Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Sunderland Couple..sighting

Published Date: 07 August 2008
By Tim Booler
A Sunderland couple told police they saw Madeleine McCann 28 hours after she disappeared.
Richard and Susan McCluskey reported seeing a "lifeless" child of about Maddie's age being carried by a drunk-looking man who was with a distressed woman, who they were "almost certain" was her mum Kate.

The Portuguese case files, released this week more than a year after the youngster disappeared, showed that dad-of-three Mr McCluskey made the claims in a second statement a number of months after the alleged sighting in the Algarve.

Portuguese police investigated the claim, and believed the couple were Ukrainians with a blonde daughter of Maddie's age.

Mrs McCann and her husband Gerry, from Leicestershire, denied having any involvement in the disappearance, and had their "arguido" official suspects status lifted last month.

The potential sighting of Maddie by the McCluskeys, from South Hylton, was one of many reported to Portuguese police.

They were all investigated but came to nothing.

However, Mr and Mrs McCluskey said they have never had any response to the information provided in their statements, and would like to have been told it had been eliminated to give them peace of mind.

Their account of what they saw and said in police statements has never been published.

The Sunderland holidaymakers were in the resort of Alvor, about 20 minutes drive along the coast from Praia la Luz, where the McCann family was stating.

Mr and Mrs McCluskey were on their way back to their apartment from an Irish bar in the early hours of May 5, 2007, when they saw a white Transit-style flatbed truck stop in the middle of the road.

Mr McCluskey, 62, said a man got out and staggered about 200 yards to a gate, carrying a child of about three to four years old over his left shoulder, and that there was "no movement at all" in the youngster.

They were aware a child was missing in the area and thought the situation was strange so took down the van registration, with Mrs McCluskey, 50, writing it on her hand before they found some paper.

As they were doing so a woman ran towards the van, "clearly in distress".

Mr McCluskey told the Echo she looked like actress Faye Dunaway and added: "She was white as a ghost and shaking", and did not reply when asked if she needed help.

In a police statement he said a Portuguese couple came by and said the man and woman acting strangely had earlier been in an argument.

He reported the van's details to police in Portugal, and only made a statement after being contacted by Northumbria Police after getting home to Sunderland.

Mr McCluskey said he was also contacted by Interpol to provide a drawing of the area as described in his statement.

On September 12, he gave a second statement at Farringdon Hall Police Station, which read: "The events of the past week or so, with the McCanns being very much in the news, have triggered my memory in relation to the incident.

"In my original statement I described a distressed female who ran down a road towards a white van I had described.

"Having viewed news footage of Mrs McCann I am now almost certain she is the female I described as being in a distressed state.

"I say this because of her slight build, high cheekbones and her eyes and hairstyle."

He added: "I've agonised for days over whether or not to contact police about this because it is a terrible thing to accuse somebody of.

"It had just not crossed my mind that the child's parents could in some way be involved in her disappearance."
Also in his second statement, made after watching news coverage of Kate and Gerry McCann returning to Britain from Portugal, Mr McCluskey added: "Another thing which has played on my mind is the coverage of Mr McCann walking off the aeroplane holding one of his young children.

"The way he was holding the child over his left shoulder reminded me of the man carrying the child from the white van in Portugal.

"Although I could not describe the male I'd seen in Portugal because he had his back to me, it was the particular way Mr McCann held the child that made me think."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I was the head of the government's Media Monitoring Unit. Forty people work there and their function is to control what comes out in the media."  

Clarence Mitchell now works for the PR company, Freud Communications, whose boss is Matthew Freud - the husband of Elisabeth Murdoch, who is the daughter of Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch is the world’s most powerful media magnate, with major terrestrial TV, satellite and media interests in dozens of countries. So who is Clarence Mitchell? Find out below…


Carlos Anjos, head of the Portuguese police professional association, who had dealings with Clarence Mitchell, said of him: “He lies with as many teeth as he has in his mouth”.

Clarence Mitchell in his own words, on 29 September 2007 to Espresso: “I was the head of the government's Media Monitoring Unit. Forty people work there and their function is to control what comes out in the media."


Clarence Mitchell’s media career began in the late 1980s as a BBC regional reporter in Leeds. He moved to London where he covered stories about the Royals. A 2007 article on the BBC website by Laurie Margolis about him says: “Clarence was also a presenter on various BBC news programmes, looking to make that his main career. The presenting world is a precarious and capricious one, however, and he never quite made it. Once, I was working throughout the night. Clarence was presenting hourly bulletins on BBC News 24. He did the 1am, and 2am, but at 3am a slightly dishevelled looking producer appeared doing the news. It turned out Clarence closed his eyes, sleeping  through the 3am bulletin. Clarence left the BBC suddenly, becoming the Labour government’s Director of its Media Monitoring Unit at the Central Office of Information. There, his job was to ‘correct’ bad media stories about the government and to put out the government line”. A ‘spinner’, as some would say, or ‘a professional liar’ as others describe it. In May 2007 he was suddenly seconded to the Foreign Office to work as  the McCanns’ chief PR man, assisting another McCann spokeswoman, Justine McGuiness. In September 2007, in an unusual move, he resigned from the civil service to become the McCanns’ full-time spokesman, on £75,000 a year. He remains in that role, though he has been employed for the last few months by another major PR agency, Freud Communications.


Margolis also noted Clarence Mitchell’s strange association with controversial murder cases:  “He was closely involved with the Fred and Rosemary West case, where a murderous couple had killed young girls and buried the bodies under their patio in Gloucester. He was one of the first reporters to arrive at Gowan Avenue, Fulham in south west London, when the immensely popular BBC TV presenter Jill Dando was shot dead in a murder many feel has never been satisfactorily explained”. Mitchell also covered in depth the arrest and conviction of mass-murderer Dennis Nilson. When Paula Yates’ partner Michael Hutchance died in mysterious circumstances in the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Sydney, Australia, in 1999, Clarence Mitchell was despatched to cover the death; more recently, in a story he worked on right up to the day he left the BBC, Clarence led coverage of the murder of the Surrey schoolgirl Millie Dowler in 2002. The case has never been solved. Mitchell has also written books on the Fred & Rosemary West and Jill Dando cases. He also reported extensively on the murder by Ian Huntley of Soham girls Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells. On 9 January this year, the Independent ran a brief article titled: ‘Remember Clarence Mitchell?’  It said: “Clarence Mitchell, formerly of the BBC and now spokesman for Madeleine McCann’s parents, has developed a nice little niche as a spin doctor of misery. First he took on Fiona MacKeown, mother of teenager Scarlet Kelling, who was murdered in Goa.  Then he started representing the parents of murdered London  teenager Jimmy Mizen. And today we’ve discovered that Mr Mitchell is also speaking for the wife of Jeremy Hoyland, the British jet skier who went missing off the coast of Bali last October.  Mr Mitchell is not charging for his services. But his presence can hardly be reassuring - the PR equivalent of an angel of death”.


Clarence Mitchell has achieved much in the Madeleine McCann case. He played the key role in arranging for the McCanns to meet the Pope on 28 May 2007, just 25 days after Madeleine McCann was reported missing. A man with connections at the highest level, Clarence Mitchell openly boasted in a TV interview that it was he who arranged, via Roman Catholic Archbishop Cormac Murphy O’Connor, for the McCanns to visit the Pope - in what was a highly publicised visit. The Pope put pages of material about the McCanns and Madeleine on his website. But two days before the McCanns were made arguidos - ‘provisional suspects’ - in September 2007, the Pope wiped all references to Madeleine from his website. Margolis wrote in 2007: “I would imagine Clarence is content in his new role as the family's voice. He's centre stage on a huge story, intimately involved as ever, and on television and in the papers all the time. It was extraordinary how, last week, his intervention seemed to eliminate within hours any misgiving about the McCanns in the British media”.

Who has been paying Clarence Mitchell’s salary whilst he has been working for the McCanns? This remains a mystery. We know that up to September 2007, the British government paid his salary. He left the government that month. Since then, the McCanns and Mitchell have said on the record that the ‘Helping to Find Madeleine Fund’ has not paid any part of his salary. They say that he was paid by ‘an anonymous backer’. But Clarence Mitchell won’t say who that backer is, nor why that backer is giving him so much support. [UPDATE: In an article in the Independent on Sunday, 1 March 2009, Mitchell has contradicted previous claims that his salary was being paid by an anonymous backer. He now says he gets a retainer of £28,000 a year from the Helping to Find Madeleine Fund, donations to which were given to ‘help find Madeleine’, not pay the salaries of PR professionals].

Clarence Mitchell and the McCanns:
21 Issues of Concern

Here we examine 21 of the many issues that have caused people concern about Mitchell’s role in the Madeleine McCann case. At the end of our leaflet we explain how to obtain more information on the Madeleine McCann case, including our 60-page booklet: ‘What Really Happened to Madeleine McCann? - 60 Reasons which suggest she was not abducted’.  

1. Allegedly being involved in tipping off the McCanns that the Portuguese police had been, or were going to, track their e-mails and ’phone calls
The McCanns were tipped off that the Portuguese police were monitoring their e-mails and ’phone calls. There was naturally concern over how this information leaked to them. A former Portuguese police officer has admitted working for the Spanish private detective agency, Metodo 3. He in turn had an inside contact in the Portuguese police who supplied Metodo 3  with information about the investigation. Clarence Mitchell was asked in an interview by Simon Israel on Channel 4 how the McCanns were tipped off. He refused to answer. 

2. Being forced to deny the McCanns’ initial claim of a break-in

On the evening that Madeleine was reported missing, the McCanns claimed an abductor had broken into the children’s room by ‘jemmying open the shutters’. They repeated that claim many times - a claim the media reported extensively. But the managers of the Mark Warners resort where the McCanns were staying, and the police, soon discovered that the shutters had not been tampered with. This forcing the McCanns to dramatically change their story - one of many changes of story - to say: ‘the abductor must have walked in through an unlocked patio door”. Asked about this discrepancy, Mitchell was forced to concede on the record: “There was no evidence of a break-in. I'm not going into the detail, but I can say that Kate and Gerry are firmly of the view that somebody got into the apartment and took Madeleine out the window as their means of escape. To do that they did not necessarily have to tamper with anything. They got out of the window fairly easily”. It is however most unlikley that an abductor could have ‘got out of the window easily’ leaving no forensic trace.
3. Smearing Robert Murat
A curious feature of the Madeleine case was the targeting of Robert Murat, a dual Portuguese-British citizen, as a suspect. A journalist who worked closely with Clarence Mitchell, Lori Campbell, suspected Murat of involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance and reported him to the Police. Three of the McCanns’ close friends, the so-called ‘Tapas 7’, also reported seeing Robert Murat close to the McCanns’ apartment the evening Madeleine went missing, a claim he denied. The McCann camp made a concerted attempt, for whatever reason, to smear Murat. Clarence Mitchell himself played a key role in this: He said:
    “An outcome similar to Holly and Jessica [Soham children murdered by Ian Huntley] is possible. I don't want to, and I can't, talk about Robert Murat, but some journalists who worked with me in Soham, and that were now in Portugal, saw resemblances between that case and Robert Murat. And I won't say more”. He was very lucky that Murat did not sue him for libel, since in 2008 Robert Murat collected a reported £550,000 in libel damages from news media and journalists whom he claimed had smeared and libelled him.

4. Being forced to retract his claim that ‘Madeleine is probably dead’

During early 2008, Clarence Mitchell was forced to concede that ‘Madeleine is probably dead’. This caused grave embarrassment for the McCanns, who were determined publicly to maintain that Madeleine was still alive. His statement could also have had serious implications for the Fund, which can only continue to operate and keep asking for donations  on this premise. Dr Gerald McCann was forced to publicly rebuke his PR chief by insisting on his blog two days later that they remained hopeful that Madeleine was still alive.

5. Failing to explain that the ‘Helping to Find Madeleine Fund’ was not a charity
Interviewed by James Whale, Mitchell repeatedly refused to correct Whale when he referred to the McCanns’ fund as a ‘charity’. In fact, the Helping to Find Madeleine Fund is registered as a ‘private trust’; its aims are not charitable and include making payments to the McCanns.

6. Asking people to send money in envelopes to ‘Gerry and Kate, Rothley’

Asked on the same James Whale show how people could contribute to the fund, Mitchell said: “Just put money into an envelope and send to Kate and Gerry McCann, Rothley, it’ll get there”. That was unprofessional - monies should have been directed to the registered office for the Fund, namely London Solicitors Bates, Wells & Braithwaite. For example, monies sent in the post could be stolen en route or would not be properly accounted for.

7. Claiming that the Fund was ‘independently controlled’

Pressed about control of the ‘Helping to Find Madeleine Fund’, Clarence Mitchell claimed that the Fund was ‘independently controlled’. This is untrue. The Trust’s Directors consist mainly of members of the McCann family and their friends or acquaintances. 

8. Retreating on whether or not the McCanns would take a lie detector test
The McCanns were anxious to convince the world that they were telling the truth about how Madeleine had suddenly gone missing. To bolster their claim, Clarence Mitchell announced:  “Kate and Gerry McCann would have no issue with taking a lie detector test”. However, two months later, he announced: "Of course they are not going to take any lie detector test”.

