Last updated at 23:40 23 August 2007
Kate and Gerry McCann are considering legal action to stem the endless tide of smears against themselves and their friends in the Portuguese media.
They have suffered a hurtful whispering campaign implying they or members of the group they dined with on the night their four-year-old daughter Madeleine disappeared had been involved in her murder or abduction.
The couple have endured the slurs with dignity, but now they appear to be ready to fight back.
Scroll down for more...
Top Portuguese TV presenter Sandra Felgueiras is said to have 'accused' Madeleine's mother
Read more...And one particular target appears to have fallen into their sights - glamorous Portuguese TV reporter Sandra Felgueiras.
For the Portuguese people, the blonde broadcaster has become the face of the Madeleine story, bringing live updates to their living rooms on national television station RTP.
But the McCanns are incensed over at least one live broadcast by Miss Felgueiras, 30, in which she is said to have implied Mrs McCann could have murdered her own daughter.
Now the McCanns are considering taking libel action under Portuguese human rights laws protecting the right to a 'good name', said a friend.
Police now believe Madeleine McCann may have died in the apartmentIn the week leading up to the 100-day anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance, there was a flurry of media reports based on the police theory that the little girl died the night she vanished.
Some implied that the McCanns or their friends, with whom they were dining at the Mark Warner resort in Praia da Luz, were somehow involved in her disappearance.
A source close to the McCanns said: "This is about trying to stop lurid accusations being aired. She [Felgueiras] was outrageous that week in the run-up to the 100 days. She really was outrageous."
The source claimed Miss Felgueiras's report 'encouraged a media frenzy', adding: 'Both the McCanns are hard-working, law abiding professionals. It is very important to protect their reputation.'
The exact wording of Miss Felgueiras's live report is unknown, because nobody has specified which one of many is at issue.
Miss Felgueiras said last night she had no idea which report it might be and denied ever branding either of the McCanns a 'murderer'.
She said: "I never said that and I never insinuated anything like that. I never in my life put anyone under suspicion but just told viewers that police are investigating the possibility that Madeleine has died and that it is murder or an accident.
"I'm absolutely sure that everything I said was only what the police were telling us concerning this new lead of the investigation.
"If the McCanns presume that this is an accusation against them, then that is their assumption, not mine. My conscience is completely clear."
Miss Felgueiras, who has personally interviewed the McCanns on several occasions, added: "I am the most moderate reporter. Sometimes other channels talk about things that I refuse to talk about. I even made a live report saying everybody is innocent until they go to court.
"Also I never talk about Kate and Gerry in an isolated way, I always talk about the couple. So it's very strange to be accused of saying Kate did something."
The McCanns and their friends have been battling adverse publicity for the past three weeks following a series of leaks from Portuguese police to the local media.
Fuelled by an absence of clues as to what really happened to Madeleine, Portuguese newspapers have made allegations as offensive as they are unlikely.
The McCanns have been accused of doping their children to get them to sleep, leaving them alone for hours on end while getting drunk, and of mounting a cover-up.
Their holiday friends have been accused of giving conflicting accounts of the evening, and one, Dr Russell O'Brien, was forced to defend himself against the hurtful and untrue suggestion that he was 'missing' at the time Madeleine vanished.
Mr McCann is set to talk for the first time about how becoming "household names' has taken its toll on his family.
He will travel to the Edinburgh International Television Festival this weekend where he has been invited to speak about the "double-edged sword" of launching such a wide public appeal to try to get his daughter back.
The campaign has so far failed to achieve a breakthrough, and the spotlight has turned on the parents, who have been upset by the "aggressive and intrusive" Portuguese paparrazi, said a source close to the McCanns.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-477214/McCanns-sue-claims-killed-Madeleine.html#ixzz13lxoLtpL