Kate and Gerry McCann have hit back at claims by Express Newspapers owner Richard Desmond that the couple were ‘quite happy’with his newspapers’ coverage of Madeleine’s disappearance ‘because it kept it on the front page”.
At the Leveson Inquiry yesterday Desmond also claimed his titles had been “scapegoated” for their coverage of her disappearance and that ‘every paper was doing the same thing”.
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But in a statement released after he gave evidence yesterday afternoon Clarence Mitchell, the McCann’s spokesman, said: ‘The stories that we took issue with massively added to the stress and upset that Kate and Gerry were already suffering. They took the action they did reluctantly but in this case a line had to be drawn.
“The scale and weight of the inaccuracies and unfounded allegations meant that the Express group as a whole stood out as by far the worst offender and as a result the lawyers took a look at it and advised Kate and Gerry they had a very strong case and that’s why the Express group settled as quickly as they did.
“For Mr Desmond to claim that Kate and Gerry were happy with the bulk of his newspaper’s coverage, well, they weren’t.”
During yesterday’s appearance Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, described Desmond’s comments as a “grotesque” characterisation, adding: “Your paper was accusing the McCanns on occasion of having killed their daughter. Are you seriously saying that they were sitting there quite happy, rather than entirely anguished by your paper’s bad behaviour?”
Desmond replied: “I do apologise to the McCanns. I am very sorry for the thing and I am very sorry that we got it wrong.”
The media mogul argued that “if there were 102 articles on the McCanns, there were 38 bad ones but you could argue there were 65 or 70 good ones”.
Desmond added: “I do apologise to the McCanns, you know, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, but there are views on – there are views on the McCanns of what happened. And there are still views on the McCanns of what happened.”
The group paid £550,000 in damages to the Find Madeleine Fund in 2008 and printed front page apologies to the couple.
“We stood up and said ‘Yes, we got it wrong, there’s the money for the marketing fund, let’s try and find McCann, the poor little girl, let’s put it on the front page and apologise properly,’Desmond told the inquiry.
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