9. Making a film for TV about the McCanns’ distress ‘one year on’ whilst at the same time claiming the McCanns were not doing so

Clarence Mitchell told the media: “The McCanns don't want to do anything about 'woe is us a year on'. That is what the tabloids would like us to do, but we are not following their agenda, we are following our own agenda” (one of many references to ‘our agenda’). Weeks later, there was a two-hour long pre-recorded TV interview: ‘Madeleine McCann - One Year On’, clearly prepared long before his public statement, and certainly with his personal knowledge.

10. Issuing a ‘Crimewatch’-style video clip with a description of an abductor

It has always been the McCanns who have given out descriptions of a possible abductor. The Portuguese police from early on doubted the truthfulness of claims by Jane Tanner, one of the McCanns’ ‘Tapas 7’ friends, that she had seen an abductor. In early 2008, Clarence Mitchell announced that the McCann team were looking for a moustachioed man seen in Praia da Luz around the time Madeleine went missing. He did this in a widely-shown video clip in which he acted like a Crimewatch presenter. At a meeting at the London School of Economics on 30 January 2008, this performance, plus his commanding stance and choice of words, prompted one member of the LSE audience to ask: “Are you the police?” There was much laughter.

11. Claiming that “…whatever the Portuguese police might find in their investigation, the McCanns will have an innocent explanation for it”

To this bizarre statement, Mitchell added the equally strange comment: “There are wholly innocent explanations for any material that the police may or may not have found”, prompting  many to ask: “How could the McCanns and Clarence Mitchell  know in advance what the police might find and know that there would be ‘an innocent explanation’ for everything?

12. Claiming it didn’t matter if Dr Kate McCann changed her clothes on 3 May

One of the key issues in the Madeleine McCann case is whether the McCanns and their ‘Tapas 7’ friends have been telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the events of 3 May 2007, the day Madeleine was reported missing. In late 2008, a French journalist, Duarte Levy, claimed to have seen photos taken that evening conclusively proving that Dr Kate McCann had left the table during the evening and changed her clothes. That would blow a hole in her claim that she was at the Tapas bar the whole evening. She would have had to explain why she changed her clothes. Mitchell’s official response to these claims was: “So what if she did leave the table and change her clothes?” He refused to elaborate.

13. Saying that ‘none of the Tapas group’ were wearing watches the night Madeleine went missing - and then being forced to retract that statement

Clarence Mitchell had come under pressure from journalists to explain why there were so many major contradictions between the McCanns’ and the Tapas 7’s versions of events on 3 May 2007, when Madeleine ‘disappeared’. There were also many discrepancies in their timelines. Mitchell tried to explain, responding:

 “None of them were wearing watches or had mobile phones on them that night”.

Those journalists then confronted him with the sheer unlikelihood that all nine had neither watch nor mobile ’phone, pointed out that the McCanns and others had used their mobile ’phones that night, and produced pictures of the McCanns and their Tapas 7 friends taken in Praia da Luz that week which showed that they were always wearing watches. Clarence Mitchell was forced into an embarrassing retreat, conceding: “Some of them were wearing watches and had mobile ’phones, some of them weren’t”. It is also now known from the McCanns’ statements to the Police, which have been publicly released, that the McCanns both had mobile ’phones with them that evening. As their official spokesman, Mitchell must surely have been briefed on this before he made his statement.

14. Falsely claiming that the McCanns had been ‘utterly honest and utterly open’

On 11 April 2008, Clarence Mitchell made this bold claim: “Kate and Gerry have been utterly honest and utterly open with the police and all of their statements from the moment that Madeleine was taken”.  He later said, referring to himself and the McCanns: ‘We have nothing to hide’. When addressing a largely student audience during what were called ‘The Coventry Conversations’, Mitchell said: “We are always willing to co-operate with the Portuguese police”. These were astounding claims to make given that…
  • Dr Kate McCann was asked 48 questions by the Portuguese police when interviewed on 7 September 2007 and refused to answer any of them.
  • The McCanns had refused point blank to take part in a reconstruction of the events of 3 May 2007, the night Madeleine McCann was reported missing.
  • The McCanns’ statements contained changes of story, contradictions with the accounts of others, evasions and obfuscations.

15. Claiming it would be ‘hugely entertaining’ to devise a cast list for a proposed film about Madeleine going missing

On 7 January 2008 it was widely reported in the media that the McCanns and their advisers were in talks with media and film moguls IMG, who made the film ‘Touching the Void’,  about a possible film about Madeleine’s disappearance. Clarence Mitchell was asked whether  Gerry and Kate would play themselves in any film or if their roles would be played by celebrity actors. He said: “It may be hugely entertaining and a bit of fun to speculate on a cast list, but we are a million miles away from that sort of thing”. On another occasion, he said of Madeleine: “If she is dead, she is dead”. These and other comments made some wonder how much ‘feel’ or concern for Madeleine’s welfare and fate Mitchell really had.

16. Claiming it was a British cultural custom for parents to put children to bed early so they could enjoy the rest of the evening

Interviewed by Irish TV station RTE, Clarence Mitchell tried to explain why the McCanns left three young children under four on their own, several nights in a row, whilst on holiday, and out for the evening wining and dining. He told his TV audience: “There is a cultural difference between Britain and Portugal. It is a British approach to get your children washed, bathed and in bed early in the evening, if you can, so you can have something of the evening to yourself. That’s the British way of doing things. It doesn't mean it's wrong. It doesn't mean it's right”. Many British parents objected strongly to Mitchell’s description of them..

17. Trying to deny that the McCanns had left the children alone every night

In an interview with Jon Gaunt of TalkSport, Clarence Mitchell was trying to explain why the McCanns had left their children alone ‘that night’ (i.e. the night of 3 May when Madeleine was reported missing). He was quickly corrected by Gaunt who reminded him: ‘But they left them alone every night’. Mitchell had no answer.

18. Blaming Romany gypsies for abducting Madeleine

Clarence Mitchell on one occasion pointed the finger of suspicion at Romany gypsies for having abducted Madeleine. It appeared he had no basis whatsoever for smearing this group of people. He has never apologised for making it.

19. Using an image of Mari Luz without her parents’ permission

Months after Madeleine went missing, another child, Mari Luz, went missing, though in very different circumstances. Sadly she has since been found dead. The McCanns printed posters  of Madeleine together with Mari Luz - without gaining the parents’ prior permission. Her parents were very upset, and complained. Clarence Mitchell reacted by stating: “It’s a shame that they are complaining about us in a press release. How can they be angry with is for wanting to help when all we’re trying to do is find their own daughter?”

20. Being ‘encouraged’ that Madeleine ‘may have been abducted by paedophiles’

In early 2008, stories were put about by an unknown Portuguese lawyer, Marcos Alexandre Aragao Correia, that Madeleine McCann had been abducted by paedophiles, raped, murdered and her body dumped in a dammed lake. At the time, a new drawing of a possible abductor was released, and part of the Arade Dam was searched. A friend of the McCanns was quoted as saying: “We fear that a group of two or three paedophiles may have been fishing around the apartments, casing them with a view to taking children". Mitchell then commented:

“Developments such as this give Mr and Mrs McCann renewed hope. That is exactly the sort of call we want. We think the image is of such a quality that anyone who knows him will be able to identify him. Kate and Gerry are quite buoyant at the moment - every time we do something like this and move things forward it gives them strength. We’re very encouraged by this - putting all this information out, these images out, is helping Gerry and Kate in one way; simply by doing it we have got some momentum and are pushing the agenda forward on our side of the equation”.  Many asked why Mitchell and the McCanns could use such words as ‘buoyant’ and ‘encouraged’ in relation to Madeleine’s having been raped and murdered. The use of the word ‘agenda’ once again prompted the question: What was their ‘agenda’?

21. Explaining why the McCanns deliberately left their three children alone again the night after Madeleine and Sean had been crying the night before

On SKY News, Clarence Mitchell was interviewed, following a pre-recorded interview with the McCanns in which they admitted, for the first time, that two of their children had been crying on the night before Madeleine went missing. There was public outrage that the McCanns were told by their children that they had been crying the previous night whilst they were out wining and dining, only to then leave them alone again the very next night. The SKY News presenter asked: “Why did Kate and Gerry choose to leave the children the same way the very next night?”  Clarence Mitchell’s reply is instructive. Here it is in full:

“That is one interpretation. Let me put it in context. On the morning of May the 3rd, the day Madeleine later went missing, she came out, and said to Gerry and Kate at breakfast, very briefly as an aside, in no way was she unhappy or crying and then, in no way was she reprimanding her parents as some reports papers have wrongly, er, said. She simply said: “Why didn’t you come see - come and see me and Sean when we were crying, last night?”, and Kate and Gerry were puzzled by that, because in their checks - they had been checking her every 25/30 minutes, the same as they did the next night, when she went missing - they had found nothing to suggest that she was in any way distressed or upset, they found her asleep each time. There was nothing wrong. Rachel Oldfield, one of their friends, was in the apartment next door, in the room adjacent to Madeleine’s bedroom.

“She too was there all evening and heard no crying through the walls.  There was nothing to suggest this had happened. So it was a puzzle to Kate and Gerry when Madeleine mentioned it. They tried to question her about it, and she just walked off laughing, and, er, happy, she was [note the past tense] a child and she and, and so, so she dropped it. Now they of course had a serious discussion about what had possibly gone wrong and they decided to check her more thoroughly that next night, and that’s what they did. And in the context of what happened later - her disappearance - they felt that that conversation, puzzling as it was, was very important to bring to the police’s attention. They wonder why, if she cried, why she cried. Was something, or someone already in that room to make her cry and they fled when she cried? Who knows? They can’t prove that, but they told the police in confidence - legally protected documentation has been in those files for 11 months - and why does it appear on the very day they were at the European Parliament? Somebody in the police doesn’t want Kate and Gerry to widen the agenda [that word again!], for whatever reason. It’s wrong. It’s illegal, and the Portuguese government needs to stop this…from happening in the future” [NOTE: The ‘leak’ came from a Spanish journalist known to be very sympathetic to the McCanns].

During this long reply, we see the master media manipulator at work. He makes light of two children crying while their parents were not with them. He justifies the McCanns’ decision to go out wining and dining and leaving all three children alone again the very night after the children told them of their crying. He claims, without evidence, that the Police leaked the story about the McCanns’ children crying on their own the night before. He claims the police have done something illegal. Some might admire him as a master of his craft, and indeed one writer has already said that the McCanns’ public relations campaign will for years to come be a textbook example of how to control the media and manipulate public opinion. But, we may ask, if this is true, whose interests has Clarence Mitchell been serving? Is he someone who helps us get to the truth? Or someone who does his best to stop us getting to the truth? 

 Article by Tony Bennett - Secretary of the Madeleine Foundation

The McCanns, Clarence Mitchell, Rupert Murdoch and the General Election result

Posted by Daniel on April 17, 2010 at 5:18 PM

The McCanns, Clarence Mitchell, Rupert Murdoch and the General Election result

A General Election will be held in three weeks’ time.

In 1997, when Tony Blair was elected in triumph to the post of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Sun claimed, with no little justification: ‘It was the Sun wot won it’.

The Sun had switched sides a couple of years beforehand, backing Labour to win the election, and had proactively campaigned on their behalf through its news coverage and editorials. Richard Branson jumped on the bandwagon that night and just ‘dropped in’ on the Labour Party celebrations early in the morning, thus beginning over a decade of close co-operation with New Labour.

The Sun is owned by Rupert Murdoch. So are the Times, the Sunday Times and the News of the World. So is BskyB and SKY NEWS. He has many other media interests. He is, arguably, the most powerful media figure in the world.

So why was it that in 2008, Conservative Party Leader David Cameron met Rupert Murdoch on his private yacht in the Mediterranean?

It emerged that Cameron had accepted free flights to hold private talks with Rupert Murdoch on his luxury yacht off a Greek island, close to the Turkish coast. Cameron failing to reveal his talks with Mr Murdoch in the House of Commons register of interests, merely declaring that on 16 August 2008, a private plane provided by Matthew Freud took his wife, Samantha, and two of their children from Farnborough, Hampshire to Istanbul, Turkey. So far as we are aware, Mr Cameron has never discussed what he talked about with Rupert Murdoch. Mr Cameron has not broken Commons rules by not revealing anything about his talks with Rupert Murdoch. But when he talks the talk of ‘democracy’ and ‘transparency’ etc., he does not walk the walk by keeping silent about such a crucial subject.

The Sun switched its support from Labour to Conservative on 30 September 2009, about a year after the yacht meeting with Murdoch. Here’s how the Sun triumphantly reported the reaction to this the following day:


LABOUR'S high command chumps got the hump with The Sun yesterday when we ditched them after 12 years. Angry Gordon Brown led the moaning with a grumpy performance on TV. The Prime Minister lost his temper during an interview that was being broadcast live on Sky News. He tried to walk off the set with his microphone still attached after a grilling by political anchorman Adam Boulton.

And Mr Brown's sidekick Lord Mandelson jokingly accused Britain's biggest newspaper of being ‘chumps’ after we threw our weight behind the Tories. The PM was joined by a succession of Cabinet ministers lining up to shrug off our move.

Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman took a swipe at The Sun's Page 3 girls. She opened a debate at the party conference in Brighton by saying she was speaking about ‘something The Sun knows absolutely nothing about - equality’. Ms Harman went on: “Let's face it, the nearest their political analysis gets to women's rights is Page 3's News in Briefs”. Then she told delegates: “We may be the underdog but we won't be bullied. This underdog is biting back”.

Mr Brown then told TV stations: “It's the British people that decide the election, it's the British people's views that I am interested in. I think Sun readers actually, when they look at what I say, they will agree with what I said”. Mr Brown's bad-tempered Sky News questioning showed the fury felt at the highest level at Labour's annual rally.

He repeatedly tried to talk about the economic slump but faced questions, instead, about The Sun's withdrawal of support. At the end of the interview he looked daggers at Mr Boulton before heading off - still tangled in the broadcasting gear. In his eagerness to depart he forgot he was due to have a second interview with the BBC's Sian Williams in the same chair.

Former Labour leader Lord Kinnock was also peeved that The Sun had lost faith in Labour but tried to dismiss it. He said: "The Pope's a Catholic. That's how much surprise it gave me. "It's been obvious for a long, long time that they've been edging and edging."


It was not a very difficult decision for the Sun to make. At the time the Conservatives were running at between 15% and 20% ahead in the polls.
So who was the Matthew Freud who laid on his private plane for Mr Cameron? He’s the owner and boss of one of Europe’s leading media relations and communications companies, Freud Communications. But of much greater significance, he’s married to Rupert Murdoch’s daughter, Elizabeth.

So where does Clarence Mitchell fit into this picture? The answer: right in the middle.
In 2005, Mitchell was made Director of the 40-strong Media Monitoring Unit in the Central Office of Information. In an interview with the newspaper Espresso published on 29 September 2007, he boasted that his role there was to ‘control what comes out in the media’. He was right at the heart of the Labour government’s formidable public relations machine; one of the chief of their ‘spinners’.

A year after his Espresso interview, Mitchell was employed by Matthew Freud of Freud Communications in an undisclosed capacity.

And on 4 March this year, Conservative Leader David Cameron appointed him as second-in-command to his chief media relations and communications adviser, formerly News of the World Editor, Andy Coulson. A veritable clique of Murdoch contacts, then.

So, we may get a Conservative government on 7 May. If so, control will pass from Labour to Conservative.

But Murdoch will still control a huge media empire. And Clarence Mitchell, who has been close to Matthew Freud and Rupert Murdoch for the past 18 months, may well be at the heart of the Conservatives’ new media manipulation team, just as he was for Tony Blair.

So what is the connection with the McCanns and the fate of their daughter Madeleine? Simply this: that on 7 May 2007, just four days after Madeleine was reported missing, Mitchell was appointed the McCanns chief public relations adviser in what was to become one of the biggest international media stories of the past three years. Why it was necessary for him to be transferred to the Foreign Office in May and fly out to Praia da Luz on 22 May is not known. Many others flew out there to ‘help’ - ostensibly to look for a missing child: three staff of Leicestershire Police, staff from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, and the National Police Intelligence Service and possibly MI5 as well - they were certainly involved at a later stage. Then there were at least two staff from the private intelligence agency Control Risks Group and two more staff from the ‘crisis counselling agency the Centre for Crisis Psychology, plus staff of the British Embassy in Portugal. The Director of Mark Warner, managers of the Ocean Club where Madeleine went missing, flew straightaway to Praia da Luz and with him went the Head of Crisis Management at leading communications and media relations firm Bell Pottinger, Alex Woolfall. Just why so many important people rushed out to Praia da Luz remains a mystery. Perhaps if we all knew why they did so, we would be closer to unravelling what Mitchell himself called ‘a complete mystery’ on 19 February.

But with Mitchell safely in position under David Cameron, the Conservatives a comfortable 7% to 8% ahead in the opinion polls, and Mitchell still on a retainer to advise and represent the McCanns in their public relations, there seems to be little prospect that if the Conservatives do get elected to government, there will be any change in the government’s position. It is doubtful if we shall see any serious effort by a Conservative government to try to get to the bottom of what really happened to Madeleine McCann. So the promised ‘re-investigation’ of Madeleine’s disappearance as recommended by CEOP Chief Executive Jim Gamble will probably start, its hand tied behind its back from the outset by being limited to only exploring the possibility of Madeleine having been abducted and not other possibilities. No doubt a Conservative government would continue to refuse, as Labour has done, demands for a public enquiry into the whole affair or even a public inquest with all the material witnesses called to give evidence on oath.

Murdoch and Mitchell will have Cameron under their control.

[Article filed 15 April 2010]  Source:  The Madeleine Foundation

Monday, August 22, 2011

Which department did Payne phone on the 4th May at 23;13;41 for 100 seconds !

Have a look at Related Links !.

48 Questions Kate #McCann refused to answer.

1 On 3 May 2007 at around 2200, when you entered the apartment what did you see and do, where did you look, and what did you touch?
2 Did you look inside the wardrobe in the bedroom? She said she wouldn't answer.
3 (Shown two photographs of the wardrobe) Can you describe its contents?
4 Why had the curtain behind the sofa in front of the side window (a photograph of which was shown to her), been disturbed? Had someone passed behind this sofa?
5 How much time did you spend searching in the apartment after realising that your daughter Madeleine had disappeared?
6 Why did you say from the start that Madeleine had been abducted?
7 Assuming that Madeleine had been abducted, why did you leave the twins alone at home to go to the Tapas to raise the alarm, not least because the supposed abductor could still be in the apartment?
8 Why did you not ask the twins at that moment what had happened to their sister, or why did you not ask them later?
9 When you raised the alarm in the Tapas what specific words were used?
10 What happened after raising the alarm at the Tapas?
11 Did you have a mobile phone with you at that moment?
12 Why did you go to warn your friends instead of shouting from the balcony?
13 Who contacted the authorities?
14 Who took part in the searches?
15 Did someone outside the group learn, in the moments that followed, of Madeleine's disappearance?
16 Did any neighbour offer you help after the alarm was raised about the disappearance?
17 What did the expression "we let her down" mean?
18 Did Jane tell you that she had seen a man carrying a child that night?
19 How were the authorities contacted and which police force was alerted?
20 During the searches after police arrived, in which places were Madeleine searched for, and in what way?
21 Why did the twins not wake up during the search or when they went upstairs?
22 Whom did you telephone after the discovery?
23 Did you call Sky News?
24 Did you know of any danger of calling the media alerting them of the abduction, since this could influence the abductor?
25 Did you request the presence of a priest?
26 In what way was the face of Madeleine, in photographs or by other means, released?
27 Is it true that during the search you remained seated on Madeleine's bed in your room without moving?
28 What was your behaviour like during that night?
29 Did you manage to sleep?
30 Before the trip to Portugal did you make a comment about a bad feeling or premonition about it?
31 What was Madeleine's behaviour like?
32 Did Madeleine suffer from any infirmity or take medication?
33 What was Madeleine's relationship like with her brother and sister, friends and fellow pupils?
34 Regarding your professional life, in how many hospitals and in which ones did you work?
35 What was your speciality as a doctor?
36 Do you work shifts in emergency wards or other departments?
37 Do you work in the daytime?
38 Why did you stop working at a certain point?
39 Is it true or not that the twins have difficulty falling asleep, that they are restless and that this upsets you?
40 Is it true or not that at certain times you felt desperate at your children's attitude and that this upsets you a lot?
41 Is it true or not that in England you went so far as thinking about handing over Madeleine to a relative to look after?
42 At home (in England) did you give medication to your children and what kind of medication?
43 (Various films had been shown to her of the inspection by forensic dogs, where one can see their signalling indications of the scent of a human corpse and traces of human blood as well as the comments by the expert overseeing the exercise.) Having seen the film and after the scent of a corpse was signalled in her bedroom near the wardrobe, and behind the sofa by the window in the sitting room, Kate McCann said she could not explain anything more than she already had.
44 She was asked about the sniffer dog that signalled human blood behind the above-mentioned sofa. She said she could not explain anything more than she already had.
45 She was asked about the scent of corpse which was signalled in the vehicle she hired about a month after the disappearance, with number plate 59-DA-27. She said she could not explain anything more than she already had.
46 When the presence of human blood was signalled in the boot of the same vehicle Kate McCann said she could not explain anything more than she already had.
47 Confronted with the result of the sample of Madeleine's DNA, whose analysis was carried out by a British laboratory, found behind the sofa and in the boot of the vehicle, as previously described, Kate McCann said she could not explain anything more than she already had.
48 Did you have any responsibility or involvement in the disappearance of your daughter Madeleine?
49 Are you aware that the fact of your not answering the questions put to you jeopardise the investigation that was aimed at finding out what happened to your daughter, she answered: "Yes, if the investigation thinks that."
50 Do you have anything to add? She said: "No."
51 Her lawyer was asked to comment. He said he had nothing to state or request.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

'Did you sedate Maddie' asked the SUN ? Sept 2007.

The McCanns had been back home in Rothley for three days, and they decided that it was time to be a normal family again. With the twins strapped into their child seats and their mother, Kate, sitting between them, Gerry McCann slowly drove the family's turquoise VW Touran out of the gates of their country home, "The Orchard," past an army of photographers and TV crews and across to the community playground. The police had sealed off the playground so that the McCanns could enjoy a few hours' respite from the stress of their daily lives and spend a little quality time together as a family.

Rothley, in County Leicestershire, is the perfect place for the god-fearing McCanns. Its roughly 3,000, mostly affluent residents have settled here to gain a little distance from the stresses of modern life. It is an idyllic country town, with its war memorial, carefully trimmed, green hedges, golf course and cricket club.

Julie Martin stands at the bar in a local pub, the Old Crown, and orders a glass of rosé. She is one of the local residents who placed flowers and letters in front of the war memorial as an expression of sympathy for little Madeleine McCann, who disappeared from her family's vacation apartment in the Portuguese seaside resort of Praia da Luz on May 3. Despite an unprecedented search effort and an outpouring of sympathy from across the world, the girl still remains missing today.

"I'm still hoping for a happy end," says Martin. But she is also beginning to lose hope, now that the McCanns have returned to Rothley and the Portuguese police are apparently trying to prove that not only is the little girl dead, but that her parents -- possibly with the help of accomplices -- are responsible for disposing of the body.

Portuguese investigators have summarized their conclusions in a report several thousand pages long, which has now been submitted to Public Prosecutor José Cunha de Magalhães e Meneses and Judge Pedro dos Anjos Frias, who have until the end of this week to wade through the massive document. They will present their assessment of the case to another public prosecutor, Luís Bilro Verão, in Évora, about 170 kilometers (106 miles) away. Verão will then decide whether there is enough evidence to file charges against the McCanns or whether the police will have to begin a new investigation.

Until then, new rumors will continue to surface, rumors the police have apparently been leaking to the tabloids: traces of blood supposedly found on the windowsill and floor in the apartment where the McCanns stayed at the Ocean Club Resort; blood and large amounts of Maddie's blonde hair that supposedly showed up in the gray Renault Scenic that the McCanns only rented 25 days after their daughter's disappearance, when they decided to move from the resort to a villa on the outskirts of Praia da Luz. It is difficult to tell which stories are simply made up and which ones are based on credible evidence. The Portuguese justice system is even more tight-lipped than elsewhere in the world. In a new twist, the police apparently want to confiscate the mother's diary and Maddie's favorite pink stuffed animal, which Kate McCann often holds tightly in public like some protective shield.

The tide of public opinion has now started to turn against the family from Rothley. "Did you sedate Maddie?," asks The Sun, the notorious British tabloid, referring to the speculation that Kate McCann, a doctor, may have given her daughter an overdose of a sedative. The McCanns say the accusation is "completely ludicrous."

The Portuguese police apparently base their suspicions on the traces of blood and hair in the rental car. But this information is not very revealing, says Alec Jeffreys, the British professor who developed the process of genetic fingerprinting in the 1980s. "If all you have to go by is an incomplete DNA profile, you'll run into problems," he says. "Identifying this profile with Madeleine would be problematic, because members of the family with similar DNA were also in the vehicle," -- namely, the missing girl's two siblings.

A special laboratory in Birmingham was supposed to analyze the material from the rental car. But, as Chief Inspector Olegária Sousa told SPIEGEL, the lab has only provided the Portuguese police with a portion of the results.

The police are also suspicious about the fact that on May 3, the night of Maddie's disappearance, the McCanns had left their three small children alone in a ground-floor apartment while they had dinner with friends at "Tapas," a bar about 80 meters (262 feet) away. They had declined to use the resort's free babysitting service, later claiming that they didn't want to leave their children in the care of strangers.

The apartment, on the ground floor of a three-story building, was not visible from the bar. In other words, it would have been impossible for the McCanns to see someone leaving the house carrying one of the children. A wall conceals the view of the windows and the two doors from the nearby bar. To check up on their children, the McCanns had to walk along a paved path around a swimming pool and through landscaped gardens before reaching apartment number 5A.

Police Suspect the McCanns

The police are apparently convinced that Madeleine died in the apartment sometime between 6 p.m., when she was last seen eating ice cream, and 8:30 p.m., when the parents arrived at the restaurant.

