En vérité, mentir est un vice abominable, car nous ne sommes des hommes et nous ne sommes liés les uns aux autres que par la parole. (...) Si, comme la vérité, le mensonge n’avait qu’un visage, la situation serait meilleure, car il nous suffirait de prendre pour certain l’opposé de ce que dirait le menteur. Mais le revers de la vérité a cent mille formes et un champ d’action sans limites. Pour les Pythagoriciens le bien est certain et défini, le mal infini et indéterminé. Mille traits ratent la cible, un seul l’atteint.
The Leveson Inquiry into
the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press
Déposition de Gerald MC (signée par KMC) - 30.10.2011
1. I am a Consultant Cardiologist working at the Glenfield Hospital in Leicester. I am married to Kate McCann, on whose behalf I also make this statement, and the father of three children.
3. As a result of this our family has been subject to some of the most sensationalist, untruthful, irresponsible and damaging reporting.
5. I would however like to make clear that the search for Madeleine continues and we are still striving for the safe return of Madeleine to our family.
7. Jon Comer, a good friend and godparent to the twins, used his media experience to release a number of pictures of Madeleine to the whole of the UK media in the early hours of the 4th May 2007 to publicise her image.
8. Incidentally the only organisation to contact Jon Corner prior to publication and to seek further details and verification was the BBC. The rest of the UK media used the images to publish a story about a missing British child without hesitation. Whilst we make no criticism of this, as it is what we wanted, it shows the differing attitudes of various media outlets to their responsibilities in situations such as this.
|histoire à dormir debout|
14. During these early days we gave several statements to the media and initially accepted being filmed going about our normal activity, acknowledging that we were likely to be filmed whether we consented or not. We did however inform the press that we were not going to provide daily updates.
15. Our engagement with the media worked well to begin with. The vast majority were sympathetic to what we were going through and understood our objective. What emerged however was a heavy focus of attention on Kate and me (as opposed to Madeleine) and increasingly speculative and irresponsible reporting. We expected this reporting and level of focus to subside, however it was sustained for a period of over 12 months.
16. The Portuguese criminal system is different to that in the UK. Unlike the UK, in Portugal there is no formal dialogue between the law enforcement agencies and the public including the press ; indeed they are prohibited by law from having any. This means that the Police, the Policia Judiciaria would not make any public appeals for information concerning Madeleine’s disappearance or have any dialogue with the public about any information which the public may have. This was incredibly frustrating given we came from a country which encourages these sorts of appeals in order to ensure those investigating have as much information as possible available to them. The police were therefore not influencing the media direction and coverage.
17. The lack of dialogue with the press obviously leaves the system open to abuse. When elements of the PJ wanted information to be known to the public, which was inevitable in a case with this much attention, they would leak it to sections of the Portuguese media. We strongly believe that individuals involved in the investigation deliberately fed the media snippets of information that were often out of context, exaggerated or simply untrue.
26. Much of the coverage in the early days was entirely speculative since there was very little ’news’ to report. We quickly realised that such speculation was not helpful and generally decided to stop reading newspapers and watching the TV coverage, which was virtually constant with the presence of 24 hour news channels.
28. We expected the media 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 in Praia da Luz were under intense pressure from their news desks to file more copy concerning the story.
30. As information from the investigation started to dry up the journalists had to look elsewhere for their copy. Not only were journalists seeking stones in Portugal they were also seeking stories from and about our friends and relatives at home in Leicestershire. At other times we believe they were simply making stories up. One story that sticks out in this regard was an article in the Daily Star that suggested that we had sold Madeleine into white slavery to pay off our mortgage. I cannot imagine how any self-respecting journalist in Praia da Luz at that time, and who could witness what Kate and I were going through, could write such lies.
31. Early on the press also focussed a great deal of attention on Robert Murat, a British citizen living in Praia da Luz. Mr Murat was the first person to be named as arguido by the PJ. As a result there were numerous articles concerning Mr Murat, his past and his family along side other reporting on the investigation of Madeleine.
32. Some of the worst articles that were published in the UK were often based on articles originally published in Portugal. A very small quote or theory in a Portuguese article would be spun into a front page headline in the UK and presented as fact.
