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In the Diario de Noticias, sources linked to the case are quoted as saying that the police suspected Kate McCann was “mentally unbalanced” and that Gerry McCann had admitted to giving a sedative to Madeleine. “One of the lines of investigation is that the child was given too much medication,” it reported.
Showing more restraint, the main leader in the upmarket daily Publico calls for calm, reminding readers that the judicial process must be left to take its course. However, it argues that the case has reached a point of no return. “The Portuguese police (criticised already, even in this paper) is risking its credibility irreversibly. Either it has some trump cards up its sleeve to make us understand and justify the hypothesis that everyone hopes is not true. Or it is shooting in the dark and ruining its image, not just domestically but in front of the world, which has seen this case spread like an open wound.”
Nicolau Santos, a columnist in Expresso, defends some of the accusations against the local police. “On the one side, the Portuguese media is putting pressure on the police for results, to find the guilty, to discover the girl. Meanwhile the English media insinuate that the Portuguese police is incompetent and hasn’t conducted the investigations in the best possible way. In the middle of such pressure the police don’t react in the best way.” He adds: “We are not in the middle ages, where they burnt witches at the stake based on flimsy evidence. But if we don’t take note we’ll get to that point transmitted live on TV, of course.” In the tabloid Correio da Manha, columnist Octavio Ribeiro takes aim at the British press pack to make a wider point about national characteristics. He says the media has been overly enthusiastic in believing the McCanns’ story from the beginning. “The behaviour of the English press in the Maddy case is the symptom of a serious disease. The way that the mass of British papers and not just the tabloids militantly kept to a fixed idea of what had happened, goes against the principles of good journalism. “I remember the hysteria about the ‘secret dossier’ that was the basis of the decision to invade Iraq. And Blair: safe, sound and popular too after it was revealed as a deception. “The way that Maddie has until now been treated by the English press shows that any agile press spokesman has an easy job.” On a lighter note, in the Diario de Noticias, Ferreira Fernandes, writes that the latest Portuguese contribution to world culture after the custard cream is the word “arguida”, which has been the subject of articles in the international press. He explains the word by saying it is a typical fudge. “It is accusing someone and then saying ‘don’t take it badly, mate’. You can’t get more Portuguese than that. The world arguida has conquered the world. Now all that’s left is to convince the judges.”
McCann Family PR Offensive; Reporting from Iraq; Kasparov and Russian Politics
Aired September 21, 2007 - 20:30:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fionnuala Sweeney in London. Welcome to CNN's INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, where we turn the spotlight on the media. This week, the parents of missing Madeleine McCann go on a PR offensive. We look at their efforts to control the direction of the story.
The news from Iraq. We speak to two time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist John Burns.
And later, he's back in the headlines. The reporting frenzy over O.J. Simpson.
First, the media and the case of missing Madeleine McCann, a story that has dominated countless column mentions and television news bulletin in Portugal and Britain for more than four months. With few details released by authorities, much of the reporting has been based on leaks or speculation.
Now the parents of the child have recruited a new family spokesman to help present their side of the story. Emily Chang reports.
EMILY CHANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kate and Gerry McCann follow closely behind their new front man, as he makes his first statement outside their home.
CLARENCE MITCHELL, MCCANN FAMILY SPOKESMAN: And I feel so strongly that they are the innocent victims of a heinous crime.
CHANG: This on yet another day when speculation about what happened to Madeleine continues to swirl and media coverage of the case goes round the clock.
(on camera): What do you have to say about speculation that Kate and Gerry are somehow involved in Madeleine's disappearance?
MITCHELL: It's just not true to suggest that they harmed their daughter. They love their daughter as they love their other twins. And to somehow suggest, even indirectly, that they were responsible for her disappearance or even her death, if you know them, you realize that is just ludicrous.
CHANG: In his former role as media advisor to the British government, Mitchell spent time with the McCanns in Portugal, just after Madeleine went missing. Sometimes he said up to 14 hours a day.
MITCHELL: They didn't expect some of the coverage to turn the way it did. And they are relieved to be home now. They - and as a result, they're getting stronger. They - today, they're quite positive in fact. Of course, there's the constant reminder that Madeleine isn't there, but you know, they are dealing with that in their own way.
CHANG: And Mitchell says they will continue to do everything they can to find Madeleine.
Emily Chang, CNN, in Rovely, England.
SWEENEY: Debate 12 over how the media has covered the Madeleine McCann story. To assess that, I'm joined in the studio by Rita Jordao, the London correspondent with Portugal's Journal de Noticias and FIC TV and Charlie Beckett, the director of POLIS, the journalism think tank of the London School of Economics.
First of all, Rita, as a Portuguese journalist trying to cover this side of the story in Britain, what has been your experience?
RITA JORDAO, CORRESPONDENT, JORNAL DE NOTICIAS & SIC TV: I think it's been very hard for British journalists in Portugal. It's been very hard for Portuguese journalists over here because you're Portuguese and because this story has become so big.
It became quite difficult for Portuguese journalists to cover the story and to get information, especially from official sources, even though, I mean, what is an official source in this case, we don't any more. But we do. Now with Clarence Mitchell, things seem to be becoming a little bit easier for journalists. Now we finally have information regularly. And hopefully, we will. And that's - up until now, it's been very difficult, very hard to get any information.
SWEENEY: Clarence Mitchell, of course, being the person who was appointed initially by the government as the conduit to help the McCanns with their publicity that now actually has resigned his job. And there has been, has there not, Charlie Beckett, a complete distinct change in the coverage of the McCanns in terms of what they're putting forward for their defense through the media since he came on board full time again just a few days ago?
CHARLIE BECKETT, DIRECTOR, POLIS: Well, I think Clarence is a great appointment all around. He's a very respected and a straight experienced reporter.
So he's going to have the sympathy of the news media in Britain, but also the international media. But I think he's also going to have the respect of the wider public. This is somebody who's trusted so from the McCanns point of view. He's a very good appointment. And it may bring some clarity.
But it's - in a sense, just another part of what has been a whole sort of public relations exercise. I don't mean that in a disparaging way. What I mean is that this has been extraordinary media event from the Day One. And in a sense, quite rightly, the McCanns have attempted to, if you like, use the media and control it so that they don't end up as victims of the media.
SWEENEY: And how effective has doing that been for them?
BECKETT: Well, I think it's the old adage. You know, those that live by the media can, if you like, die by the media. It's a very dangerous game to play. But I think from their point of view, they would say, look, they've been as honest as they can be. They've been as accessible as they can be. And they've tried to tell their side of the story. And I think that's all that you can expect from people embroiled in such an appalling situation.
SWEENEY: Rita Jordao, as a Portuguese journalist, do you feel that the media in your country correctly judged how the story was going and reported how the story was going?