The British press speculates that one of two things might have happened: either the mother, Kate, slapped the girl, who then hit her head and died from the consequences, or a sedative led to her death. Driven by the fear of losing the twins and ruining their medical careers, as well as the prospect of a prison sentence of indeterminate length, the McCanns -- so go the speculations -- decided to conceal the girl's body until they could decide what to do with it. Then, 25 days later, the tabloids claim, they disposed of the corpse.

In early September, Portuguese authorities confronted Kate McCann with this version of the story and attempted to wring a confession from her. "They are basically saying, 'If you confess Madeleine had an accident,' and that I panicked and hid the body in a bag for a month then got rid of it in a hire car, I'd get two or three years' suspended sentence," Kate McCann told the Sunday Mirror after the 16-hour interrogation.

Kate McCann had gone from being a distraught mother to the main suspect in the Maddie case. The McCanns were permitted to leave Portugal and travel home to Rothley, but only on the condition that they would return to Portugal within five days, if summoned.

Instead of dropping off their Budget rental car containing the ominous traces of blood and hair at the airport in the southern Portuguese city of Faro, the McCanns left it in an unknown location. If necessary, they said, they would order their own forensic tests.

They continue to live on their estate, where they now give the impression that they are on the run.

Gerry McCann insists that the evidence was cooked and makes it clear that he wouldn't put much past the Portuguese.

 "We could never possibly have imagined being put in this unbearable situation," he writes on the Web site He also writes that he looks forward to the chance to clear his name.

But where is Maddie?

In Praia da Luz, a freshly paved road now runs from the resort where the McCanns vacationed down to the beach. "Nossa Senhora da Luz," a whitewashed church with ochre detailing, towers over the shoreline. A few days after Maddie disappeared José Pacheco, a Catholic priest, gave the McCanns the keys to the church when they told him that they wanted to seek comfort in prayer.

Pacheco reads the evening mass at the church in Portuguese, while Anglican Father Haynes Hubbard reads the morning mass in English. A photo of Maddie hangs in the church next to a Gothic arch framing a golden altarpiece and a red cardboard heart. It looks as though the pictures of the saints, adorned with flowers, had already accepted the girl into their midst.

There are rumors in Praia da Luz that the McCanns buried Maddie's body near the church, perhaps even in the long-closed cemetery. The police plan to excavate and break open a paved path. When Maddie disappeared the area was a construction site where new sewage lines were being laid.

Father Hubbard believes that the suspicion against the parents is unfounded. "I got to know a man, Gerry, and his wife, Kate, who long to have their daughter back. We wept together and begged God for his help." Hubbard, sweating in a short-sleeved shirt, wears dark sunglasses to block the glaring sun.

He stands firm in his faith, he says -- in God and in the McCanns.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan,1518,506356,00.html

The Pact of Silence !

Thursday, August 11, 2011

#McCanns #Murdoch looking for a patsy but he must be a paedophile..

Murder Suspects Pose As Holiday Cleaners

Oct 14 2007 By Billy Paterson

Child Abusers Linked To Murder Pose As Cleaning Experts At Family
Holiday Homes Exclusive

TWO prime murder suspects are posing as directors of a firm that cleans
family holiday homes in the island of Gran Canaria.

Paedophiles Charles O'Neill, 44, and William Lauchlan, 30, fled
Scotland when they were released from prison last year.

We can reveal they now run Rainbow Cleaning Services on the Canary
Island where unsuspecting parents of young children let them into their
holiday homes.

O'Neill calls himself a "forensic cleaner" and a member of the British
Institute of Cleaning.

Last night a spokesman for the BIC said no one with that name was
registered with them.

The former boxer was jailed for eight years and his cousin, Lauchlan
sentenced to six years in 1998 for abusing six boys aged between 11 and

One key witnesses was to have been mum-of-three Allison McGarrigle, who
once stayed with O'Neill and Lauchlan at their home in Largs, Ayrshire.

The 40-year-old, of Rothesay, Isle of Bute disappeared 10 years ago and
has not been seen since.

In April 2005 both men appeared at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court charged
with her murder and attempting to pervert the course of justice by
disposing of her body.

O'Neill was alleged to have boasted to fellow inmates at Glasgow's
Barlinnie Prison and Peterhead jail he had killed Allison and fed her
"to the fishes".

But the Crown never brought the case to court after "very careful
consideration" of the evidence.

When they were released from prison for the child abuse offences
O'Neill and Lauchlan broke their parole conditions by fleeing to the
Spanish resort of Benidorm.

They were arrested in 2004 and returned to Scotland to serve the rest
of their sentences. O'Neill was released in November last year, a month
after Lauchlan.

Elizabeth Marshall, a Largs councillor, was a member of Victim Support
at the time the paedophiles' offences came to light and counselled one
of their victims.

She said last night: "That victim said his life was ruined by these two.

"They spiked drinks and drugged and threatened victims saying the same
fate would befall their mothers as had happened to Alison McGarrigle
and that they would be fed to the fishes.

"It is very disturbing people like that are running a business where
they have access to young children.

"I will alert the police here and hopefully they will pass it on to the
authorities in the Canary Islands."

An advertising feature for Rainbow Cleaning Services on the Canary
Islands Round Town News site states: "William and Charlie have invested
a lot of time and money and recruited and personally trained their

"This is a polished service (no pun intended) with a professional image
to boot.

"Charlie is a former environmental health officer who trained in the UK
and is a registered member of the British Institute of Cleaning

"William is a forensic/industrial cleaner and the inhouse trainer of

When the Sunday Mail first contacted Rainbow Cleaning Services we were
told neither O'Neill or Lauchlan was available.

When we made a second call we were told they had sold the firm three
weeks ago.

Last night a senior police source said that the Allison McGarrigle case
remained open.

He added: "These inquiries are never closed and are pursued if any new
information comes to light."


#McCann #Murdoch paedophile obsession..


A SERIAL paedophile linked to the Madeleine McCann case was yesterday jailed for life for murder.

Charles O'Neill has repeatedly refused to be quizzed by detectives working for Maddie's parents Kate and Gerry.

But the private eyes will now try again. O'Neill, 47, is believed to have been in Portugal when Maddie, then three, vanished from an apartment in Praia da Luz on the Algarve in May 2007.

Yesterday he was sentenced for killing mum-of-three Allison McGarrigle who threatened to reveal he and gay lover William Lauchlan were abusing a child.

Ex-boxer O'Neill and Lauchlan, 33, strangled Allison 13 years ago in Largs, Ayrshire.

They dumped her body at sea and it has never been found.

The High Court in Glasgow ordered O'Neill to serve a minimum of 30 years and Lauchlan, a minimum of 26 years.

They were handed a further 10 years each for abusing two boys aged six and 14.
The pair had been jailed in 1988 over 31 charges of drugging and assaulting young children but were freed in 2002.

They fled to Spain and set up a cleaning business for holiday apartments.

They travelled to Portugal several times.

In April 2004 they abducted, drugged and abused a 15-year-old English boy in Spain.

O'Neill was still there three years later when seven-year-old Spanish Jeremy Vargus vanished from Gran Canaria.

Two months later Maddie went missing - and O'Neill was thought to be on the Algarve at the time.

Jeremy's mother Ithaisa Suarez, 24, and Kate, 41, from Rothley, Leics, have written to each other regularly.

Kate and Gerry have also included information about the Jeremy case on their website.

Last night the McCanns' spokesman Clarence Mitchell confirmed: "Investigators have been fully aware of O'Neill and his background but have not been able to take him any further forward as an active line of investigation."

Read more:

#McCanns : #Murdoch paedophile obsession :Paedophile Pair Found Guilty Of Killing Woman - previously linked to Madeleine case


Paedophile Pair Found Guilty Of Killing Woman

5:51pm UK, Thursday June 10, 2010

James Matthews, Scotland correspondent

Two of the country's most dangerous paedophiles have been found guilty of killing a woman who was going to report their abuse of a young boy.

Charles O'Neill, 47, and William Lauchlan, 33, strangled 39-year-old Alison McGarrigle before dumping her body in the sea off Largs in Ayrshire.

Police initially believed that she had simply gone missing when she disappeared in 1998. In 2005, however, they declared her dead.

The breakthrough in the hunt for her killers came when they boasted about the murder.

Both Lauchlan and O'Neill had a history of abusing young boys. In 1998, they were jailed for abusing five youngsters.

Following their release, their child sex crimes continued - in Scotland and in Benidorm, where they had set up a cleaning business.

It was while they were abusing a boy in Ayrshire that Alison McGarrigle found out and threatened to tell the police.

Convicted paedophiles Charles O'Neill (left) and William Lauchlan
Detectives believe they strangled her in their flat, which she was sharing at the time, and then hid her body under rocks on Largs beach before putting it in a wheelie bin and dumping it at sea.

Despite repeated appeals for information and an extensive search of the seabed off Largs, no trace of Alison was ever found.

Police suspicions surrounding Lauchlan and O'Neill were never brought to court due to a lack of strong evidence.

Over the years, however, different witnesses heard them boast about having killed the single mother.

One man told the High Court in Glasgow how O'Neill said to him "she's feeding the fishes down there," and nodded towards the Firth of Clyde.

In Spain they told a man they knew that Ms McGarrigle had been "got rid of" and repeated she had been "fed to the fishes."

Allison McGarrigle, killed by two paedophiles she threatened to expose
In prison, O'Neill had told a fellow prisoner she had been "done away with."
Just weeks prior to their murder conviction, the pair were found guilty in a separate trial of grooming a six year-old boy for sex.

In the same trial, they were also convicted of abducting and sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy in Spain and O'Neill was convicted of drugging a 14-year-old boy and abusing him.

The judge in the murder trial, Lord Pentland, described the pair, who were lovers, as "evil, determined and manipulative paedophiles of the worst sort."

Both were given life sentences, with O'Neill to serve a minium of 30 years and Lauchlan a minimum of 26 years.

They were also jailed for 10 years each for the recent sexual abuse convictions.
Sentencing the pair, Lord Pentland said: "It is clear that you are both dangerous and determined predatory paedophiles and that you now represent a high risk to the safety of the public."


#McCanns :The evil NONET

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Evidence heard in Public Questions 168 - 226

 This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.

 Any public use of, or reference to, the contents should make clear that neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

 Members who receive this for the purpose of correcting questions addressed by them to witnesses are asked to send corrections to the Committee Assistant.

 Prospective witnesses may receive this in preparation for any written or oral evidence they may in due course give to the Committee.

 Transcribed by the Official Shorthand Writers to the Houses of Parliament:
W B Gurney & Sons LLP, Hope House, 45 Great Peter Street, London, SW1P 3LT
Telephone Number: 020 7233 1935

Oral Evidence
Taken before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee
on Tuesday 10 March 2009
Members present
Mr John Whittingdale, in the Chair
Janet Anderson
Mr Nigel Evans
Paul Farrelly
Mr Mike Hall
Alan Keen
Rosemary McKenna
Adam Price
Mr Adrian Sanders
Witnesses: Mr Gerry McCann, Mr Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns' Media Adviser and Spokesman, and Mr Adam Tudor, Carter Ruck, Solicitors, gave evidence.

Q168 Chairman: Good afternoon, everybody. This is the third session of the Committee's inquiry into press standards, privacy and libel. I would like to welcome as our witnesses this afternoon Gerry McCann, his media spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, and Adam Tudor of Carter Ruck. Obviously we are going to be focusing this afternoon specifically on media issues but perhaps I could just start off by expressing, I think on behalf of all of the Committee, our sympathy to Gerry McCann for the ordeal that he and his family have had to undergo and also to express the hope still that Madeleine might one day be found. Before we come to questions, I know that you would like to make a short statement.

Mr McCann: Thank you. I am Gerald McCann, the father of Madeleine, who was abducted in Praia da Luz on 3 May 2007. Although elements of the media coverage have undoubtedly been helpful in the ongoing search for Madeleine, our family has been the focus of some of the most sensationalist, untruthful, irresponsible and damaging reporting in the history of the press. If it were not for the love and tremendous support of our family, friends and the general public, this disgraceful conduct, particularly in the tragic circumstances in which we find ourselves, may have resulted in the complete disruption of our family.

Q169 Chairman: Can I ask you to say a little bit more about your impression of the reporting of the case and how it changed over time?