33. There was also often a considerable disconnect between the headline and the content of the article. This was particularly upsetting as it appeared the headline was only written for its sensationalist nature in order to try and get people to buy the newspaper. This might have been a little more acceptable if it was guaranteed that those who read the headline went on to read the whole of the article inside but as experience suggests, it was likely to be read more by people who would only glance at a copy of one particular paper say on the garage forecourt or on the news stands. An explicit denial of the events in question by Clarence, Kate or myself rarely stopped articles from being published.
35. As if being suspected of being in some way connected with Madeleine’s disappearance was not distressing enough the press considered our arguido status reason to declare open season on Kate and myself.
36. What followed was a sustained, inaccurate and malicious series of headlines in a number of papers which gave the impression that we were in some way responsible for or involved in Madeleine’s disappearance. Again the headlines were particularly shocking.
37. Whilst we expected the story to gain prominence again with our being named arguidos we did not expect the renewed vigour with which the journalists pursued us. We were virtually being tried by the media which reported wholly inaccurate and incredibly damaging stories day after day whilst we were ’threatened’ with imprisonment if we broke judicial secrecy.
38. On returning to the UK, we asked Clarence Mitchell if he would act as our spokesman and for the search for Madeleine given how well he had handled the media when he was with us in Portugal.
40. I cannot put into words how hurtful it was to read some of the articles that followed in the days after we were named as arguidos. For instance the London Evening Standard splashed the following front page headline on its 7 September 2007 edition, the day we were declared arguidos : "POLICE BELIEVE MOTHER KILLED MADDY’.
41. In the following day’s Daily Mail a journalist called David Jones, who I had never met, felt it appropriate to write an article with the sub heading l pray the Portuguese police are careering down the wrong track, but from the start, a terrible nagging doubt has refused to leave me.
(Robert Jay assumera naturellemet que c'est Gerald qui parle, mais c'est une citation de Kate).
44. Other articles suggested for example that Kate and I were "swingers’, criticised our faith or attacked our parenting. I find this journalism unforgivable. The articles we included in our libel complaint are referred to later in this statement.
45. During this time we also received a large volume of hate mail including a death threat which I believe was largely attributable to these articles and their reporting of the investigation.
47. These photographers felt it necessary to follow our every move and acted with utter disregard for our family’s private life. They were camped outside our house for several days before the police asked them to move to the end of the cul de sac where they appeared daily for months. They would often bang on the car windows to provoke a reaction when we left the house with the twins. This was obviously incredibly frightening for the twins and on more than one occasion Amelie said to Kate Mummy, I’m scared. It is difficult to explain to your children why these sorts of events happen.
48. When we wanted to go for a run we would drive to a different location in order to avoid being photographed. Even this had to stop when several photographers would try and follow us and wait by our car so they could get their photograph. I have also had my privacy invaded by being photographed playing golf when on a private course when I was actually trying to get some respite from the media.
49. Another trick deployed by the papers would be to distort photographs taken of Kate. We believe that at least one newspaper elongated photographs in an attempt to make Kate look thinner than she was. They would be accompanied by articles commenting on Kate’s health and how she looked "fair" or "fragile" and implying that she may be anorexic.
Effect of Articles
50. It is difficult to ever properly explain how Kate and I felt as a result of these articles. It was devastating and totally distracted from the search for our innocent, missing daughter Madeleine. The abductor must have been smiling wryly.
52. It is very likely that such reporting would stop people looking for, or pass on relevant information about Madeleine if they thought she was already dead. To this day, particularly in other European countries, we are still asked about widely publicised lies such as Madeleine’s DNA and blood in our hire car and tranquillisers that we had supposedly given to our children.
Raising our concern
54. On 17 September 2007 Matthew Baggott, Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police, felt it necessary to circulate a letter to the British media voicing their serious misgivings as to the media coverage and urging greater restraint.
55. This letter did not appear to have any effect and on 8 October 2007 he repeated this request. Copies of these letters are attached as ’Exhibit GM 1’.
56. Further meetings were organised with the editors and Clarence Mitchell (now working for us again) accompanied by Angus McBride. It was not long before the rumour mill went in to overdrive with wildly inaccurate and speculative stories appearing about how we were implicated in Madeleine’s disappearance.