JORDAO: I think it's been very difficult for the Portuguese media. I mean, even though we're used to dealing with the way the Portuguese police operate in the country, in this case, it's - the story has become international from day one. It's a Sky story from day one. And therefore, the Portuguese police kind of got a bit - the Portuguese press, sorry, kind of got a bit lost amongst this whole story.
I mean, there's no official information. Everybody needs to get something new today, because that's press. And the newspapers want to get, even if it's the small bit of information that the others don't have.
SWEENEY: But most of the information was coming from leaks in the Portuguese authorities to the Portuguese media. And then, hence, you know, reported in the British media.
JORDAO: Yes, but when we call sources within the Portuguese police, I don't know exactly what we're talking about. This could be a clean (INAUDIBLE). This could be an accountant that works for the Policia (INAUDIBLE). We don't really know who these sources are. And especially for some of the more tabloids of newspapers.
Do we trust them? I don't know.
SWEENEY: At the end of the day, it did lead to Madeleine McCann's parents being named formal suspects. And that was always something that was more or less consistently reported in the run-up to that in the Portuguese media.
How do you think the British media have covered this in the very twists and turns, one has noticed changes in temperament and tone?
BECKETT: Well, I think in defense of the tabloid British press, you could argue that the early criticism of them that they were going over the top on this story was actually wrong. This was an incredible story. There's another criticism of them, which was that they were too pro the McCanns. And also, that they were too hostile to the Portuguese police.
Well, I suspect that they may have been right to have been critical of the Portuguese police, not just because of the investigation, but in terms of the way that this relatively small regional police force was completely unprepared for the way they should or could have handled the British media.
SWEENEY: Well, there is something about the British media, the pack abroad that's rather frightening for the inexperienced...
BECKETT: It's not unknowing. We know that by now. Most international authorities should know that by now. And in a sense, the Portuguese press has not been greatly more distinguished than the British tabloids. So it's not just a British disease.
And I think what's interesting is the way - whether the story is part a legal problem the Portuguese police have, but the way that the story has been allowed to spiral out of control, that would never have happened in this country. Big cases like the (INAUDIBLE) cases. So the police have a strategy...
BECKETT: ...for trying to manage media speculation.
JORDAO: I think international factor is very important here. And I think there's been a rivalry between the Portuguese press and the British press. And that's what spans a lot of things, because whilst the British press was pointing a finger at the Portuguese police, the Portuguese press was pointing the finger at the McCanns. And therefore, and because that added to the fact that there was no official information, people need to - or the press needs to pick out little beyond little details.
I'll give you the simple example. In Portugal, for instance, the name McCann became almost an obsession. And some Portuguese journalists thought because everybody believed that the McCanns have got a lot of influence in Downing Street somehow.
It kind of became an obsession. We need to find out who these...
JORDAO: ...who these people are. We need to find out whether the link is. And there's been so many lies...
JORDAO: ...printed in the last couple of weeks.
SWEENEY: I suspect they'll be a lot of doctorates done on this in the future. And indeed, more as time spent by us looking after it in the next few weeks and months as it evolves.
Rita Jordao, Charlie Beckett, thank you both very much indeed.
Still to come on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, reporting from a war zone. We speak to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist John Burns about his climb in Iraq and the challenges that lie ahead. That's next.
SWEENEY: Welcome back. For the past five years, Iraq has been his base. As Baghdad bureau chief for "The New York Times," John Burns has witnessed events leading up to the war and during the ongoing occupation. His work over the years has earned him two Pulitzer Prizes. One in 1993 for his coverage of the war in both Bosnia Herzokovnia, and then in 1997 for his reporting on the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Now John Burns is taking on a new challenge in what hopefully will be a more peaceful posting as "The New York Times" London bureau chief. John Burns joins me now.
Welcome to Britain, John Burns. I wonder, as you leave Iraq, what your thoughts are about the state of the country there.
JOHN BURNS, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it looked pretty dire, I have to say. We all hoped, of course, journalists have hearts. And we all hoped that we would see a turnaround, things turning for the better.
There has been some improvement as General Petraeus reported in Washington. But overall, the prospects do not look good.
SWEENEY: And without delving too much into your personal life, is it the kind of story in Iraq that you would like to have seen through? Or do you believe there may not be any end to this ongoing situation?
BURNS: Well, five years is a long time to be in a place like that. I think I felt, and "The New York Times" felt, it was probably best for a change. And whilst I would love to have seen the war through, and my heart aches for Iraq, now I'm gone, there was no way of knowing, as the people in the United States know only too well, how long this could go on.
It could be another five years or more before American troops are finally withdrawn. And that would have obviously been too long.
So one has to make that kind of a wise judgment at certain point about how long to stay at the gaming table. And for me, that point came at the end of the summer.
SWEENEY: And into - being at the gaming table, how did it work logistically? Did you go in for periods of time and then come out for a bit of a break?
BURNS: Yes, we do. We take fairly generous breaks. We tend to stay on assignment in Iraq for, in my case, usually three, four, sometimes five months at a time.
And of course, we're pretty bunkered down there. And you really need to feel the need for a break for some fresh air, and for a golf course after that. So - and the "New York Times" has been very generous with us, as have most, I must say, Western media.
But all the same, I've spent - I would say three-quarters of the last five years in Baghdad. And it's a quite a wearing experience. But it's also, of course, an absolutely overwhelming experience, both emotionally and professionally.
SWEENEY: In terms of calibrating the story in Iraq, given that you've covered Bosnia Herzokovnia and the Taliban in Afghanistan, is there a distinction to be made between the three?
BURNS: Oh, yes, I think so. I think the two principle distinctions are the degree to which this weighs on the United States, the Taliban and Afghanistan was a big story. But I don't think there has been a bigger story, certainly not since Vietnam in my career, which now is running on towards 40 years in this business than Iraq. That's the first thing.
The second thing is in terms of protracted hazard for a journalist, Iraq is in a different league. There are episodic hazards of the kind of people encountered in Chechnya and Darfur. But for the most part, there aren't resident bases there. There are not bureaus in those places. People come and go rather quickly.
In Baghdad, you embed. You stay there.
SWEENEY: And at what point when you're on a tour of duty there, do you realize that it's time to leave? I mean, do you know yourself the warning signals in your head?
BURNS: No, I don't think you do, actually. I think a large responsibility for that rests with editors, because I think the sorts of changes, and I'm talking now about not so much things I've observed in myself, but have observed in others. I think some of the changes that people undergo when they're subjected to protracted stress of that kind and removal from anything like a normal life are quite negative. And that's a very good reason for getting out and returning to a more normal life.
We've all found, I find it too, the adjustment to normality strangely challenging. I've been saying in a glib way that I've found war a great deal easier to handle than peace.
Partly, that's because of the - something that is professionally very obvious. And that is this war is so dramatic, it marches under the front page all the time, affects the interests of the United States to the core, and thus, the story in some respects writes itself.