Mr McCann: The first impressions really started on day one when we came back to Praia da Luz having spent the day in Portimao at the police station. Clearly, there was a huge media presence there already. My natural instinct was to appeal for information, for people to come forward. At that point we were desperate for information and desperate, as we still are, that our daughter could be found and we wanted people to help in that. That is why we spoke to the media and did our appeals. Particularly early on, there was a general willingness of the media, an engagement and a real desire to try and help get information leading to Madeleine's whereabouts. Fairly quickly though both Kate and myself, certainly when we were in the apartment watching the broadcasting, particularly on the news channels, and subsequently when we looked at the newspapers, saw that much of the content of the material, even within the first few days - possibly particularly in the first few days - was highly speculative. It was not at all helpful to us and we fairly quickly decided, for our own benefit, not to watch the broadcasting or indeed to read the newspapers in detail. Of course the speculation aspects are still ongoing in many respects until we all know where Madeleine is and who took her. There were elements as we went along where clearly we wanted to get the message out there and particularly the fact that, when it became apparent to us that Madeleine could quite easily have been transferred out of Portugal quickly, added a completely different dimension to us as parents and what we were trying to achieve. As you know, the Spanish border is only about 90 minutes away and we felt, if Madeleine had been moved quickly, our chances of finding her with a local investigation only would be quite slim. Therefore we wanted an international campaign as much as possible and for people to be aware of her being missing. We were put in a very difficult situation in that we are used to coming from a society where there is quite open engagement between law enforcement and the public in terms of high profile crimes, compared to the circumstances that we found ourselves in, in Portugal, where as a rule there is not any open dialogue between law enforcement and the public. That was difficult, particularly when we were being fed and researching the experience from North America where in cases of missing children there is a very strong belief that the public can help. There was undoubtedly a desire to help. As the weeks went on, particularly after we had finished our trips to countries where we felt there was potentially relevant information that may be got for the investigation, by staying on in Portugal we were surprised that the media interest did not die down, to be quite frank. We saw pressure, particularly on journalists, to produce stories when really there was not anything new to report. Probably that was the point where things became what I would call irrelevancies or half truths or suggestions were making front page news.

Q170 Chairman: Your impression was that the newspapers wanted to go on reporting stories about Madeleine's disappearance and, if there were no new facts to report, they started to resort to making up things?

Mr McCann: I totally agree with that. Prior to becoming involved in this experience, I always believed that, although there might be quite marked exaggeration to some front page headline stories, I never really believed that many of them could be absolutely blatantly made up. I believe that was the case with Madeleine.

Q171 Chairman: Did you feel that once that point had been reached the majority of press coverage then become negative and unhelpful to you or were there specific worst offenders?

Mr McCann: Obviously there were fictitious stories which were not necessarily libellous or defamatory and clearly there was another turn when we were declared arguido and it was a free for all really. A different process went on before that which was largely where Madeleine, I believe, was made a commodity and profits were to be made. As far as I could see, having front page news stories or indeed any stories in newspapers on a daily basis was not helpful to the search. There was that element, but that was not particularly damaging at that point other than that there was a lot of misinformation and we would have been spending all of our time if we were trying to correct it. There was something very early on which I was uneasy with and that was in terms of the confidentiality of the investigation, whether it be in this country or in a foreign country. I think there is information related to a crime that you do not want to be made public because only the witnesses who were there will know that information. It concerned me greatly that elements of the time line were becoming increasingly apparent through leaks and a desire to have every single bit of information known; whereas at the time I remember speaking to Kate and her other friends and saying, "In some ways, judicial secrecy is good because the abductor will not be able to get access to information that only we know." That was pretty quickly eroded and was disappointing. That is very different to the senior investigating officer, as would happen in a serious case in this country, providing information to the public to try and get further intelligence. That aspect of it was concerning even quite early on.
Q172 Chairman: Do you believe that in the majority of cases the negative stories that appeared were completely fabricated or were there some people in the police who might have given them information which led them to write the stories they did?

Mr McCann: Do you mean the stories arising in Portugal?

Q173 Chairman: Yes.

Mr McCann: The worst stories that were printed in this country were based on articles that had been directly published within Portugal. Often what we found was that they had been embellished and a single line that was very deep in an article within a Portuguese newspaper, usually from an unsourced source, was front page and exaggerated to the extent where we had ridiculous headlines and stories. I think the most damning thing of all of this and the most damaging aspect of all the coverage which Kate and I cannot forgive is the presentation that there is a substantial body of evidence that suggests that Madeleine is dead when there is no evidence in fact to suggest she has been seriously harmed.

Q174 Mr Sanders: Are you saying that the media impeded your campaigning and the search for Madeleine?
Mr McCann: I have made it clear that elements of the media were helpful in terms of the campaign. In terms of distribution of her image, it is incredibly powerful. There is absolutely no doubt about that. Subsequently the media were used by C-OP in terms of an appeal asking for tourists to come forward and there was a huge number of photographs uplifted and other information given. Elements of the appeal nature and awareness are there and are helpful but if you portray a missing child as dead and people believe she is dead without due evidence then people stop looking.

Q175 Mr Sanders: Did you feel the need to appoint media help to raise awareness through the press or did you feel the need to do that to deal with unwanted media attention?

Mr McCann: There are two elements. Right at the very beginning, Mark Warner had a media specialist, a crisis management specialist from Bell Pottinger called Alex Wilful, who was incredibly helpful to us and, in those early days, gave us quite simple guidance which we found particularly helpful. It was very much along the lines of: what are your objectives? What are you hoping to achieve by speaking to the media? Be very clear about what you want. That was very, very good because there is an element that they are there on your doorstep. Having never been exposed to media in any substantial amount previously, you are not quite sure where the boundaries are and what is expected. Having that protection and guidance in terms of dealing with it was very important. The government sent out a media adviser who had expertise in campaign management, Cherie Dodd, who previously worked at the DTI and started talking about planning for us, how we could utilise the media in terms of achieving objectives and then subsequently Clarence came out. That was very important, one, to assist us in trying to get information to help find our missing daughter and, secondly, in protecting us from the media because the demands were unbelievable. To be thrust from being on holiday one minute into the middle of an international media storm and knowing how to cope with that is very difficult. What we wanted and still want is a partnership with the media when we have information which we think may be relevant and can assist the search, obviously drawing the lines between the search for Madeleine and the Kate and Gerry Show, which the media were much more interested as most of the facts came out. Drawing the line between those two things was much harder.

Q176 Mr Sanders: It seems to prove almost impossible when you have that level of media attention to control it. It just becomes an uncontrollable vortex.

Mr McCann: Obviously the circumstances around this story are fairly unique but we were never under the impression that we were controlling the media. We did not set the media agenda.

Q177 Mr Sanders: I do not think you gave that impression.

Mr McCann: For the record, I have to be categorically clear about this. The media decide what they publish and what they broadcast. Obviously we were asking for help and we got a lot of exposure and, even early on, unwanted exposure. It was more about influencing the content and being clear about when we were engaging about what we were hoping to get out of it.

Q178 Adam Price: You mentioned a moment ago the pressures that you felt some journalists were facing in terms of having to deliver stories 24/7. Did any of the journalists that you would have met on a face to face basis ever express any sense of regret or remorse at some of the stories that they were printing or were they fairly brazen?
Mr McCann: At the time the most damaging stories were published, we were not really speaking to many journalists face to face. Kate and I, despite the coverage, particularly after the first five weeks or so, have been in front of the media very periodically. Very rarely have we come face to face with a journalist whose name was by the byline or the story. We have had Clarence with us during most of this so he has dealt with it more. I know that Clarence has had apologies from journalists and there has been, "I wrote this but the headline was done by the news desk." There is clearly pressure on the journalists on the ground who are being funded on expenses and are under pressure to produce copy. There is pressure from the news desk to write a headline which does not necessarily reflect the factual content available for the story.

Mr Mitchell: Gerry is absolutely right. The reporters on the ground were only doing their job. We are not critical of them in that sense, but they were under intense pressure from their news desks and within themselves as well. We had a pack - this is just UK press I am talking about - of UK reporters based in Praia da Luz who were looking the front page that day. We also had another, smaller pack in Leicestershire trying to talk to relatives and people back here who knew Kate and Gerry at that end. We also had columnists writing legal pieces and all of them were competing on a daily basis to get their version of the story into the paper. I sometimes had the most ridiculous situation where I had reporters coming to me saying, "I have got to get a front page splash out of this by four o'clock this afternoon or my job is on the line." If I said, "Well, sorry, we do not have anything substantially new today" or the authorities either in Portugal or Britain did not want us to say anything, they would say, "We are going to have to write it anyway." They were apologetic in that sense but as a former journalist myself I understood the pressures they were under. Later in the evening I would get calls from Leicestershire or the London news desks saying, "We have got a better angle from the UK on this. What do you think about that?" It was like a one story news room in itself generating all these different pressures and, regardless of what we would say or do, sure enough the story would be on the front page the next day anyway. We had anecdotal evidence as well that was putting on massive sales for certain titles and that was undoubtedly one of the reasons why Madeleine stayed on the front page as long as she did, although there were lots of other factors within the story that, in pure journalistic parlance, made it a big story and kept that momentum going. We were credited with keeping that momentum going. A lot of the time we were not doing anything. It was the media feeding on it itself.
Q179 Mr Evans: Do you think you got better treatment from the television news than you did from the printed press?

Mr McCann: By and large the broadcasters have been more responsible. I would not say they have been without fault, particularly around the arguido time. There are elements that were too accepting of information that was becoming available from sources and we still are not sure where they are. Whether the coverage was all entirely appropriate I am not the best person to decide because obviously we are biased.

Q180 Mr Evans: At any time was any journalist in a face to face with you - although you just said that was rather contained - abusive to either you or Kate?

Mr McCann: Not so much directly. I did speak to Christopher Meyer about this in the summer of 2007. "Reverence" is the wrong word but amongst the UK press there did seem to be an empathy and they did not want, at least initially, to unduly upset. That wore off fairly quickly but generally I felt we were treated quite well. When we came back from the police station on the first night and I saw the press pack and the frenzy there, I had the most horrible visions of complete intrusion, invasion of privacy, and in those first days and weeks while we stayed on the Ocean Club complex there was an order about it. We agreed that we did not mind being filmed going about our normal activity but we were not going to be engaging in giving stories on a day to day basis. That seemed to work quite well. Both sides seemed to be quite happy. What we envisaged was that demand would rapidly tail off which it never quite did really and that certainly took me by surprise.

Q181 Mr Evans: Did any of them have your mobile numbers for instance and phone you at odd times or pester you all the time?

Mr McCann: I have to say it was remarkably few. My mobile number was known to a proportion of the journalists. The vast majority called through the media liaison, whether it be Bell Pottinger with Alex Wilful first of all or Clarence and his predecessors. I had a few calls. One of them was phoning to say, "I think what is happening right now is getting out of hand and you need to try and do something." It was advice as much as tapping us up. That happened on one or two occasions and we just directed it back to the media.
Mr Mitchell: One of the problems was on the ground. Because of judicial secrecy and the police not being able or willing to say anything publicly, certainly the British journalists and the Americans to a certain extent had come to expect a very open attitude from the authorities and, when they did not get that, they had nowhere to fall back on. They were not able to do any real investigative digging of their own or they did not seem particularly inclined to. As a practical illustration of that, they tended to congregate at one particular bar which had a pretty lethal combination of free Wi-Fi and alcohol and that became the news room for the duration of the trip, I am afraid. They would get the Portuguese press each morning translated for them with mistranslations occasionally occurring in that as well. Then, no matter what rubbish, frankly, was appearing in the Portuguese press from whatever source, they would then come to me and I would either deny it or try and correct it or say, "We are just not talking about this today." That was effectively a balancing of the story and there was no further effort to pursue any independent journalism as we might recognise it.

Q182 Mr Evans: Are you suggesting that some of the stuff that we read in the newspapers was fuelled by alcohol?

Mr Mitchell: I am not suggesting anything was written in that particular state. I am just trying to illustrate the point that it was a convivial atmosphere. The journalists found it easy to work there and I had to go down to brief them there. Broadcasters tend to hunt in a different pack from print, so I would have to go down to where the broadcasters were and talk to them for the day on any agreed messages that I had agreed with Kate and Gerry. Then the print press would have different agendas and different deadlines and they tended to congregate at the bar. I am not saying that in a pejorative sense. I am just illustrating that as an example of where they were, but that is what they had to do because they had no other traditional sources that would normally be available to them. Frankly, because of that, they did not really push any further.

Q183 Mr Evans: I want to touch on the distinction, when the information that the media managed to get one way or another was useful and when it was not, which is the suggestion almost that information that could only be made available to the police - only the police would know it and yourselves - somehow got out into the media world. Do you believe therefore that this information was directly leaked to certain newspapers? Is there any suggestion - Clarence, maybe this is one for you - that any British journalists were paying the police for information that they later used which went against your best interests?

Mr Mitchell: I have no proof of that. I cannot prove where any of the leaks came from but you only have to look at the nature of the stories and the content within them to make certain presumptions. My situation was dealing with those leaks once they appeared. Something that was even often just a suggestion or an allegation, unsourced in the Portuguese press, by the time it found its way across the Channel, had become hardened up into fact with an extra scare headline or whatever on top of it. That is where the real problems started because these things would end up in the cuttings file and would become an accepted fact in the story when in fact they were complete distortions in many cases or entirely untrue in others.

Q184 Mr Evans: In those instances where the information was true, was the source originally Portuguese newspaper and then transferred after translation into British papers or did now and again some stuff that only the police and yourselves knew get into British newspapers first?

Mr McCann: As far as I could see, almost all of the information available had arisen within Portugal first. Without knowing the intricate dealings of what happens around the police station and what is on and off the record, clearly someone else within Portugal has been quoted as saying that judicial secrecy is a bit like the speeding law. Everyone knows there is a law but no one sticks to it. It was not me who said it but there is that element. There is a cultural difference and obviously we do not speak the language. With hindsight, we only really started paying attention more to the Portuguese press when we realised what was happening. I know in your submissions there are a lot of elements about the digitisation of media and also the globalisation of it. Clearly, this is a very strong example of where you have media very quickly feeding off each other and the day after it would be front page headlines and in the UK press there would be a front page headline of what was a tiny little story. There was this positive reinforcement: The Times of London has carried it; that means it is true. That was quoted on more than one occasion.

