Kate and Gerry McCann today accepted one of the widest publicised ever public apologies at London's High Court along with an agreed £550,000 libel pay-out after national paper slurs alleging among other things that they had sold their missing daughter, Madeleine, because they were hard up.
Today's award, one of the largest ever agreed libel settlements was against Express Newspapers over allegations carried in the Daily Express, the Sunday Express the Daily Star and the Daily Star Sunday.
Solicitor Adam Tudor for the McCanns told Mr Justice David Eady that the papers had published over 100 articles which he said were 'seriously defamatory'of the McCanns.
'The general theme of the articles as 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 the evidence which would expose their guilt,'said Mr Tudor.
He continued : '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 Express Newspapers now acknowledged that all the allegations were and remained 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,'he said.
'Equally, the allegations that Mr and Mrs McCann may have 'sold' Madeleine, and that they are involved in 'swinging' or wife-swapping, were entirely baseless.'
Counsel for Express Newspapers told the judge : '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.'
He said that as an expression of their regret they had agreed to publish front page apologies acknowledging the falsity of the allegations and reflecting the fact that they should never have been made.