When you leave a story like that, for a story of importance, but one which is not so obviously dramatic and so compelling, you have to be a lot more imaginative in calibrating the story and deciding indeed what is the story. And that's the challenge that faces me here in England.
SWEENEY: Well, unfortunately, we're out of time. We have to leave it there, but John Burns, as always, thank you very much for joining us.
And still to come on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, O.J.'s back, back before the courts that is. Back in the headlines. We examine the media's obsession with the former U.S. football star when we return.
SWEENEY: Welcome back. An alleged robbery at a Las Vegas hotel wouldn't usually generate wall to wall media coverage in the U.S., but when it involves fallen NFL star O.J. Simpson, it seems we just can't get enough.
Simpson faces 11 charges over his involvement in an alleged robbery and kidnapping involving sports memorabilia he says was stolen from him. He was freed on bail on Wednesday, but the arrests have sparked a media circus reminiscent of the reporting frenzy of the early 1990s. That's when Simpson was tried and acquitted of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman in what was described as the trial of the century.
O.J. Simpson is due before the courts again on October 22nd. But the story is unlikely to disappear from the news radar between now and then. To help us make sense of it all, I'm joined by Howard Kurtz, media correspondent with "The Washington Post" and host of CNN's "Reliable Sources."
Well, I think an article you wrote earlier in the week, Howard, talks about the media squeeze more juice out of O.J. Really it is round 2 again.
HOWARD KURTZ, WASHINGTON POST: Round 2, d,j. vu, time war, take your pick. You know, this is a legitimate story. O.J. Simpson is the most famous murder defendant of our generation. A lot of people think he literally got away with murder in that case involving his ex-wife and her friend.
And for him to be resident behind bars in a bizarre alleged robbery attempt is absolutely legitimate news. But after the first two or three days when there weren't many new facts to report, television - cable television in particular here in the States, just went wild getting every lawyer, prosecutor, psychologist they could find, slapping them in the chair, and letting them argue about O.J.
SWEENEY: And I think as you put it in this article at the start, you wrote moments after President Bush announced his nominee for attorney general, the cable networks still put him for an old flame. O.J. was back. What does that say about the media obsession with celebrity in the United States?
KURTZ: Well, it's fascinating because O.J. Simpson, that case in 1994 and 1995 really ushered in the era of television fixated on celebrities and crime and sensationalism, not that this never existed before. But CNN's televising of that murder trial showed that it was ratings gold for television. So...
SWEENEY: And of course, it was the only...
KURTZ: ...all the other...
SWEENEY: ...network at the time that was a cable network - CNN.
KURTZ: Exactly. But now we have more. And we have blogs and websites devoted to this sort of thing. And so here we are 12 or 13 years later, a lot of celebrity scandals later. I mean, you know, Britney and Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan are all big news on cable whenever they get into trouble. So O.J. is kind of like the golden oldies. Everybody could just open the rolodex and get their favorite legal commentators on the air and wallow in this once again, never mind that, you know, in the great scheme of things, country at war, economy in trouble, housing market great difficulty, it is not that important. But it has certainly grabbed the attention of everybody who puts on a television show.
SWEENEY: But there is some doubt, is there not, about whether or not public interest will be sustained as this trial continues like it was in the original O.J. - his original court case in 1993-94?
KURTZ: Sure. I think there's no question that there was an initial public fascination with this latest round involving Simpson, if only because this idea of him being accused of armed robbery, of going into a hotel room, and trying to get sports memorabilia back, that he claimed actually belonged to him, it's just so strange. And it was hard to unravel.
Plus, you had an audiotape. So all the networks could play again and again, bleeping out the expletives. O.J. saying up against the wall. Nobody leaves this room. I mean, you couldn't write a bad Hollywood movie that had elements like this.
But the question is after a week or two when there isn't a lot of new developments, is the public really going to be interested? Or are the media just going to beat this thing to death?
SWEENEY: I mean, a recent CNN opinion poll shows that a full 80 percent believe O.J. Simpson murdered Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. And 14 percent say they didn't.
Now this poll was conducted about a week before Simpson's recent arrest. So it still shows that it's very much on the radar of American public opinion.
But Howard, if I may move on in the time we have left, Dan Rather, the very famous CBS News anchor since retired, has filed a $70 million breach of contract lawsuit against his former network. What does that tell you? I mean, he left in rather dubious circumstances over an unsubstantiated report about President Bush's Vietnam War record, but is this a surprise?
KURTZ: It's an absolute shock. I mean, look, I knew - everybody knew that Dan Rather was mad at CBS for not renewing his contract. This was after - some time after he stepped down as the anchor after a quarter century coming into American homes.
And we also kind of had the impression that he had never had quite given up on that story, widely discredited, disputed documents from 30 years ago that he still believed that he was right in charging that President Bush had received favorable treatment from the National Guard during the Vietnam era.
But to turn around and sue the company that he worked for for 44 years, to drag this into court, to make all kinds of charges against CBS management claiming they were cow towing to the Bush White House in letting him go, just shows how extraordinarily bitter Dan Rather is toward his old network, and that he sees this litigation as an attempt somehow, some way to get some measure of vindication on this story that really kind of tarnished his reputation.
SWEENEY: Howard Kurtz with "The Washington Post." Thank you very much indeed for joining us.
And that's all for this edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS. Tune again next time for another look at how the media are handling the big issues.
GM These sort of questions and the publishing of them are nonsense. And we shouldn't be giving them the time of day. There is absolutely no suggestion that ah that Madeleine er or that the children were drugged and its outragious!
KM Amelie said the other day; it was actually to me it was my friend that " Madeleleine is coming home to my lovely house and I am going to share my toys with her" I think she is probably in someones house; I dont know why, I suppose it is a feeling but, I feel as Madeleleines mummy I feel in my heart really that shes there I dont believe Madeleine has been taken away from us permanently I dont believe that dont feel it.
GM You know. The same way that we will be eliminated they will as well no doubt in my mind about that We are much more optimistic about what Mr Rebero and The National Director Mr Rebelo are saying that all lines of inquiry are open. and we know because of her we know we are innocent.
KM After being made Arguido?> *sighs* You know we know the Truth! I know Im innocent Gerry knows hes innocent we know each other are innocent and that to me it was actually quite common cuz I thought we are innocent were totally innoncent and we know that. And...
GM (interupts)I think as well you have got to remember it was ah over four months since Madeleine has disappeared and nothing nothing that has happened to us in this time
KM thats right GM has come close to uspetting us the way we felt when we discovered Madeleine was Missing.
KM well they are not going to show anything to implicate us so Im not you know Im not concerned Im honest
GM we are certainly not scared. You know if there is anyting in the DNA results and we dont know them we cannot know them And I dont believe anyone in the press knows them either but there is nothing in those DNA results tests related to Kate and I that will show anything other than completely innocent whether that is enough to eliminate us I dont know but we will be eliminated I am confident of that because we have done nothing.