Mr Mitchell: We would see things appearing in the Portuguese press get misreported in Britain and get misreported again back in Portugal. It was just this circle of lunacy at times.

Mr Tudor: In order to be sure about that you would have to do a line by line comparison of all of the Portuguese articles and all of the UK articles. We do not know the answer directly but I am pretty sure that the overwhelming majority of the allegations that appeared here had been sourced from the Portuguese media, first and foremost, rather than direct sources.

Q185 Paul Farrelly: I want to move to the Press Complaints Commission but before that I want to establish what the legal situation of the reporting was in Portugal. Irrespective of press standards and libel, when a potential criminal investigation is run in the UK there are laws of contempt. The Portuguese police leaking is clearly reprehensible but they are not the only police force to do it. When it came to the case of the care home in Jersey recently, it went to a different level where police were making statements that could be reported with impunity but the press was not sceptical about them. We do not have this arguido category here. Often we have people helping the police with their inquiries. In Portugal were both the UK and the Portuguese press in any way breaking Portuguese laws of contempt in any of the reporting? This is perhaps one for Mr Tudor.

Mr Tudor: I would not bank on it. I am not a Portuguese lawyer and I am not a criminal lawyer. I do not know is the short answer. So far as I am aware, there was no intervention by the Portuguese authorities along the lines of contempt in the way that you might expect to have seen here.

Mr McCann: This is my first hand knowledge from discussions rather than knowledge of Portuguese law but clearly within Portugal there has been a balance going on between laws, many of which date back to them being a Fascist government and subsequently a Communist one. Freedom of speech is perhaps more freely enshrined there and yet we have this judicial secrecy which, in many cases, does not function the way it should. There is this element where the press there is potentially much less well regulated, to use that in the loosest context, than it is in the UK. I believe in terms of the legal situation, if a police officer gave information which was known to be on the file and only on the file relevant to it then technically I believe that is probably correct.

Q186 Paul Farrelly: Have you ever speculated as to how this might have developed had Madeleine disappeared in Britain and what the difference might have been in the press reporting?

Mr McCann: Speaking to law enforcement over here and in the US, obviously in Portugal and other organisations involved in child welfare and missing children, usually, certainly within this country, the senior investigating officer and the police force responsible have a media strategy. They give information which they want out there and that takes away the vacuum to some extent. In many countries that is the way it works.

Q187 Paul Farrelly: Have you had any sense from talking to law enforcement officers here that, had the media started on the trail that they followed leading to the completely made up and damaging stories, the police here might have stepped in and warned the media to calm it down?

Mr Tudor: Or the Attorney General even, yes. I have always taken the view from a non-criminal, legal perspective that if this "incident" had happened here there is no way you would have had this nature of coverage. It would have been substantially different and the newspapers would have been considerably more careful. Incidentally, even though this did take place in Portugal, it is important that you know if you did not know already that at the very least in October 2007 Leicestershire Police did indeed issue a missive to the media asking them to be a bit more careful about how they were going about this. Even though it was overseas, the nature of the reporting was obviously an issue which as I understand it was of concern to Leicestershire Police as well.
Q188 Paul Farrelly: This brings us neatly to press standards. There has been criticism of the Press Complaints Commission that they were not proactive. They stood by and did not invoke their own inquiry. They have said in evidence to us, defending that position, that to have done so would have been an impertinence to the McCanns. Would you have felt it an impertinence to you had the Press Complaints Commission in respect of press standards been more proactive and said, "Hold on, this is not the way a responsible press behaves"?

Mr McCann: No, I would not have found it impertinent. I certainly would have been open to dialogue if it was felt to be within the remit of the PCC. Having also read their evidence, they are claiming it is not within their remit. Aspects with the PCC have been helpful in terms of protecting privacy particularly for our twins, which was a major concern for us. They were continuing to be photographed and we wanted that stopped. Very quickly that was taken up by the press and broadcasters within the UK. We are thankful for that. There was also help in removing photographers from outside our drive after what we felt was a very over long period, when news had really gone quite quiet and we were still being subjected to camera lenses up against our car with the twins in the back, which was inappropriate. In terms of the defamatory and libellous stories, clearly the advice from both the PCC and our legal advisers was that the PCC was not the route.

Q189 Paul Farrelly: You have described some of the interaction you had with the PCC. Did you consider making an official complaint to the PCC that they were publishing stories about you on the basis of no evidence at all and indeed about Mr Murat as well whose life was also destroyed?

Mr McCann: In terms of the defamatory stories on that specific point, we were advised that legal redress was the way to address that issue.

Q190 Paul Farrelly: You were advised by the PCC?

Mr McCann: I had an informal conversation that was directed to me, yes.

Q191 Paul Farrelly: Can you tell us who you had the conversation with?

Mr McCann: It was with the then chairman, Sir Christopher Meyer.

Q192 Paul Farrelly: There was no willingness to take up the issues around you therefore as a matter of press standards?

Mr McCann: At the time and on reading their submission, they say it is a very clear division between libel, for which there is legal redress, and when we spoke to Adam for Carter Ruck he also strongly advised us that if we wanted a stop put to it then legal redress was the way to go.

Q193 Paul Farrelly: There are wider issues: your personal safety and the ability to try and find your daughter. It was much wider than libel behaviour.

Mr McCann: Absolutely. From Kate's and my point of view, taking the legal route was a last resort. You are right. I think there is a gap there currently in the regulation. A complaint for example about stories which are about an invasion of privacy is always retrospective and the damage has often been done. There has to be some degree of control, I believe, or deterrent to publishing untrue and particularly damaging stories where they have the potential to ruin people's lives.

Q194 Paul Farrelly: The fact that newspaper editors, including The Daily Express editor, Peter Hill, were on the board of the PCC at the time - what sort of view did that leave with you as to how the Press Complaints Commission operates?

Mr McCann: It did cause me concern. We were in a dispute with them. Although ultimately they thankfully decided to settle before taking it on to court, they did not just roll over and say, "Oh, sorry." There was quite a bit of correspondence and we had to produce quite a bit of evidence. I did think it was surprising that an editor of a paper which had so flagrantly libelled us with the most devastating stories could hold a position on the board of the PCC.

Q195 Paul Farrelly: The newspaper industry of course is adamant that self-regulation works. I would be interested in your view of that but furthermore it has been remarked that in any other sphere of life, in any other profession, in business or in government, if something like this had happened there would have been an inquiry. Somebody, somewhere, would have launched an inquiry. We are mounting an inquiry here but we are not part of the media profession. What does the failure of any inquiry or any toughening of a code because of what you have been through say about not only the standards of the press in this country in your view but also the role of the regulator in upholding these standards of the media?

Mr McCann: Obviously speaking from our own experience, we have probably been the most high profile case or extreme case there has been. I think we do see almost on a daily basis information published that is damaging, possibly untruthful and defamatory to people. My own view is that there has to be some more stringent regulation of that. I will very much defend freedom of speech but when people's lives are put in jeopardy by different mechanisms there has to be redress.

Mr Tudor: We had a conversation about the PCC when Kate and Gerry first came to Carter Ruck. It was quite a short conversation. The PCC is perceived, to a considerable extent still correctly, as being wholly media friendly. It lacks teeth. It cannot award damages. It cannot force apologies. As soon as there is any dispute of fact between the newspaper and the victim of the libel, the PCC backs off and says, "This needs to go to law." To be fair to the PCC, I think they have accepted and said that the McCanns' case was never going to be appropriate for the PCC but should have gone to law and so on. How one views the PCC in this kind of scenario, extreme or otherwise, is that it can be summed up by the fact that if you were to ask me how I think The Express would have reacted if Kate and Gerry McCann had brought a PCC complaint rather than a Carter Ruck letter, you could probably have felt the sigh of relief all the way down Fleet Street. Perhaps that gives you a feel for how it would be perceived. First of all, I am afraid it would have led The Express to think that relatively speaking they were off the hook because of the lack of teeth that the PCC has. Secondly, almost by definition, by going to the PCC Kate and Gerry would have been tacitly sending out a signal, not only to The Express, but to the rest of Fleet Street that they had no appetite to see this through and therefore perhaps could be fobbed off, as it were. Time and again one comes across this being the reality of PCC complaints. I am not here to put the boot into the PCC. I think they have a very important role to perform. From my experience indirectly of how the McCanns have dealt with the PCC in relation to the children, harassment and so on, it certainly has a role to perform, but it is not the sort of role it is cut out for because of the inherent contradictions of self-regulation.

Mr Mitchell: On the practical aspects of dealing with the press, they were a very substantial help. Kate and Gerry had photographers outside their driveway for six months, every day, after they came from Portugal. It was on the basis that, "We need a today picture", which was exactly identical to the one six months before. Utter nonsense. When the PCC made representations formally and at the right levels, that presence dissipated very quickly. They were a substantial help on certain practical aspects, but we all knew and the PCC themselves knew that, given the gravity of the defamations that were occurring and the sheer volume and scale of it and the unique nature of this particular situation, really the legal route was then the only option. With self-regulation, I echo Gerry. Free speech in a democracy has to stand. Of course it does. With the changing media landscape now, in the new multi-connected, multi-layered, multi-platform world we live in, self-regulation is an issue the press need to address themselves in terms of improving it and widening it. The whole aspect of the social networking that occurs now, the readers' comments, their own websites - many newspaper groups are now almost broadcasters in their own right and look like that when you walk into the news room. I am not sure personally whether self-regulation is keeping up with that advance in technology. It is something that they really will need to address in the coming months and years. It has been said that information travels these days beyond the speed of thought and I think that does happen more and more frequently. If the press do not keep their own house in order, they may run the risk of some other regulatory body coming in.

Q196 Janet Anderson: Would it be fair to say to all three of you that there is an important, valuable role for the PCC to play but it is very limited? There is a gap in all of this that needs filling. You said, Gerry, that some of this irresponsible media coverage has the potential to ruin people's lives and that is exactly what it can and does do. You also made the point - Max Mosley in front of us this morning made a similar point - about, once this has happened, the damage has been done. I wanted to ask you two things really. To what extent were you given advance warning of the kinds of stories that were going to appear? When you talk about the need for more stringent regulation, would you favour a privacy law of the kind that exists in other countries? Do you think the press would be more responsible if we had that?

Mr McCann: In terms of privacy, I was certainly concerned about privacy but I do not think in general we had gross violation of our privacy. We had irritant elements of it but generally I feel it was respected. Any views I have on privacy are therefore very personal and I do not think I should be giving them in front of this Committee as having a specific experience. In terms of advance notice, I would often hear Clarence on the phone to journalists expressly telling them that the information they had was rubbish. It would not stop it being published.
Q197 Janet Anderson: It would still be published?

Mr McCann: Yes.

Mr Mitchell: We expected it to be published after a while. We just knew it was coming. Normally, we had a few hours' notice.

Mr McCann: We were talking about this again this morning. We possibly could have forgiven the furore around the arguido status at that time. Clearly that is going to be newsworthy, but when it became abundantly clear to newspapers that there was not any evidence to back up any allegations then they were warned. We wrote to them. Two newspapers, The Express and The London Evening Standard, were put on express notice that the stories they were running were defamatory. The editors were all visited personally by our spokesperson, Clarence, and Justine McGuinness before that, with a criminal lawyer, who told them that there was no evidence. It did not stop. It was the rehashing and this ad infinitum aspect that they could reproduce headlines at will that had no substance that forced us to take action.

Q198 Janet Anderson: The PCC was absolutely no help in that at all?

Mr McCann: It was again never offered in any way. Secondly, in the discussions, we were advised that they were not the correct vehicle for such complaints.

Mr Tudor: One can only speculate about what witness statement going on in that regard. The PCC in many respects, certainly when it comes to libel, is a passive body rather than a proactive body. That is just a fact, rightly or wrongly. If, let us say in another world, the PCC had decided to get involved in Kate and Gerry's predicament at a relatively early stage and contacted for example the editor or the journalists at The Express and any other newspapers that were reporting this stuff, tried to warn them off and said they understood that there was a danger that this could be a breach of the factual accuracy provisions in the PCC code, for example, I anticipate that the answer to the PCC would have been, "Well, these stories have all been well sourced. We are standing by our sources. It is a story of the most colossal public interest. Therefore, we are carrying on." The result would have been they would have carried on publishing. You would have ended up exactly back at square one. I am not saying there should be but there would have been no interventionist power on the part of the PCC to wade in and say, "You cannot publish that. You cannot publish this. You have to redraft that so it does not say this." That is obviously not what they do and probably not what they are there for. That would have been the reality of that kind of situation.

Mr Mitchell: When I visited Peter Hill with Angus McBride from Kingsley Napley, it was really an informal discussion to say, "Look, this is beginning to get out of hand. Can we rein it back in before it becomes necessary to take any action?" There was an acceptance by him on that day that "some of their headlines had overstepped the mark" and that they would be more cognisant of that in the future. For a week or two things did get better but I am afraid there was the competition and the urge for the front page. Off we went again and it led to the complaint that was lodged.