58. It was our belief that the Express Group newspapers, the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star and Sunday Star were the worst offenders when it came to the publishing of sensationalist articles. They were by no means the only offenders but they were certainly the worst.
59. I understand from Clarence that the editor of the Daily Express acknowledged that some of their headlines had overstepped the mark and that he informed him that they would be more careful to check the accuracy of their reporting in the future.
60. This did not appear to have the desired effect and variations of the same malicious and damaging stories would reappear over and over. Articles continued despite our solicitor writing again on 10 October 2007. This had no effect and the newspapers continued to publish these stories despite not having any reliable sources and our assertions that they were untrue.
61. I can only presume that they made this decision on a purely commercial basis. By which I mean they considered their ability to make money from the additional sales of the newspapers carrying the stories to be more important than taking into account our legitimate concerns as to the accuracy of the reporting and the effect it would have on our family - most significantly the search for, and well-being of our missing daughter.
62. We decided not to take legal action at this time feeling we needed to prioritise matters, such as our efforts ’on the ground’ to find Madeleine and our arguido status before dealing with the inaccuracies in the press. I know that Clarence continued to try and reason with the press but to little avail.
Libel Claims - Express Group Newspapers
65. Carter-Ruck sent a letter before action on 30 January 2008 to the editor of the Daily Express. On 6 February 2008 they sent a similar letter to the editor of the Daily Star. These letters attached a schedule of the most serious articles we complained of. A copy of these schedules and articles is attached to this statement as ’Exhibit GM2’ and ’Exhibit GM3’.
66. A selection of the worst front page headlines include:
70. After a period of negotiation a statement in open Court was read on 19 March 2008 and payment of £550,000.00 was made to Madeleine’s fund.
71. Before this sum was agreed, Carter-Ruck advised that there was a good argument that we should be entitled to exemplary damages given the apparent commercial gains which the Express Group would have expected to have made (and no doubt did make) from publishing the articles complained of (4). However, it was not our wish to drag out the dispute by bringing proceedings against the Express Group. We simply wanted an appropriate sum to reflect the gravity of the libels, and above all, a full apology and correction to inform the readers and the wider public, so that we could continue to focus on and improve the search for Madeleine. We also believed that such a settlement would send out a very strong message to other media outlets.
74. Following the complaint which we made to Express Newspapers it was noticeable that the whole tone of the press coverage about us - both in Express Newspapers publications elsewhere - changed. In essence, the reporting became far more balanced and responsible, and we did not see a return to the wildly misleading headlines which had been published about us in late 2007 and early 2008.
76. Needless to say, despite being unfairly victimised on the front page and elsewhere, their settlements were not well reported and they did not receive the unprecedented front page apology we did, it being tucked away on page 21 of The Sun, page 20 of the Daily Mirror and page 5 of the Daily Express.
Libel proceedings - Associated Newspapers
78. In July 2008, after our complaint against Express Newspapers had been resolved, we made a further libel complaint in relation to coverage in the Daily Mail and in The Evening Standard (and its website thisislondon.co.uk), all of which at that time were published by Associated Newspapers.
79. While Express Newspapers was undoubtedly the worst offender in terms of their defamatory coverage of us, Associated Newspapers had also published a number of very serious allegations about us. We felt it was important to seek vindicationin relation to these allegations also and to inform this different readership group of the previously inaccurate reports they will have encountered and subsequently based their opinions on.
80. The complaint was resolved with the payment of a substantial donation (6) to be used in the search for Madeleine, and the publication of an apology by the Evening Standard. While the Daily Mail agreed to carry a number of free ’adverts’ (or appeals for information) on behalf of the Find Madeleine campaign in their continental editions, they were not willing to publish an apology. The Daily Mail resisted on the basis that they had published a number of articles which were supportive of us which they believed largely balanced the articles reporting allegations and suspicions about us. While we were disappointed by their stance, we had no wish to embark on a protracted dispute with the newspaper, particularly given the need to maintain good relations with the press in continuing to publicise the search for Madeleine.