KM Please help us Please help us as a Family Please help us find Madeleleine Please help Madeleleine please if you know any information at all or if you suspect anything no matter how small please you know just, find it in youself really, have that courage to make that call to the new number and help us bring Madeleleine home.
GM I dont think so as bad we shes been missing for almost six months now the longer that goes on the more high risk and or aggressive the strategy for as us we have waited and been incredibly patient clearly media attention has never gone away! shakes head it has never gone away
KM We havent spoken for long and you know Day after Day Madeleleine is in the papers on the front page of the papers And we've said nothing
KM Its a little bit like I've mentioned before she was very happy very loving and you know and I know Madeleleine was very happy with her life shes special
KM I know she was taken from that Apt and shes out there and I want her back I'm mean that is all I mean everything else I'm sorry is rubbish
Clearly now KM is asked about her Marriage and her tone becomes very snotty: What do you think?" she exclaims; "very close."
GM we are completely together in this and were united in the search for Madeleine; our daughter
KM I think you know the public can help so much the ppl know something if people know something I guess they can search their heart Everybody can make a difference to this this isnt about us we havent even seen her since she was four she needs our help she needs our family
GM These sort of questions and the publishing of them are nonsense. And we shouldn't be giving them the time of day. There is absolutely no suggestion that ah that madeleine er or that the children were drugged and its outrageous!
KM Amelie said the other day; it was actually to me it was my friend that " Madel is coming home to my lovely house and I am going to share my toys with her"
I think she is probably in somones house; I dont know why, I suppose it is a feeling but, I feel as Madels mommy I feel in my heart really that shes there I dont believe Madel has been taken away from us permanently I
dont believe that dont feel it.
GM You know The same way that we will be eliminated they will as well no doubt in my mind about that We are much more optimistic about what Mr Ribeiro and The National Director Mr Rebelo are saying that all lines of
inquiry are open. and we know because of Her we know we are innocent.
KM After being made Arguido?> *sighs* You know we know the Truth! I know Im innocent Gerry knows hes innocent we know each other are innocent and that to me it was actually quite common cuz I thought were innocent were totally innocent and we know that. And...
GM (interrupts)I think as well you have gpt to remember it was ah it was over four months since Madel has disappeared and nothing nothing that has happened to us in this time KM thats right GM has come close to uspetting us the way we felt when we discovered Madel Missing.
KM well they are not going to show anything to implicate us so Im not you know Im not concerned Im honest
GM we are certainly not scared. You know if there is anyting in the DNA results and we dont know them we cannot know them And I dont believe anyone in the press knows them either but there is nothing in those DNA
tests related to Kate and I that will show anything other than completely innocent whether that is enough to eliminate us I dont know but we will be eiml I am confident of that because we have done nothing.
KM Please help us Please help us as a Family Please help us find Madel Please help Madel please if you know any information at all or if you suspect anything no matter how small please you know just, find it in youself
really, have that courage to make that call to the new number and help us bring madel home.
GM I dont think so as bad we shes been missing for almost six months now the longer that goes on the more high risk and or aggressive the strategy for as us we have waited and been incredibly patient clearly the media
attention has never gone away! shakes head it has never gone away
KM We havent spoken for long and you know Day after Day Madel is in the papers or on the front page of the papers And we've said nothing
KM Its a little bit like I've mentioned before she was very happy very loving and you know and I know Madel Was very happy with her life shes special shes...
KM I know she was taken from that Apt and shes out there and I want her back I'm mean that is all I mean everyhtnig else I'm sorry is rubbish
Clearly now KM is asked about her Marriage and her tone becomes very snotty: What do you think?" she exclaims; "very close."
GM we are completely together in this and were united in the search for Madeleine; our daughter.
KM I mean i think the public can help so much if ppl know something if they can just search the heart really somebdy knows something and they might not realize it they might just suspect something its not about us we miss her like crazyThis is Madel this is a four yr old girl we havent even seen her since shes been four madel needs help she needs our help she needs to be with her family
Peter Hill, the editor of the Daily Express, told MPs today that he did not offer to resign over his newspaper's inaccurate reporting of Madeline McCann's disappearance.
Speaking to the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee, Hill also defended the Daily Express's extensive coverage of conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Princess Diana. "I do not publish stories that I believe to be untrue," he said.
Hill added that he had "certainly not" offered his resignation over his paper's Madeleine McCann coverage, because all other media organisations had reported allegations by the Portuguese police that her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, were suspects in her disappearance.
The four newspapers also printed front-page apologies, while Express Newspapers apologised to the McCanns at the high court in London.
"If editors had to resign every time there was a libel action against them, there wouldn't be any editors," Hill said today, giving evidence to the committee's inquiry into libel, privacy and press standards. Had he been forced to resign, Hill said the chairman of the BBC and a host of other media executives would also have had to depart because they reported that the McCanns had been named as arguidos (official suspects) by the Portugese police. At the time the Daily Express regarded the police as a credible source of information, he added. "I didn't know that they were behaving like tinpot Ruritanian idiots," Hill said. The apologies and damages payment by the Express Newspapers titles last year came after the McCanns' solicitors, Carter-Ruck, sent a legal complaint.
However, today Hill refused to accept that his newspaper's reporting had been worse than other titles'. He said the McCanns had complained about 38 headlines in the Daily Express but that the paper had published 80 other stories that were positive to the family. Hill added that he advocated settling the legal complaint and paying compensation to avoid putting the McCanns through the ordeal of a libel action. "I accept that we did libel Mr and Mrs McCann because under the law, we clearly didn't tell the truth about them," he said. Madeleine McCann's disappearance generated huge amounts of public interest, with the Express receiving 10,000 messages a day about the story and its sales increasing by many thousands of copies each time an article about the missing child appeared on the front page, Hill added. "You have got to remember that this was the most astonishing chain of events. Nothing comparable to this had been seen since the Lindberg kidnapping in 1932," he said. However, Hill said he recognised that the story was not in the public interest. "It was certainly of interest to the public but I wouldn't say it was in the public interest," he added. The Daily Express editor also defended his paper's publication of numerous stories on alleged conspiracy theories about the death of Princess Diana in a Paris car crash in August 1997.
"Of course we believed it. I do not publish stories that I believe to be untrue. That is something I do not do," Hill told MPs. When further questioned about the frequency of Princess Diana conspiracy stories, Hill said that because the inquest had found no evidence to support these theories that was "pretty much the end of the matter". "It's not a crime to have an obsession," he added. Hill said that circulation at the Daily Express had remained steady during his five-year tenure but there had been a slight reduction in the number of journalists due to difficult economic circumstances. He also attacked press commentators' use of the word "churnalism" to denote the rewriting of press releases and falling standards in journalism. "It's a rubbish word. It's a gimmicky word. The standards of journalism have massively increased over the years," Hill said.
"We do not have a free press in this country by any means. We have a very shackled press. We should be looking at freeing these shackles not imposing more, which seems to me to be the tone of this hearing," Hill said.
