Couple describe the ordeal they suffered at hands of media and make
impassioned plea for press regulation
Kate and Gerry McCann, whose three-year-old daughter Madeleine went
missing in 2007 during a holiday in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz,
give evidence to the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking
Link to this video
Kate and Gerry McCann made an impassioned plea for press regulation
after delivering an emotional account of their treatment by the
tabloids, describing the string of "disgusting" and "offensive" stories
published about them.
Appearing as witnesses at the Leveson inquiry into press standards, the
McCanns gave the most powerful testimony heard so far, speaking for
nearly two hours without a break as they described the ordeal they have
been subjected to by parts of the media since their daughter Madeleine
went missing in Portugal four years ago.
Kate McCann told a hushed courtroom at the Royal Courts of Justice in
London how she felt "totally violated" after the publication by the News
of the World of her personal diaries in which she recorded her thoughts
about her missing daughter.
She said the now defunct newspaper had showed "absolutely no respect for
me as a grieving mother" when it ran the story in September 2008 under
the headline Kate's Diary: In Her Own Words. "I'd written these words,
my thoughts, at the most desperate time of my life," she said.
Mrs McCann added that she had talked about "climbing into a hole and not
coming out" after the article appeared. "It made me feel very vulnerable
and small. That whole week was very traumatic and every time I thought
about it I couldn't believe the injustice."
Her husband, Gerry, said the couple wanted an investigation into how the
diary, which was seized and copied by Portuguese police, was leaked to
the Murdoch tabloid. Lord Justice Leveson, who has legal powers to
summon witnesses and compel evidence, indicated that he might heed their
Mr McCann said British newspapers had declared "open season" on them a
few months after Madeleine's disappearance in the Portuguese resort of
Praia da Luz in May 2007. It was "crass and insensitive", he argued, to
say that because they engaged with the media in an attempt to find their
daughter "the press can write whatever they like about you without
punishment. There are standards but there are no penalties for not
sticking to them. I see front page headlines every day ? and I think
information is being written and lives are being harmed by these stories
and something has to change. The commercial imperative is not
The McCanns' evidence is likely to strengthen the argument for a
stricter regime of press regulation. Leveson, who was appointed by David
Cameron at the height of the phone-hacking crisis, is due to report
within a year.
The McCanns painted a disturbing picture of life at the centre of a
media scrum. Gerry McCann said: "We expected the storm to calm with the
passage of time but it continued day after day. We had anecdotal
evidence from the British journalists in Praia da Luz that the story of
Madeleine's disappearance had caught the imagination of the British
public and was driving sales in the UK. As a result those journalists
were under intense pressure from their newsdesks to file more copy."
Photographers camped outside the house, Kate McCann said, frightening
their two young children. "There were several occasions where they would
bang on the windows. Amelie said to me several times: 'Mummy, I'm
Her husband accused a former editor of the News of the World, Colin
Myler, of "berating" them for conducting a 2008 interview with Hello!
magazine on the first anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance.
The couple sued Express Newspapers and secured unprecedented front-page
apologies in 2008 after two of the group's titles ran stories which
included the allegation that they had sold their daughter to pay off
debts. Describing that as "nothing short of disgusting", Gerry McCann
said he was amazed no one at Express Newspapers, which also paid the
couple record damages of ?550,000, had lost their job.
"I've seen no journalist or editor brought to account, be it the Express
or any other group ? they are repeat offenders, they should lose their
privilege of practising," he said.
The McCanns argued that newspapers should not be allowed to take
pictures of subjects when they are in public places. They also spoke
movingly about their reaction to a front-page Daily Mirror story about
Madeleine that declared: "She's dead". It was based on an article in a
Portuguese paper, which quoted a source close to the police
investigation who said they didn't know if she was alive or dead. Gerry
McCann said they learned about the story at 11pm when they were just
about to go to bed. "That was one of the most distressing headlines that
was just taken from supposition. It was incredible."
Talking about her diary, Kate McCann said she believed that it was taken
from her by Portuguese police and later returned. However, she said that
someone must have photocopied the private diary and given it to the
She said there were minor differences between her own diaries and those
that were published by the NoW, leading her to believe that they had
been translated from Portuguese and back again.
The paper apologised a week after publishing the diaries and said: "We
published the extracts in the belief held in good faith that we had
Kate's permission to do so."
Leveson indicated that he might call the journalist who wrote the story
to give evidence and might also question other senior executives at the
paper, which was closed by Rupert Murdoch in July, about how the diaries
Earlier in the day Sheryl Gascoigne, the former wife of Paul Gascoigne,
told the inquiry that she had been hounded by press photographers while
heavily pregnant. She said she was forced to crawl on her hand and knees
while her arm was in a sling to escape the paparazzi.
Gascoigne told Leveson that everyone in the public eye knew that the
Press Complaints Commission was "a waste of time". She said corrections
should be given the same prominence in newspapers as the articles in
which they originally appeared.
Mark Lewis, the solicitor whose clients include the footballers' union
chief Gordon Taylor, Milly Dowler's parents and the ex-Premier League
footballer Garry Flitcroft, also gave evidence to the inquiry.
He said he had been warned in a telephone call that Paul Dacre,
editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail, would sue him if he continued to
claim that the paper had been involved in phone hacking.
Lewis said that threat was made in a phone conversation with a Daily
Mail lawyer, Liz Hartley, on 25 January 2011. "Be aware that Paul Dacre
is someone who will sue you if you suggest that we were involved in
hacking," Hartley allegedly told him.
He also claimed that he had heard from a journalist that Rebekah Brooks,
former chief executive of News International, had threatened to "get him
back" for demanding her resignation and that she would exact her revenge
in another newspaper.