A retired lawyer who has repeatedly accused Kate and Gerry McCann of
covering up their daughter Madeleine's death is facing jail for
Bennett has waged a campaign since 2007 against the Kate and
Gerry McCann Photo: PAUL GROVER
Gerry McCann arriving at the Leverson Inquiry Photo: Eddie
For almost five years, Kate and Gerry McCann have suffered the anguish
of not knowing what happened to their daughter Madeleine.
Through it all, they have also had to contend with a sustained campaign
of harassment conducted by a small band of fanatics convinced they had a
hand in their daughter's disappearance.
Now, one of their main tormentors is facing jail for refusing to leave
the McCanns' alone.
Tony Bennett has waged a campaign since 2007 against the couple –
repeatedly accusing them of covering up the girl's death in leaflets,
books and on internet postings.
On one occasion, the Madeleine Foundation, which he runs, handed out
1,500 pamphlets in Rothley, the couple's home village in Leicestershire,
entitled "10 key reasons which suggest she was not abducted."
Another booklet has been posted by registered delivery to the McCanns'
Next month, a court will decide whether to jail Mr Bennett, 64, for
contempt of court.
The action is being brought by Mr and Mrs McCann who have grown
increasingly disturbed by Mr Bennett's attacks on them.
Mr Bennett is accused of flouting an agreement in the High Court – made
in November 2009 – that he would stop repeating allegations that the
McCanns were in some way involved in their daughter's abduction.
Since then, Mr Bennett, a grandfather-of-two from Harlow in Essex, who
is obsessed with the case, has posted on the subject of Madeleine
McCann's disappearance an astonishing 3,800 times on one website alone.
Lawyers acting for the McCanns accuse him of breaching the undertaking
on at least 149 occasions. The list of alleged breaches is not
The McCanns' spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: "This has gone on for a
long time and Kate and Gerry now feel enough is enough. It is obviously
very distressing for them. The fact they are taking legal action speaks
"Tony Bennett is his own worst enemy by persistently doing what he does,
he has brought this action on himself."
The couple, both doctors, live in hope their daughter may still be alive
and continue the search for her.
A Metropolitan police review of the evidence, put together by Portuguese
detectives, continues but is not thought to have produced any
significant new leads in the search for Madeleine.
A draft order seen by The Sunday Telegraph, which a judge is expected to
rule upon at a hearing in February, includes an option for Mr Bennett to
be "committed to HM Prison for a period" to be determined.
Mr Bennett could also be fined and ordered to pay costs that are likely
to bankrupt him.
The undertaking Mr Bennett signed – he will now claim he only agreed it
under duress – prevents him from making a number of claims in relation
to Madeleine's disappearance from her parents' holiday apartment in the
Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz on May 3rd 2007.
At the time she was just three-year-old.
The agreement signed in court states: "The defendant [Mr Bennett]
undertakes not to repeat allegations that the claimants are guilty of,
or are to be suspected of, causing the death of their daughter Madeleine
McCann; and/ or of disposing of her body and/ or of lying about what
happened and/ or of seeking to cover up what they had done."
The undertaking also included the destruction of a book "What really
happened to Madeleine McCann? 60 key reasons which suggest that she was
not abducted" and a leaflet "What really happened to Madeleine McCann?
10 key reasons which suggest that she was not abducted."
But since that November 2009 undertaking, Mr Bennett has continued many
of his activities.
The list of 149 alleged breaches, compiled by the McCanns' lawyers
Carter Ruck, includes a book: "The Madeleine McCann Case Files: Volume
1" and a series of postings on the social networking website Twitter.
Mr Bennett runs the Madeleine Foundation, whose website has been subject
to scrutiny by the McCanns' legal team, while also putting up 3,800
posts on another website The Complete Mystery of Madeleine McCann at a
rate of about five a day.
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Bennett was largely unrepentant and
seemingly happy to repeat some of the allegations that put him under
threat of contempt.
He first became interested in the case while watching it unfold on
television in 2007.
He attempted to bring a private prosecution against the couple in
November 2007 for child neglect – on the grounds the couple were eating
dinner with friends when Madeleine was abducted – but the case was
thrown out in a magistrates' court.
Mr Bennett said: "I have done my best to comply with the undertaking but
I would argue to the courts it was an unreasonably wide undertaking to
"In the last two years I have not written specifically about the details
of how she [Madeleine] might have died or how the body was hidden.
"It is my sincere conviction that one day I will be proved right. I
truly believe that one day the truth will be told. And yes I am risking
a breach of the order by saying that."
Asked how he felt about harassing a couple, grieving over the
disappearance of their daughter, Mr Bennett replied: "The thing that
came closest to harassment was when we distributed the '10 reasons'
leaflet in Leicestershire in August 2009.
"Three of my colleagues in the Madeleine Foundation distributed a small
quantity of leaflets in Rothley. I would honestly say that perhaps that
was a leaflet distribution too far.
"If Madeleine was abducted I would accept what I have done is a wicked
campaign of harassment. If I am wrong I am evil. But if I am right, I am
a victim of simply having the desire to pursue the truth."