Nearly three months ago I complained about the media's obsession with Madeleine McCann. Some of you may be wondering why I have been hypocritically writing about the case recently. Personally I still do not give a hoot about Madeleine McCann and her family members and friends. What I do give a damn is the deterioration of the majority of the mainstream British press all because of this sordid case.
Take The Independent for example, a paper I normally respect (before they went all tabloid), whose latest piece titled Truth, lies and the Smearing of the McCanns has riled me up pretty badly. As evident in the headline, this piece was hardly going to be impartial. Personally I take a very dim view on media organisation who disregard impartiality. The headline certainly doesn't help especially when you consider how much both the British print and television media has allowed themselves and the McCanns friends to smear Robert Murat. Just why are the McCanns afforded such immunity is one of the question I would like to ask? Why were so many British press websites deleting comments that questions the McCanns but allowed libellous comments on Robert Murat?
Then there is this, in the very same Indie article: The same could have been written about the McCanns, but they chose not to, and I highly doubt they would ever with the way things are going. You certainly won't be seeing anything like "The McCanns remains at large, protesting their innocence..." any time soon. The Independent has also accused the Portuguese paper Diario de Noticias of being "anti-McCann". Accusing a paper of being biased is one thing. Being biased yourself is another. Distorting facts is even worse.
In the same article you will see the paper speculating again on the Portuguese police (whom the British press seems to hate), alluding that the police is leaking false information in order "to create the impression that their investigation has momentum" for the sake of the British press. A fairly obvious dig, that was allowed to be echoed in another piece. Quite why British journos think that any police force would want to kowtow to them is beyond me, but I digress. Also The Independent made it very clear that there is no evidence that shows that Madeleine McCann was murdered, yet failed to mention that evidence showing her to be kidnapped has been lacking as well, while maintaining that the article is based on "the truth".
A few days ago on GMTV when reporting that British police has found nothing incriminating at Robert Murat's home, decided to chip in with an opinion that Murat could have possibly destroyed all of the evidence. Shocking. Did they not forget that the McCanns could also have possibly destroyed evidence during the hours before they informed the police of their daughter's alleged kidnapping?
With wild allegations ramping up over the past few days over the conduct of the McCanns and their family, many of the British papers has attempted to squash new speculations, mainly because these new speculations are originating from Portugal, the scene of the crime. And yet many in the British media has not attempted to explain why they believed in the alleged kidnapping. If the British press think that it is okay to convict Robert Murat through libellous comments, why can't the Portuguese press do the same with the McCanns and their friends? I wouldn't normally say this, but right now I think it is fair game. No feeble and pathetic backtracking excuses needed. Fair game indeed.
It would be great if someone could explain to me in rational words, the media's love affair with the McCanns - now reaching seemingly Diana level of hysteria. Is it, like many has speculated before, because the McCanns represent the ideal British family value: white, blonde, pretty, educated, religious and middle class - especially when they are pitted against 'inept' Johnny Foreigner? Just why are many British press willing to flush down their journalistic integrity for this? Or has the media taken a leaf out of reality TV shows, spoon feeding the gullible British public with lies with attempts to jack of ratings and sell more papers by acting like mobs?
*Sigh* Keep the money rolling in and still no sign of Madeleine McCann (and the many other missing Portuguese kids). Just more balloons.
Read also: I am not pleased. A digest of yesterday's London paper evening headline.
Note: No, I do not believe in secret Illuminati or Masonic or Vatican etc. organisations that are pulling the strings. British press is still one of the best in the world, but it also one of the naive as highlighted by the biased coverage on this case, which should not have been covered in the first place!
Missing Madeleine! Madeleine McCann was abducted from Praia Da Luz, Portugal on 3rd May 2007.
Gerry’s brother John McCann, 48, said: “They might have changed her appearance, dyed her hair or cut it but there is one thing they cannot change because Madeleine has one incredibly distinct feature – she has big blue eyes but in her right eye her pupil has a streak of black which juts out into her iris. “It runs from her pupil into her iris at the bottom of her pupil. Whoever has her cannot hide or cover that up.” “We will be showing it everywhere to remind people across Europe that all they have to do if they think they see Madeleine is to look into her eyes.
Phil, who resides in Ullapool and is a teacher, has asked that the heartfelt thanks of the whole family be passed to everyone who has helped in the search so far. She said “There have been so many messages of support and prayers from people all over the world. We (the family) are overwhelmed with your assistance. The media people have been wonderful and so helpful in making everyone aware of our plight. Madeleine’s family are so grateful to you all. Please keep Madeleine in your thoughts and prayers. We pray that she will be returned to us safe and well.”
Its Not An Option To Lose Her Says Philomena McCann
“It is not an option to lose Madeleine. We have to find her. She’s an integral member of our family. We need her. “She’s a very bright, outgoing little girl who just wants to have fun. She loves to be spoilt. She likes to dance. She’s very sporty for a young girl. She just likes attention. She’s absolutely lovely. “We’re a close-knit family – a bit more traditional than many families nowadays – and although we’re spread out through the UK we do try and keep in touch regularly. Of Madeleine’s disappearance, Ms McCann said: “They (Kate and Gerry) were going back to check a locked apartment where they had left the kids sleeping. “They’re good parents. They tried so hard to have kids. They have three beautiful children that they absolutely dote on. She said that criticism of couple for leaving their children alone was “totally unjustified”. “They’re normal parents who love their children and would never neglect them in any way. Any suggestions they were neglecting them are completely insulting.” Mrs McCann said her brother and sister-in-law would stay in Portugal until they find Madeleine. “How can they go on? They need their daughter. We just need to have Madeleine home. These people, or person, have to bring her back to us. “The whole family needs her here, not just Gerry and Kate, she’s just such an integral member of this family,. “We love children. My job is working with children. Gerry and Kate have caring occupations. Both have dedicated their lives to helping people. “To have this happen is just the worst possible scenario.” Her message to the person who has taken the three-year-old is: “Please, please bring her back. We love Madeleine. We all love her. The goodwill that we’ve felt from neighbours and family has been incredible. “We need her back. Surely, they can see how much we love her and need her. Please give her back.”
If you have any information
about her whereabouts,
0800 555 111 UK
Comment: 3rd November 2009 ' minute for Madeleine video' When questioned about her eye.... Dr.McCann said she would be wearing contacts by now and his Dear Kate with a wave of her arm said 'Oh its just a flash you would have to be really close to even notice it'
Police visited the couple yesterday amid fears that their home could be targeted after they had been named as suspects. A crime prevention officer spent an hour with them, briefing the pair on protection measures.
As he left, he said: "I gave information about security issues around the home concerning personal safety. It is a service we offer to all members of the public."