Conditional Fee Agreement81. I should mention that Carter-Ruck made clear that they would be willing to act for us in our libel dispute on the basis of a Conditional Fee Agreement, albeit that in the end this was not necessary as Express Newspapers and Associated Newspapers did not contest our complaints. However, had it not been for the availability of a CFA, it would have been very difficult - if not impossible - for Kate and I to have brought the complaint as we do not have the resources (7) to take on large media organisations in this way.
84. When the News of the World (NotW) editor, Colin Myler, found out about our interview with HELLO! he telephoned me direct. He was angry and asked (rhetorically) how he could be expected to help if we gave away stories to rival publications and that the staff here felt let down. The NotW had very generously raised a £1.5m reward for anyone who provided information leading to the return of Madeleine (9). It appeared from our telephone conversation that Mr Myler felt this meant that they had first refusal on any story or interview we wished to give subsequently. It also sadly highlighted that any help given to help Find Madeleine was conditional.
85. In the end we were made to feel so guilty that we agreed to give an interview to the NotWdespite not really wanting to do so. At the time we did not want to upset the NotW and wanted to keep them onside for Madeleine’s sake. To our amazement on the anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance an article by NotW columnist Carole Malone also featured in the paper under the heading 1 wept for Kate but I still blame her.
Kate's Diary - News of the World
86. On 14 September 2008, and without any notice to us, the NotW published complete transcripts from Kate’s personal diary. The NotW led with a front page article with the headline "KATE’S DIARY: IN HER OWN WORDS". The article continued on pages 4 to 7 with a leading article on page 8. Pages 4 and 5 had the heading "PLEASE GOD. IS SHE DEAD?’ running across the both pages. Kate was distraught and in her words, felt mentally raped.
87. Whilst the article itself was presented in a positive way and highlighted the reasons why the articles we have previously complained of were untrue, the diary was deeply personal and obviously intensely private. To this day I have not read its contents.
88. It beggared belief that the NotW felt it appropriate to publish to the world at large Kate’s innermost feelings, recorded by her at a time of unimaginable anxiety and stress.
89. The diary itself had been seized by the PJ in August 2007. This was the only possible source from whom the NotW could have obtained the diary and they therefore must have been aware that it had been obtained without Kate’s consent, was a serious breach of privacy and confidence and a breach of copyright.
90. Of more concern was that when we investigated this leak it became apparent that there was an order from a Portuguese Judge which stated that the PJ should return the diary to Kate and destroy all copies in its possession, given it had no relevance to the investigation and use of it would be a violation of its author. As a result we are unsure as to how the NotW obtained a copy.
91. Further the text that was published in the NotW did not match Kate’s actual diaries. It would appear that it was an English translation of a Portuguese translation of the original diaries made for the PJ. As you would suspect some things were lost in translation.
Continuing Relationship with the Press
96. Despite our repeated complaints to the media we have on a number of occasions been forced to seek assistance, legal and otherwise, in dealing with press issues at the eleventh hour. These issues inevitably arise on a Friday night or at the weekend when we would normally hope to be spending quality time together as a family. Instead we would have the stress of urgent calls with Clarence, subsequent conversations with Carter-Ruck and then waiting to see what could be agreed, whilst at all times knowing that we may need to apply for an injunction or suffer the consequences of an authorised publication..
97. An example of such an issue was an intended story that was to allege that Kate was undergoing further IVF treatment in order to have a baby to 'replace Madeleine’. This was completely untrue and extremely upsetting. The story was pulled at the eleventh hour as a result of our intervention.
98. Whilst interest in our family has on the whole died down when a new story about Madeleine does arise the papers are still quick to report it. Unfortunately despite all of the warnings we have given they continue to do so with little or no regard to our family and more importantly the search for Madeleine.
100. For example in July of this year the Daily Mail reported that Madeleine had been sighted in India. They did so without contacting Kate or me or any of the number of people searching for Madeleine. Our concern is that this type of reporting has no regard for Madeleine’s well being or of how best this information may be used in the investigation. At worst it has the potential to tip off her abductors that we know where they are, which could have tragic consequences. It appears to us that publication of ’the story’ seems to be more important than potentially apprehending those responsible for Madeleine’s disappearance and bringing them to justice.
