Emilia Castro, she admitted once saying that she would like to be in a coma to stop the pain.
She also told the court that when she read Mr Amaral’s claims 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.
“We were working so hard, we were the only ones trying to do everything in our power to find Madeleine. It was hard enough in itself without all our efforts being crushed in this way.
“It just intensified the pain and fear that there was no point and we might as well give up.”
The 46-year-old explained that her young son Sean had asked her about Mr Amaral’s allegations after hearing them on the radio while travelling on the 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.
Sean and his twin sister Amelie were aged two when Madeleine, who was nearly four, went missing.
Mr Amaral, who led the initial investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance, released his book The Truth Of The Lie three days after the case was closed in 2008.
He later took part in a documentary for Portuguese television which the couple said had made even more serious claims, extracts of which they had watched on Youtube.
“We have had very many sleepless nights over the publication of this book and certainly when we first heard about these things, it caused distress, anxiety and a lack of appetite,” Mr McCann said.
The 45-year-old said the documentary was “even worse than the book”. “It starts off by stating right at the beginning that Madeleine is dead, that there was no abduction and essentially claims that me and my wife and our friends are liars.
“It says that we would be so cold and ruthless as to hide our daughter’s body rather than try and help her, should something have happened.
“And of course, it has no factual basis or supporting evidence and any evidence that is not in agreement with his thesis is ignored.”
As the couple left the court grounds after talking to reporters, an elderly woman with a placard shouted “Long Live Goncalo Amaral” at them.
They had earlier spoken of the lack of support that they perceived from the Portuguese people because of Mr Amaral’s claims.
“It is distressing and upsetting because we need the Portuguese people to help us to find Madeleine,” Mrs McCann 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.”
Answering questions from Mr Amaral’s lawyer, Miguel Cruz Rodrigues, she also said she could not recall if she had been supported by Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie after Madeleine went missing.
Speaking to the media outside court, Mr McCann told of his fear Madeleine’s kidnapper may “strike again” and claimed that whoever was responsible will have been “laughing” at Mr Amaral’s claims.
He said: “There’s no doubt that the damage done has been severe – we’ve got people here screaming things.
“If that is representative of what people in this country and other countries think then we are fighting a losing battle. I hope it’s not.”
He also spoke of his hope that the current investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance would lead to a “real breakthrough”.
The couple’s latest visit to Portugal comes after Scotland Yard detectives last week returned to the country to help interview suspects in the case.
Officers from the force’s Operation Grange joined their Portuguese counterparts in Faro last week as they interviewed people of interest in relation to Madeleine’s disappearance in 2007.
The suspects were believed to include three workers from the Ocean Club in Praia da Luz who have been linked to a string of burglaries in the area before Madeleine’s disappearance.
The return of British detectives came after they joined their Portuguese counterparts last month in searches of three areas of land near to where Madeleine went missing.
After the searches, police said it was the ”first phase of this major investigation which has been agreed with the Portuguese” but that there was “still a substantial amount of work yet to be completed in the coming weeks and months”.