A Radio Five Live phone-in was abandoned yesterday morning because of the unexpected degree of anti-McCann feeling voiced by callers. The topic for discussion was "Do you support the McCanns?" Soon after the programme began, a large number of the calls were critical of the McCanns while the BBC was rebuked for having a debate about a couple who are part of a continuing legal process. Eventually, Victoria Derbyshire, the presenter, said they would put it to a public vote whether to scrap the debate. The majority said yes. An opinion page on the website of the McCanns' local newspaper, the Leicester Mercury, attracted a number of comments condemning the pair. Several weeks ago, the paper temporarily withdrew the facility to post opinions because many were inappropriate to publish. They revealed that critics of the family were "bombarding" the website with libellous contributions that were "nasty, spiteful and defamatory". An online petition calling for Leicestershire social services to "fulfil their statutory obligation to investigate the circumstances which led to three-year-old Madeleine McCann and her younger siblings being left unattended in an unlocked, ground floor hotel room" has received 16,957 signatures.
A maid who is alleged to have abducted Madeleine McCann in revenge for being sacked from the holiday resort where the missing girl was staying is being investigated by Portuguese police.
The identity of the maid was e-mailed to the official website of the Prince of Wales at the end of last week. Police have confirmed that the woman had worked at the Ocean Club resort in Praia da Luz. They have also discovered that the e-mail appeared to have been sent from a computer with an IP address in the Iberian peninsula.
Clarence House immediately informed Scotland Yard of the tip-off and forwarded the details to officers from Leicestershire police, who are leading the inquiry in Britain. The Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall issued a statement soon after Madeleine went missing saying that they were following the case “closely and with deep concern”.
A source close to Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, said: “We hope that the police will follow up any information given to them. Kate and Gerry are encouraged by anything that focuses on finding Madeleine.”
The parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann visited the Netherlands on Thursday as part of a high-profile campaign to find their daughter who went missing during a holiday in Portugal over a month ago.
Madeleine McCann disappeared from a holiday apartment in the Portuguese Algarve. Leading British businessmen and celebrities have offered a reward of 3.7 million euros for information leading to her return.
"We have come to the Netherlands with a very specific objective: after British and German tourists, the next largest group of nationals who make up the tourists in the Algarve are in fact Dutch," Gerry McCann told reporters at a press conference in Amsterdam. He and his wife Kate are touring Europe to keep up the publicity about the disappearance of their daughter and for the kidnapping of children in general. They have already visited Italy, Spain and Germany.
Photographs The couple asked holidaymakers who were in the southern Portuguese Algarve region in early May to send in any photographs they may have which could be helpful in the investigation. They called on people to report to their local police if they'd seen a man walking with a child in the resort of Praia da Luz at the time. Four-year-old Madeleine disappeared from the family's holiday apartment in the Algarve on 2 May. The case attracted the attention of the international press. In Great Britain, both the rich and the famous have put up millions for the tip that leads to finding "Maddy".
Poster pasted on a parking meter in Amsterdam
Appeal for helpVisiting Berlin on Wednesday, the couple explained why they were seeking holidaymakers from across Western Europe for help.
"We have to appeal to as wide an audience as is possible. She may be in any country," Gerry McCann told the press. He said for the first two or three days he and his wife had been "almost non-functional" but had thrown themselves into the campaign because they had been advised it would help get Madeleine back and help them deal with the situation.
Portuguese police are interviewing two Dutch newspaper reporters who have found a towel in the area identified as the possible burial location of four-year-old British girl Madeleine McCann in a tip-off from a Dutch source.
Wrapped in towels According to their newspaper De Telegraaf, another tip-off has come in from a different source claiming that a man was seen carrying a child wrapped in towels near the place where Madeleine disappeared. Five Portuguese detectives accompanied the Dutch reporters to the spot where they found the towel, followed by a Portuguese TV camera crew.
LetterIt was De Telegraaf whichreceived the anonymous letter containing clues regarding the whereabouts of the missing child. Both Dutch and Portuguese police are taking the letter very seriously, because it seems to have been written by the same person who last year sent a letter providing the exact location of the two murdered Belgian girls Stacey and Nathalie.
Shrubland The letter said Madeleine could be found not far from the hotel room she was abducted from on 3 May this year near Praia de Luz, Portugal. It says that she lies buried "north of the road under branches and rocks, around six to seven metres off the road" in a barren and deserted hilly landscape.
Crosses on a map that came with the letter show the alleged location of her body. De Telegraaf handed the letter over to Dutch police who sent a full colour scan to detectives in Portugal. A full-scale search of the area with sniffer dogs is taking place today.
Celebrity appealThe McCann family has enjoyed broad public support following the abduction of their daughter. A British businessman has offered a reward of 1.5 million euros for a golden tip regarding Madeleine's whereabouts. The famous football players David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo have appeared on television to appeal for her release.
Kate and Gerry McCann today accepted £550,000 libel damages over "utterly false and defamatory" claims they were responsible for the death of their daughter and were 'swingers'.
The couple were not at London's High Court for the settlement of their action against Express Newspapers. In a statement they said they were 'pleased' with the outcome, and criticised the 'utter falsity' of what was printed by the newspapers. They described the claims in the newspapers as 'grotesque and defamatory'. They said: 'We are innocent of all allegations. There is no evidence that Madeleine is dead or has been seriously harmed.' Some articles claimed the couple were involved in swining or wife-swapping orgies. Their solicitor-advocate, Adam Tudor, told Mr Justice Eady that all the money would be donated to the Fund established to assist with the search for the four-year-old, who disappeared from Praia da Luz, Portugal, in May last year. Mr Tudor said that from the late summer of last year until February this year, the Daily Express, the Sunday Express, the Daily Star and the Daily Star Sunday, which have a combined circulation of several million copies as well as a substantial online readership, published more than 100 articles which were seriously defamatory of the couple.
A further article alleged that Mr and Mrs McCann were involved in 'swinging' or wife-swapping orgies."
He said: "The general theme of the articles was to suggest that Mr and Mrs McCann were responsible for the death of Madeleine or that there were strong or reasonable grounds for so suspecting and that they had then disposed of her body; and that they had then conspired to cover up their actions, including by creating 'diversions' to divert the police's attention away from evidence which would expose their guilt.
"Many of these articles were published on the front pages of the newspapers and on their websites, accompanied by sensational headlines. "In addition to the allegations referred to above, the Daily Star published further articles (under the headlines 'Maddie mum 'sold' her' and 'Maddie 'sold' by hard-up McCanns') which sought to allege that Mr and Mrs McCann had sold their daughter in order to ease their financial burdens.
"A further article alleged that Mr and Mrs McCann were involved in 'swinging' or wife-swapping orgies." Mr Tudor said that, as Express Newspapers now acknowledged, all of these allegations "were, and remain, entirely untrue". "In particular, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Mr and Mrs McCann were responsible for the death of their daughter or that they were involved in any sort of cover-up, and there was no basis for Express Newspapers to allege otherwise." Express Newspaper's counsel Stephen Bacon said: "Express Newspapers regrets publishing these extremely serious, yet baseless, allegations concerning Mr and Mrs McCann over a sustained period of what will already have been an enormously distressing time for them, and at a time when they have been trying to focus on finding their daughter. "As an expression of its regret, Express Newspapers has agreed to publish front-page apologies, acknowledging the falsity of the allegations and reflecting the fact that they should never have been made."