Q199 Chairman: The PCC has told us that on 5 May, two days after Madeleine's disappearance, they contacted the British Embassy to remind them that the PCC's jurisdiction extended to journalists working overseas and also to suggest that the embassy pass on the PCC's details to you. Did that happen and did you then have any contact with the PCC?

Mr McCann: If it did, it certainly was lost in the furore of the other information I was bombarded with at the time. I was not aware of that until I read the submission.

Q200 Alan Keen: Did you get the impression a lot of the time that the headlines were selling newspapers and the stuff following the articles was disconnected with the headline? Was the content as well as much rubbish as the headlines that were put out to sell the papers?

Mr McCann: On many occasions, yes. I can only assume that the stories were being published on a commercial decision.

Q201 Alan Keen: Have you tried to calculate roughly how much profit The Express made after deducting their costs?

Mr McCann: I have no idea.

Mr Mitchell: I heard from reporters on the ground that it was putting on upwards of 40,000 or 50,000 copies a day when Madeleine was on the front page. I have no way of knowing whether that figure is accurate but it certainly was putting on tens of thousands of paper sales at the height of it on a daily basis.

Q202 Alan Keen: In the same way as the photographs of Princess Di have appeared by the hundred.
Mr Mitchell: The Express Group, for whatever reasons, decided that Madeleine was a front page story come what may in the same way that they had treated the princess for the previous decade many times. We could only but draw the conclusion that there was a commercial imperative at work here.

Q203 Alan Keen: Has anyone tried to calculate the profit from this to The Express alone? Has any other newspaper criticised The Express? Have there been any articles saying that The Express went too far?

Mr Tudor: As one would expect, the usual broadsheets from memory ran some articles on it, The Guardian being the classic example. It has a good media section that tends to run a lot of articles commenting on other things. It has the Roy Greenslade blog and all that sort of thing. There was an element of coverage but of course the results against The Express, the front page apologies, the damages and so on, prompted a huge amount of coverage, not so much in the printed media perhaps unsurprisingly but certainly in the broadcast media, which was of course one of the reasons for having it in terms of the vindication that the McCanns were seeking and indeed the deterrent for that matter. If I may turn to your question, Mr Keen, yes, the headlines in many cases were appalling. I do not know if you have had the misfortune of having read them. A large number of them were appalling. A large number of them were on the front page. Almost all of them were big. Obviously they all appeared online as well. Leaving aside the legal aspects of how much an ordinary reader is assumed to have read the whole of the article, the House of Lords decided some time ago that the ordinary reader is assumed perhaps artificially to have read the whole article. In this case, I think we complained against The Express. I think there were about 110 articles. So far as I am concerned, every single one of those articles themselves, including the headlines, were actionable, very serious libels in their own right.

Q204 Alan Keen: Should there be a law to ensure that headlines do not exaggerate what is in the body of the article? It was so bad in your case that it is hardly relevant even but it is something that happens on a daily basis in the press. Should there not be a law to ensure that the headline does not imply more than is in the actual article?
Mr Tudor: It can be a big problem with websites even more so because they often have just the opening line plus the headline and you have to click on something to go over the whole article. From a legal perspective, you would probably expect me to say this but, yes, I think there is a lot to be said. If you go into a filling station or a newsagent and read the headline about Kate and Gerry McCann, you do not bother to buy the newspaper. You just absorb the headline and the subhead and go about your every day business without spending the money and reading the whole of the article. The assumption that people read the whole article is completely artificial. In practical terms, I would love the law to move in that direction but I would be surprised if it were ever to happen because of the practical difficulties.

Q205 Alan Keen: Would you like us to recommend that?

Mr Tudor: Yes. I think there is a huge amount to be said for it. To be fair to the newspapers, I do anticipate that it would lead to difficulties. Sometimes, to be fair, the headline by definition has to be attention grabbing within the realms of reasonableness.

Mr McCann: Your point is well made. It does not just apply to newspapers. If you watch any news channel, some of the banner strips that run there, often we would see headlines directly relating to ourselves and say, "That is not what was said." If you just looked at that banner, you would believe it was the case. The way we live our lives now, people are pulsing in and out and that will be the message they take away. Regarding the point of law, I defer to Adam, but clearly there is the potential for misinformation to be implied from headlines.

Mr Mitchell: Speaking as a former journalist, privacy law per se is going down a road that I know journalism and the media will directly oppose as an infringement on the right to speak freely. They would argue that they operate within the law as it currently stands. They did not in Kate and Gerry's case. That is why they paid the penalty they did. We have never asked for anything beyond free, fair and accurate reporting. When it overstepped that mark, that is why Adam and his colleagues assisted Kate and Gerry in the way they did. I notice in the NUJ submission they talk about a conscience clause. If a journalist feels they are being asked to write something, be it a headline or the copy, that they know to be demonstrably untrue or distorting, they should be able within their own terms of employment to object to that. That might be some sort of half way house but the concept of self-regulation is potentially under threat given the massive expansion of the media we have now seen. If the media do not police it themselves, they could well find that this sort of debate is increasing and the calls for a privacy law become louder.

Q206 Alan Keen: I asked earlier had anybody done a calculation as to what profit The Express made after the expense that you incurred. We all want freedom of expression but would it not be good for the public to be able to see what profit The Express made on that, just using The Express as one firm example? Would it not be good to know how many papers they sold and how much profit they made?

Mr McCann: If you can command that information, I would like to see it.

Mr Mitchell: It is quantifiable, I suppose, if you know the accurate figure for sales against cover price but that is not where they make most of the money. It is through the advertising anyway. It was definitely put on sales.

Q207 Alan Keen: It is not impossible to look at the advertising as well. That comes from numbers of copies sold. We are representing the public. We are not against the press. We agree with freedom of the press but it is our job to try to get the balance right. We are representing our constituents and it is an information age we are in. Would it not be good to get that information from the press so we can all see it?

Mr McCann: The one point I take from that is that, if we are relying on tabloid newspapers to present us with news and fact, then they should not be unduly influenced by profit. Clearly in our case I think they have been heavily influenced by profit. I can see no other reason for the way the stories were covered on such a consistent basis. I would be very interested to know what an economist within the newspaper industry could work out as a figure. It disturbed me to know that The Express sold out on the day the apologies were published.

Q208 Alan Keen: I believe the owner of The Express is closely tied in with what is put into the newspapers but if you take the press in general do you think the owners, the people who collect the profit at the end - it might be a holding company or a conglomerate which has broadcasting, news printing and all sorts - the people on that top board who are at arm's length all the time from the newspapers that are printed should somehow have to carry some responsibility rather than staying at arm's length and letting it be handled by the editors and the lawyers so that people higher up should not be able to escape? I gave the analogy this morning of corporate manslaughter. If a company is guilty of bad practices and causes danger to their employees or to the public - I am not a lawyer - but the company can be guilty of corporate manslaughter. Are owners of the groups, particularly of the print media, able to escape from any sort of liability other than the financial costs like the ones you have incurred?
Mr Tudor: I am primarily a claimant libel lawyer but I am a huge fan of newspapers. I think they perform an extremely valuable role in our society. I love reading them but, at the end of the day, they are commercial entities. I make no criticism of that. It is good to have a healthy, competitive newspaper market. The thing that hurts them, that makes them stop and think about whether they should be publishing serious libels or seriously infringing people's privacy, I am afraid to say somewhat cynically, is two things, not necessarily in this order. Firstly, how much it is going to cost them if they get caught out and if they get the story wrong. Secondly, to be fair to the newspapers, of course there is an element of professional pride in journalists, editors and so on and we have to assume that that is the bedrock of journalism in this country because, if it is not, heaven help us, frankly. The main stick to ensure that this kind of thing does not happen again - that is, other far less serious, far less voluminous, but nevertheless still very serious for the victims - is financial. You have the theoretical possibility of having a statutory fines framework put into place. Personally, I am not a fan of that. I would be very surprised if it was ever to happen. The other stick, as we know, I suppose, is the potential humiliation of losing a libel or privacy action plus the damages they have to pay out which vindicate and compensate the victim of the libel or the breach of privacy. The jurisdiction, as I am sure you know, does exist within the civil court to award punitive damages, exemplary damages, in certain circumstances but those circumstances are very, very limited. The reason exemplary damages exist and the philosophy behind them very much reflects your point, Mr Keen. If you can see that a decision has been made to publish an article regardless of its truth in order to make more money out of sales that day, then perhaps the law should allow that to then be reflected in the damages. At the moment, the circumstances in which exemplary damages are awarded are very, very limited. I think it has been held that they cannot be awarded in privacy cases. They are available in libel cases but only very rarely. I take the view that Kate and Gerry's case was a classic one where punitive damages, exemplary damages, may well have been awarded if it had gone to court, in which case it may well have been that the judge would have thrown the book at Express Newspapers, but even then these things are never open and shut because you have to establish a state of mind, recklessness as to the truth or otherwise and so on. It is far from straightforward in terms of bringing a real, financial deterrent for publishers.

Q209 Alan Keen: Are you saying that, as with the banking system, self-regulation particularly in the print media must come to an end? Self-regulation has not worked, has it?

Mr Tudor: I am not sure it was ever intended to work in the kind of scenario we are talking about in terms of libel. I am not sure it works in terms of general privacy in the Max Mosley sense. I know Mr Mosley thinks there is a great deal to be said for having an obligation to pre-notify somebody before you publish something about their private life and I have considerable sympathy for that. There is a place for self-regulation but to suggest, as I think some media organisations do, that it is working perfectly, we do not need to worry and we do not need to bother the courts with more and more cases I think is simply not the case.

Q210 Chairman: You reached a settlement with Associated Newspapers and with News International in the form of The News of the World, but you decided to go to court against The Daily Express. Was that because you could not reach a settlement or was it because you decided that The Daily Express was so serious that you wanted to see them in court?

Mr McCann: We complained against the Express Group first because they were the most serious and the worst. We came to an agreement with them and there was an open statement in court in front of Mr Justice Eady. It did not actually go to trial.

Q211 Chairman: Mr Tudor, we have heard from other members of your firm a week ago about your firm quite often operating on a conditional fee arrangement. You have said in your view it is quite clear that there was serious defamation so you were very confident clearly that you would win this case. Did you consider a conditional fee arrangement?

Mr Tudor: Yes. My partners and I talked about it. We have a committee of partners that looks at whether or not a case is on a no win, no fee basis, as you probably heard from my partner, Mark Thompson. We did that with Kate and Gerry's case. It was a longer, more difficult discussion than would ordinarily be the case because of the extraordinary nature, volume and so on. We sent the complaints to The Express and The Star, at which point we were acting on a normal retainer. We indicated to Kate and Gerry and we told The Express and The Star at that time that if the matter was not resolved we would indeed go on to a no win, no fee arrangement.

Mr McCann: If there was not the facility for a conditional fee arrangement, it is very unlikely we would have continued with the action on the basis that this was not our main purpose. We are still looking for Madeleine. Much of our energies are diverted in that but also the prospect of a fairly swift, conclusive verdict along with taking away most of the risk - essentially, we would have had to remortgage our house to do that. It had a huge bearing and I am thankful to Carter Ruck for taking us on.

Q212 Mr Hall: You went to some extraordinary lengths I think to avoid having to take any legal action in this case. You really did go to the newspapers and point out to them that a lot of what they were reporting was factually incorrect or just pure fabrication. That clearly did not work with one group of newspapers. What was the final story that drove you to take legal action?

Mr McCann: We had done as much as we thought we could. There was a period where it seemed to go pretty quiet. After that, there was a short lull. In January 2008, we had the same headlines rehashed, the same stories with the same incredibly disturbing content. At that point we said, "Enough is enough. This cannot continue." It was a last resort. We did not want to get into an adversarial process with the media in general but we felt it had to be done. With hindsight, we probably should have done it earlier because it led to a dramatic change in the coverage.

Q213 Mr Hall: You chose one specific group of newspapers to take legal action against. Was that because they were the only serial offender, if you like, or was it just because the sheer nature of their reporting set them aside from all the other media reports?

Mr McCann: Undoubtedly, we could have sued all the newspaper groups. I feel fairly confident about that but that was not what we were interested in. We were interested in putting a stop to it first and foremost and looking for some redress primarily with an apology. The Express was the worst offender by some distance. After the quiet period, The Express rehashed it and it was a very easy decision as to which group of newspapers to issue the complaint against.

Q214 Mr Hall: Was the standard of the reporting in The Express significantly worse than the other newspapers, of a lower standard? I have no experience of this. I do not know how you managed to get the translations from the Portuguese newspapers. How did it compare with the reports in the Portuguese newspapers?

Mr McCann: Kate and I really did stop reading the newspapers very, very quickly. Unfortunately, many of our family and friends did not. Just to emphasise again how disturbing it was for us, often if we were going to bed, putting on the television and you had the newspapers being shown on the news last thing at night, to see a front page headline that you knew to be rubbish and, worse, insinuating that you were involved in your own daughter's death or disappearance was incredibly, unbelievably upsetting. Often, it was feedback through us or through our media person. What we did do though, for the reasons I outlined earlier, around July/August 2007, we had an offer from a Portuguese lady who said she could translate the Portuguese press for us on a daily basis. She did that and then it became very apparent to us the way the news cycle was happening. I want to make this absolutely clear: we could see that often what was a throw away line at the bottom of a Portuguese tabloid, along the lines of "Somebody said this", the next thing was fact in a headline and greatly embellished, rehashing much of the article but often in much stronger terms than had been originally reported.

