This weekend should see the first fruits of a major cross-media deal as two national newspapers, a magazine and a television programme club together to buy a £350,000 package of interviews and exclusive pictures of Siamese twin parents, the Attards, and their surviving twin.
The twins hit the headlines last year when they were separated at a UK hospital. At the time, the Attards mounted a court bid to stop the operation and obtained an injunction to stop the media identifying them or the babies, who became known by the pseudonyms Jodie and Mary.
The News of the World and Mail on Sunday are likely to publish their interviews with Michaelangelo and Rina Attard this weekend, although neither would confirm it ahead of publication.
The second part of the package will arrive with the publication of Now magazine next Thursday and an item on Granada’s Tonight with Trevor McDonald on the same day.
Mary died but Jodie thrived after the complicated operation. Now 10 months old and known by her real name, she is due to leave St Mary’s Hospital, Manchester. And the Attards are applying at the end of this week for the injunction to be varied to allow them to tell their full story.
The News of the World is backing the application and News Group Newspapers’ lawyers are believed to have been central to organising the deal, put together by PR Max Clifford, acting for the Attards.
They will tell the court they are about to take their daughter home to Gozo, an island off Malta, and will put the money in a trust for her. When syndication rights kick in, the package is expected to rocket to far more than £350,000.
A spokesman for Tonight with Trevor McDonald confirmed it had bought the first UK broadcasting rights. It will be the third time the couple have been interviewed for the programme.
Now has also confirmed it has secured the magazine rights. Editor-in-chief Jane Ennis is planning to devote six pages to the story.
"This is a big one for us because it is a chance to do a really big news story. It is probably the most we have spent on a real-life story and we run two or three a week," she said.
"There was stiff competition but it comes down to how much you want something and how accommodating you are prepared to be."
The story was covered for Now by news editor Samm Taylor and assistant editor Beverley Watts, who spent a day with the Attard family. Now hopes to share in syndication rights. "We will put everything into a pot and the money will be split between us and the Attards," said Ennis.
Already this year, Clifford’s office has provided the press with access to the couple who lost their winning Lottery ticket, stories about the Countess of Wessex’s PR firm and pictures of Prince William with a holiday companion. John Kenney, now being questioned by police about the death of the man found in Michael Barrymore’s pool, is also a client.
By Jean Morgan and Ruth Addicott