Madeleine McCann's parents were forced to deny they had any involvement in their daughter'sabduction during an extraordinary press conference today in Germany. Kate and Gerry McCann struggled to compose themselves in front of dozens of journalists after a reporter asked the couple if they had anything to do with their four-year-old's disappearance. The question came in Berlin on the latest leg of their European tour designed to sustain media interest in Madeleine, who vanished on May 3 from the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz. Sabina Mueller, from German Radio, asked: "How do you feel about the fact that more and more people seem to be pointing the finger at you, saying the way you behave is not the way people would normally behave when their child is abducted and they seem to imply that you might have something to do with it?"
Her husband Gerry, his voice shaking with emotion, replied: "I have never heard before that anyone considers us suspects in this and the Portuguese police certainly don't.
"Without going into too much detail, we were with a large group of people, and you know there is absolutely no way Kate and I are involved in this abduction."
Looking horrified, Mrs McCann said she thought it was only "a very small minority of people that are criticising us". Mr McCann justified the couple's continuing trips and media campaign by saying they would have been "shells of the people we are" if they had just stayed at home waiting for news. The couple urged any German tourists who might have been in the Algarve in the two weeks before Madeleine disappeared to come forward.
"Somebody can help us find Madeleine," said Mr McCann. "It is one telephone call - either a location or a name - and that is what we are appealing for."
They didn't find Maddie yet, did they, Mummy? My eight-year-old son doesn't usually listen to the news.
But, over this past 12 months, the name of Madeleine McCann has become almost as familiar to him as his best friend's. If we hear "Maddie" mentioned on the radio, I tense slightly, wait for the inevitable questions. And then come my inadequate answers. "No, they didn't find her yet, sweetheart. Yes, it's very sad. No, a bad man will not take you. Because Mummy and Daddy will keep you safe, that's why."
Since May 3 last year, how many parents have mentally run the "Maddie safety test" before daring to turn away from their children even for a moment? That may be her lasting legacy and our greatest burden. Still, my small boy is not satisfied. "Maddie" is the big story of his childhood, bigger even than Harry Potter and infinitely more disturbing.
Scroll down for more
The McCann family: 'Sean and Amelie can't grow up with parents forever chasing a child they know they should never have lost'
Like millions of others, he wants to find out how it ends. No one wants to know that more than Kate and Gerry McCann. A year after Madeleine's disappearance, they have launched a "media offensive", including a two-hour ITV interview this evening and a year-long deal with Hello! magazine. Without doubt, this Saturday will be unbearable for them. Milestones in a child's life are there to be celebrated. But what do you do with a milestone in a child's absence? Relatives and friends will be returning to pray in the church in Praia da Luz, but not the McCanns, who, quite disgracefully, are still official suspects in Portugal. And it will be especially hard, on this first anniversary, to avoid the haunting "what ifs?". What if they had walked to the restaurant as a family? What if they had heeded Madeleine's protests that she had been crying the previous night? Even Kate's mother, Susan Healy, now admits she is astonished that the so-called Tapas Seven believed it was OK to go out for dinner without their children. "I could shake all of them," she says. Susan accepts that her daughter believed the resort was perfectly safe. But the brutal, unyielding fact, the one Kate and Gerry must smash their heads against, is that if it had been perfectly safe then Maddie would be here now. Kate feels she has let Madeleine down, says her mum. "The only way she can cope is by trying to get her back. She can't possibly give up." Perhaps that is why the case has continued to exert such a remarkable hold over us. We can't give up either. There is a fascination in a momentary mistake that can never be undone, no matter how much a mother persecutes herself.
In Greek tragedy, Antigone, the daughter of King Oedipus, cannot rest until she has recovered the body of her brother after his death in battle and given it a proper burial.
One suffering leads to another. And there is some of that obsession, and that remorselessness, in the case of the McCanns. Could this explain the visceral hatred that has been directed at Kate in particular? What kind of person sent them the Christmas card saying: 'Your brat is dead because of your drunken arrogance'? Not much better than the one who snatched Maddie. Do we think we protect ourselves from cruel acts of Fate if we finish off those it has struck down? Of course, the McCanns have unwittingly conspired in this circus of torment. The publicity juggernaut that was launched with the best of intentions has taken on a momentum of its own. But this week's 'media offensive' will strike many as, well, offensive.
Do the two doctors really deserve two whole hours of prime-time when so many other people's kids are lost and thousands are dying in Zimbabwe? Even those, like me, who have never doubted Gerry and Kate's innocence must feel a flinch of unease.
There comes a point when we have to ask whether any of this is going to help bring Madeleine back. And if not, what purpose does it serve? I suppose the truth is that it keeps Maddie alive in the world, and thus helps her parents to assuage their terrible guilt. Their campaign to improve safety for all children across Europe is commendable, but it is also a displacement activity. Postponing that dreadful moment when the search must be called off. Kate says: "We're never going to get to a day when you think: 'OK, we've tried everything now. We're exhausted and we need to start living." But they will. And they must. For their own sakes and for Sean and Amelie, who can't grow up with parents forever chasing a child they know they should never have lost. Twelve months on, like my little boy, we still want the Maddie story to have an ending. I wish with all my heart that it could end happily. But end it must.
Spare us from these Lolitas Disney star Miley Cyrus, who plays Hannah Montana, the wholesome idol of millions of little girls, has got her kit off for Vanity Fair. Wearing only a small silk sheet and a lot of red lipstick, the 15-year-old looked slutty and available. The message couldn't have been clearer if she'd hung a "For Hire" sign round her young neck, but Miley complains she has been misunderstood.
'Lolita': 15-year-old Disney star Miley Cyrus
The pictures were supposed to be "artistic", she squeals. "Now I feel so embarrassed. I apologise to my fans who I care so deeply about." Sorry doesn't really cover it, Lolita. The shock change of image is a key part of the PR strategy for every ambitious junior trollop. (Next stop: "accidentally" being filmed having sex, like Paris Hilton.) Frankly, I'm getting sick of multimillionaire female role models encouraging young girls to act and dress like porn stars. God preserve our little daughters from these X-rated virgins.