Q215 Mr Hall: You said that your intention for the libel action was to stop factually incorrect, fictitious, fabricated stories appearing in the press.

Mr McCann: Yes. Again, I make this absolutely clear: our primary motive was we felt these were damaging the search. If people believed Madeleine was dead or that we were involved in her disappearance, then people would not look, would not come forward. That was our absolute, primary objective by taking action.

Q216 Mr Hall: What is your assessment of the success of that action?

Mr McCann: I think it has been incredibly successful. There was an overnight change in the reporting and what would be carried. I think Kate particularly wants me to say this: we would much rather that none of these stories had been published in the manner that they were and we would rather not have had to take action, because I cannot say that the damage that was done has been reversed. I hope it has but I cannot say that it has. We will not know until we find Madeleine and who took her.

Mr Mitchell: All it could have taken is one person who had information, who reads some of that and says, "It must not have been anything" and the call never comes through. It could all still hinge on one call.

Mr McCann: When people are presented with information on almost a daily basis insinuating something, even if it is on rather fragile ground, there is not always the reasoning and rationale behind it and the objectives of why that information is in the public domain in the first place are not always scrutinised.

Q217 Mr Hall: Other the financial penalty that the newspaper group suffered in having to settle the action, do you think they have suffered any other serious consequences for the misreporting in this case, because they clearly have damaged the case to find Madeleine. That I think goes beyond any shadow of a doubt. Do you think there should have been other consequences apart from the financial damages that they had to pay?

Mr McCann: I do not know if the Express Group stated exactly what action they have taken and who they have held accountable and responsible for that. You could apply that to the others. We should make that public. All of us would expect in our walks of life, in the jobs that we do, that when you get something so badly wrong so often, with potentially serious consequences, someone should be held to account. There has been a financial payment. I have no idea whether that has seriously damages Express Newspapers or not.

Q218 Paul Farrelly: There have been scores of libellous articles over months and months and no one has been sacked, demoted or reprimanded. Robert Murat was quoted at the weekend as telling Cambridge University that a British journalist covering this was so anxious to break the story that she created it. "She tried to convince the Portuguese Police that I was acting suspiciously"; yet nobody has paid any penalty. What does that say about the press?

Mr Mitchell: It may be instructive to know that when the complaint first went in the initial response from the Express Group was to offer the chance to set everything right in an exclusive interview with OK Magazine, which is owned by Mr Desmond as well. You do not have to think too long and hard about our response to that offer.

Q219 Mr Sanders: It says in the Express's apology that they "promise to do all in their power to help efforts to find her". Have they done anything in their power since that apology to help you?

Mr Mitchell: I think our silence speaks volumes.

Q220 Adam Price: You described the process of embellishment whereby an originally inaccurate story in the Portuguese press then became magnified in the British press. Did you ever feel it necessary to take any legal action against any of the Portuguese newspapers for some of those original sources of inaccurate information?
Mr McCann: We have of course considered it. In August 2007, we did issue proceedings against the Tal e Qual newspaper and that organisation has subsequently gone bust. An indicator of it is that is still going through the process of the courts. It is very unlikely that we will follow it up but we have chosen at this time not to take action in Portugal, primarily because we have been advised that it would be a very long and drawn-out process. It would distract our energies in a direction which is not the main aspect of what we are trying to achieve in the search for Madeleine. Additionally, we think it would have a negative impact by rehashing the same information over and over again and adding what we saw in some of the jingoistic elements of the reporting an Anglo-Portuguese battle, which is not what this is about. We want to work with the Portuguese in the search and although we cannot and will not rule it out in future, for the time being we have decided to try and get on with doing what we think everyone should be doing, and focusing on Madeleine and not on what has been said in the past.

Q221 Adam Price: In that sense at least you think that the British system of libel law is more expeditious?

Mr McCann: Absolutely, and I know that the PCC in their submission have said that their process is fast, free and it is solved in a non-adversarial way, but that is not the advice that we were getting with regards our specific complaints. In some ways I have been very thankful that we have been able to put a stop to the reporting, the way it was going, and fairly quickly, and without a huge amount of time. Obviously we weighed up issuing the complaint very carefully and we felt that we were pushed into a corner, but in terms of our own time, how much Kate and I had to spend on it was really small in comparison with the amount of other activity that we are involved in with the on-going search.

Mr Tudor: Just on that point, and as a follow-up to Mr Farrelly's point as well, which is what does this say about British journalism and newspapers and so on, I am not going to comment on that in any detail other than to say that one of the themes that has come out of many of the submissions that you have had from the media for the purposes of today, and to some extent from the PCC as well, is this notion that the McCann phenomenon in libel terms and press terms was indeed just that, a phenomenon, and you cannot compare it with anything, it is not a model for where we are with press standards, and so on and so forth, and that is a real theme. That is Fleet Street's out, if you like, in this debate. This case was clearly unprecedented to some extent. I know Kelvin Mackenzie says he thinks that the "Madeleine story" was the biggest of his career, and whether or not that is right, I do not know. Either way - and Gerry would probably amplify this - I think that all this case has done in libel terms is magnify what I think is endemic anyway in terms of the pressure on journalists to deliver stories, the lack the sufficiently rigorous fact-checking and so on and so forth, and filling vacuums of news on the 24-hour news cycle. I do not think it is right to say there is no lesson to learn from this. I do not think that is right at all.
Mr McCann: I may just add one thing to that and it is that we know that journalists have always had deadlines and pressures, but it is quite apparent to me from reading several of the submissions that they are threatened by the change in the media, and where new media meets old they are competing, and what Clarence when he came on board told me about his rigorous fact-checking when he started as a journalist a few years ago, we have not seen evidence of that. They were prepared to do it. One other thing that I think is very important in regards to how this story was covered is that the media, particularly the press, became so obsessed with getting there first that Kate and I feel that on a number of occasions Madeleine's safety was completely disregarded. There were sightings and other information would have been followed up and there was no consideration to Kate's and my feelings, hurt or our wider family about anything that was printed. What we saw in the first few days very quickly evaporated.

Q222 Rosemary McKenna: It just must have been incredibly invasive and so difficult. In the time since Madeleine disappeared and all the issues surrounding your case, are there any general lessons that you think the press should learn?

Mr McCann: What all of us are asking for here is responsible reporting. Maybe it is too much to ask to go back to responsible journalism, fact-checking and checking of sources. I think it is too easy where new media meets old to pick up a slur on the internet and "here is my copy for today". It is lazy and it is dangerous and I think personally if I felt there was some way of regulating it, and I know it is incredibly complex, then I would like to see responsible reporting. A huge amount of the NUJ submission is very balanced, but I think in the commercial world, with the pressures, it is not going to happen. I think for me it is about responsibility and reporting truth and not making innuendo and speculation appear as fact.

Q223 Rosemary McKenna: I wonder how some of them can live with themselves. Finally, what level of media coverage would be useful to you now? Is there anything that can be done that the media itself, the journalists themselves could do now to help in your search for Madeleine?

Mr McCann: Our search is on-going and it is very much the way we can get the information to as many people as possible. We do not know how many people, first of all, may have information that might be relevant, who may or may not have come forward already. Clearly what we have been doing within the Find Madeleine team is to review the information available to us, and to look for areas where there are deficiencies, and to target where we think we want key information, and of course then if we think it is appropriate, and I have to say this has largely been left to ourselves throughout to identify these things, and continues to be left to the family and those who are working for us, then we will come and we will ask the media because we know we can reach people. If we think there is something they can help in then we will come to the media and ask for that help. I would ask if the media really have something which they think is potentially helpful then they come to us and ask whether we think it is helpful, or the police if they want.

Mr Mitchell: Every time I get an interview bid - and I still get them on a daily basis - Kate and Gerry turn round to me and say, "How is this going to help the search for Madeleine?" and, frankly, 98% of the time I have to say it is not. It is going to give them a good headline and it is interesting, but is it actually going to have a tangible, beneficial result; the answer is no. There are obvious points such as anniversaries and birthdays where the interest will come back again, legitimately we could argue. We had the nonsense where we had the 30-day anniversary, the 50-day anniversary, the 100-day anniversary, fatuous things like that. However, when there are legitimate anniversaries, God forbid that it goes on that long, Kate and Gerry may well choose to do some interviews, and we will choose which are the most effective and refine what messages there are from the search side, from the investigative side, that will hopefully yield that piece of information. That is when we will re-engage with the media. We are very grateful to them, Kate and Gerry are very grateful to them for their continued interest on that basis.
Mr McCann: It is quite difficult in terms of the calendars on the news desks because clearly they do mark dates on the calendar and they think, "Okay, we will come back to this story." The pressure mounts to give something. Of course, we do want people to know the search is on-going. It is and we are never going to give up; we cannot give up, but it is very much if we have something, then we will try to coincide that with what will be a natural increase in the media interest anyway.

Q224 Paul Farrelly: As MPs we get abusive letters and emails all the time; that is freedom of expression. People write hostile news stories but these days they invite comment on news stories on-line. On New Year's Eve, a friend of mine lost his son who was 16 years old in a tragic accident. There was a factual report in the local newspaper but some of the comments that the newspaper allowed on the story were obscene and sick, and it is a disgrace that they allowed them to be printed there. What was your experience was with the so-called on-line world, in particular how newspapers did or did not moderate comments that they invited on stories about Madeleine?

Mr Mitchell: I am not going to dignify some of the on-line comment or sites or forums that are out there around this particular case. A lot of what they say is, as you say, quite rightly, entirely disgusting and, nor, as I say, will I dignify it with any real comment. Where we see deeply offensive nonsense like that, inaccurate, libellous statements appearing, it has got to the stage where I will not even tell Kate and Gerry about it; it is pointless. I let Adam know and if it is a mainstream media outlet that is allowing this publication to occur, normally a call from Carter Ruck pointing out the legal problems they are facing with such comment sitting there will normally suffice to get it either retracted or taken off. That is not in any way trying to stop free speech. Expression of free speech within the law of the land is absolutely fine, but when it oversteps the mark, and I know exactly what you mean about that other tragedy, you just wonder about human nature, where is the compassion, and where is the heart in any of these people that they can say these things freely.

Q225 Paul Farrelly: With respect to newspaper sites you should not have to do this, should you, they should moderate themselves?

Mr Tudor: That is a moot point. In my experience, what happens, and I echo everything that Clarence has just said, with a slight exception, I remember at a fairly early stage of my retainment we wrote to a newspaper in respect of readers' obscene comments attached to several of the articles that that newspaper website was running, and we got the response back that said that they were not going to do anything to interfere with their readers' Article 10 rights to freedom of expression, which is ludicrous obviously given what these emails were saying. We upped the ante somewhat and it is fair to say that they then came down very, very quickly. Only last week we had a situation with a newspaper where we had to get stuff down. By and large, newspapers are quite responsible about it, not necessarily through any altruism but because as soon as they are on reasonable notice of it they become legally liable. One of the ways they try to protect themselves from the very point that you raise, Mr Farrelly, is that they deliberately say, as I understand it, and I will be corrected if I am wrong, that they are not moderating it because if they are not moderating it they are not responsible for it. Personally I think that is a rather unattractive way of looking at things. If they are going to host websites and allow people to put whatever comments they want on their websites, they should monitor them properly and spot libels and serious infringements of people's privacy or whatever and take them down themselves. It should not be necessarily incumbent on the victims of those libels or infringements to get in touch with them and get it taken down. That begs another question about the extent to which newspapers can be encouraged or forced to moderate.

Q226 Paul Farrelly: They would be in breach of what the PCC tells us is the Code position. One final question on electronic media. Since we have taken up the inquiry I have noticed that because our emails are public we are getting people who really should get a life coming to us with obscene stuff. We do not respond to it because it just encourages them, so we just delete it, but that begs the concern where this stuff is egged on and people have taken this up because they are quite sick, in large part because of the tenor of the newspaper coverage, to what extent are you plagued by this now and to what extent have there been fears for your personal safety?

Mr McCann: I think in general we have had a substantial amount of abusive mail. There have been one or two incidents around the house in which the police have been involved. Generally it is not such an issue, but clearly we have concerns for our own and our children's safety, and that should be borne in mind. I think in terms of electronic media, clearly some people have got too much time on their hands. I stopped reading any comments, much like most of the information on the internet regarding Madeleine, very, very early on. When the media said to us at the beginning about this being a campaign, it was a word that I really did not like. Actually I have realised why it is a campaign; it is because we have got one objective and we are trying to achieve it and other people are trying to derail us from our objective, and there is a war of attrition at times. I feel very sorry for those people who feel the need to do that. There is clearly something missing in their lives.

Mr Mitchell: I think the internet can give a spurious credibility to some of these views. A lot of these people have their own self-serving agendas based entirely on prejudice and inaccuracy and a churning of inaccuracy upon inaccuracy leading to this false horizon that they believe in themselves. We choose to ignore them because they are utterly irrelevant.

Chairman: Thank you. We have no more questions. Can I thank all three of you for coming this afternoon and in particular, Gerry, we greatly appreciate your willingness to come and talk to us, thank you.