A nation in haunting denial
At theage of 19, Kerstin Fritzl had never seen the sky or the sun, never felt the fresh air on her face, until she was taken to hospital ten days ago. Along with her two siblings, Kerstin was a prisoner in the cellar under Josef Fritzl's house from the day she was born. Pale and constricted as veal calves, the children's only light came from dim bulbs in their windowless world. Such sensory deprivation, such torture inflicted over so many years by a man who raped his own daughter and created a second "underground" family, is impossible to take in. The mind buckles at the thought of the terrified young Elisabeth Fritzl giving birth for the first time in that dank labyrinth, when the only one there to help her was the monster who was both father and grandfather to that unfortunate baby. The case makes you wonder what darkness lies in the basement of the Austrian imagination. Why has this breathtakingly beautiful small country seen not just one, but three girl-in-a-cellar scandals over the past two years? Elfriede Jelinek, Austria's Nobel Prize-winning novelist, has been criticised in the past for her "hysterical" portraits of a repressive society which breeds sexual perversity, suppressed violence and human degradation. Well, it looks as if Ms Jelinek may not have been hysterical after all. Even she would have struggled to imagine the cunning beast that is Josef Fritzl. How many more anguished ghosts have to come up out of the cellar before Austria honestly examines its own past?
Madeleine disappeared from a holiday apartment in the Algarve on May 3 last year
Madeleine McCann's grandmother has attacked her own daughters' decision to leave her three children alone in their holiday apartment on the night the three-year-old vanished. Kate McCann's mother, Susan Healy, admits she is totally astonished that she thought it was safe to leave Madeleine and their two other younger children unsupervised. She has revealed that she asks herself again and again why their whole group, the so-called Tapas Nine, all believed it was fine to go out for dinner without their children.
Just days ahead of the one-year anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance, she vents her frustration, saying: "I could shake all of them, every single one of them."
In an interview with the Liverpool Echo, she admits: "I can read articles that say Kate and Gerry should never have left their children and I can accept that. "You find yourself over and over again in your head thinking: 'Why did they think it would be all right?' "Why did they think - all of them - it was OK to do this? "I think they were misled into thinking it was OK - but there was no CCTV, no security. There is this acceptance among couples with young children, like Kate and Gerry and their friends, that these are good resorts and safe environments." Scroll down for more...
Astonished: Madeleine's grandmother, Susan Healy, with her husband Brian. She has admitted she cannot believe Kate left her children alone on the night she vanished
Mrs Healy says the fact Madeleine was left alone on the night she vanished was something the wider family, and not only the McCanns, had had to come to terms with. But she also defends them, insisting that they must have believed their children would be safe before deciding to go out on their own. "I understand Kate and Gerry and the others ate in a restaurant without their children. It's something we had to address and Kate and Gerry have had to address it every single day," she says.
"But at the end of the day they thought they had taken adequate provision . . . no one looks after their children better than Kate and Gerry. That's why it's so amazing they can be in this situation."
Despite her frustration at the "Tapas Nine", the 62-year-old describes their vilification in the press as "awful" and says their lives will never be the same. "This is a group of friends who have all suffered a terrible trauma," she said. "They all did the same thing and what happened could have happened to any one of them. It's changed all their lives." She also claims her family being dubbed "Team McCann" had made them seem like an "organisation without feelings". Scroll down for more...
Kate and Gerry McCann have admitted they feel guilty about going out for dinner on the night Madeleine disappeared
Of the damaging headlines, she says: "Every time it happens it's like a slap in the face. You have to stop to think 'Do these people not know what they are doing?' - not just to us, but to other people." While most people have been kind, there have been a "small minority" who have shown a different side since last May and some have even sent threatening letters to her and her husband, Mrs Healy reveals. She begs that people do not lose sight of what the family wants above all else - for Madeleine to be found. "Remember what this is all about - a little four-year-old child who was loved and cherished and cared for," she pleads. "She was the greatest gift anyone in our family ever had. She is somewhere and she may be frightened and unhappy." Reliving the night of May 3rd, she tells how her son-in-law rang her up at around 11.30pm to say Madeleine had been taken. "He said something like 'It's a disaster'. I was grappling to understand 'disaster'. "His next words were 'Madeleine has been abducted from her bed in the apartment'. "I said 'No, Gerry' and he said 'Sue, Sue'. He reiterated it in a strong way. I asked him 'Where were you?'" She added: "We just sat all night and then went to Portugal the next day. I didn't know what day it was - some people packed my bags for me and the police drove us to Manchester Airport. "I remember, after we got to the hotel complex, looking at the little paddling pool and all the children there. I was thinking 'This time yesterday, Madeleine was playing there'." Her husband, Brian, adds that he will never forget laying eyes on his devastated daughter that day. "I remember Kate's first words to me - I'll never forget them. She said: 'She'll be so frightened.'" His wife said: "I don't know who I hugged first, but I'll never forget how Kate and Gerry were that day - they were absolutely wailing." Five months later, to her parents' disbelief, Kate McCann and her husband were made official suspects in the case. Madeleine's grandmother recalls: "Gerry did ring to warn us that they were likely to be made arguidos - I think it was a few days before. I nearly had a dicky fit. I was amazed and angry. Very angry.
"They had told the police they were going to come home. I think that moved things on for the police and they told Kate and Gerry they wanted to question them again. "But their attitudes had changed before then, when the British police and dogs went out. When they were made arguidos I placated myself, never believing that anyone could think they were responsible for Madeleine's disappearance. "Some people, though,, picked up on certain things, despite it being a ridiculous situation. "They centered in on anything negative." The family are bracing themselves for the one-year anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance this Saturday. She disappeared from their apartment in Praia da Luz on May 3 during a family holiday to the Algarve resort. Her parents were at a restaurant with their friends 40 yards away but had returned to the flat during the night to make regular checks. They are not returning to Portugal at the weekend and plan to stay at their home in Rothley, Leicestershire.
By VANESSA ALLEN Last updated at 16:51 19 November 2007
The mother of Kate McCann fears that evidence is being planted to frame her daughter, she said today. Susan Healy, 61, said she believed plotters might still be planting false evidence to make it appear that Mrs McCann and her husband Gerry were involved in the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine. She told a television interview: "I'm worried that evidence is being planted." Scroll down for more...
Susan Healy, holding a treasured plate given her by Madeleine, believes Kate is being set up
Mrs Healy, of Allerton, Merseyside, added: "I know my daughter and I know how much Madeleine meant to her. "My daughter had nothing to do with the disappearance of Madeleine." Police have refused to reveal what alleged evidence they have against Mr and Mrs McCann, both 39, of Rothley, Leicestershire. But the couple were made official suspects in the case after specialist sniffer dogs detected the "scent of death" in their hire car and microscopic traces of blood in their holiday apartment. Scroll down for more...
Framed: plotters planted evidence on Kate McCann, her anxious mother fears
It is not the first time Mrs Healy has claimed that false evidence has been used in the case. Speaking when the McCanns were made arguidos and it was claimed that DNA had been found, Madeleine's grandmother said: "This is a set-up. It must have been planted by the perpetrator." She went on: "I know why this is happening - the police are trying to frame them for murder. "If there is any evidence to implicate Kate and Gerry in any way then it has been planted."