Press Complaints Commission
101. When I gave evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport select committee on 10 March 2009a number of questions were raised as to the presence or otherwise of the PCC during this period and their willingness to get involved.
102. Whilst we understand that the PCC have said they tried to contact us through the British Embassy in Portugal in May 2007 the first we were aware of this was when the PCC gave evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport select committee in 2009.
104. However, when it came to the inaccurate reporting of articles both defamatory and otherwise the PCC did nothing that we are aware of. The PCC did nothing proactive before our libel complaint. We did approach the PCC about these articles but the then chairman, Sir Christopher Meyer, explicitly told us that It would be better if we were to seek redress through the Courts. I found it amazing that the press regulator could do nothing to regulate the press.
105. Legal action was always a last resort for Kate and me. That said we did not want these offensive slurs to continue, especially given their effect on the search for Madeleine. A complaint in this regard is nearly always retrospective and by the time you complain the damage has already been done.
106. The advice we had from our lawyers was that the press would not consider an adjudication from the PCC to be a deterrent. We were advised, and this was confirmed by Sir Christopher, that an effective remedy to prevent further damaging articles could only be achieved through the Courts and that the PCC were essentially powerless in stopping the Press pre-publication.
108. I am very much a believer of the free press but there has to be a remedy available when journalists and the media overstep the mark. it seems to me that the PCC is clearly ineffective in this regard and a much more stringent regulatory regime should be put in place.
111. In May 2011, Kate’s account of Madeleine’s disappearance and the effect on our family was published in a book entitled simply "Madeleine".
112. The decision to publish the book was a very difficult one, and one we’d prefer not to have made at all. Kate wrote it to give an account of the truth, first and foremost for our three children. The book is incredibly detailed and includes some very personal, intimate and emotional aspects of our lives. Our preference in an ideal world would be to share little of this detail but without it, it wouldn’t have conveyed the extent to which our life has been impacted by Madeleine’s abduction and the subsequent press coverage we endured. Kate needed the book to be true and real. As with every action we have taken over the last four years, it always boils down to whether what we are doing could help us to find Madeleine. When the answer to that question is yes, or even possibly, we do it.
La fille de l'ambassadeur raconte une histoire mensongère de bébés morts car arrachés aux couveuses et la narration de propagande est reprise à l'infini... Comme le dit Kate MC, à force de répéter le même mensonge, on le prend pour un fait...
114. One of those we met was Rebekah Brooks who was very persuasive. She set out very clearly The Sun’s support for our search for Madeleine. She asked us our priority at that time which was for a formal review of Madeleine’s case. A Review is a highly valuable investigative process, performed as standard practice in the UK for major unsolved crimes. After four years, no review had been carried out in Madeleine’s case. We had by then met with three Home Secretaries to request a formal review without success.
115. Rebekah said that she would actively assist us in seeking a review and set out various ideas of how The Sun could help. It was this campaign and its potential to help the search for Madeleine that persuaded us to agree to serialised extracts of Kate’s book being published in The Sun and The Sunday Times (11). On the launch day of Kate’s book, 12 May 2011, which was Madeleine’s eighth birthday, The Sun published an open letter from us to The Prime Minister requesting a review. Later the same day it was announced by the Home Office that a formal review would take place.
Culture change Required
116. Over the last four and a half years my family has been through some of the worst ordeals anyone could ever have the misfortune to experience. As if the disappearance of Madeleine was not enough, this has been severely compounded by our family’s treatment at the hands of the British press and the tabloid media in particular. That they are free to do as they please without proper regulation is frightening. Without major change other innocent individuals and families will suffer as we have done.
118. It has been said by the media that a press free to question and investigate those in power is required within a democratic society. Before Madeleine’s disappearance I would have strongly agreed with such a statement. Our experience since has shown that the press have repeatedly failed to take into account the very serious responsibility that comes with such freedom and have very little regard for the public’s legitimate right to privacy. The press may also say that mistakes happen so rarely that they do not justify enforced or statutory regulation. However as soon as such ’mistakes’ are published the damage is done and often cannot be fully reversed. Knowing what it is like to experience such ill treatment at the hands of an unregulated press I no longer believe that self regulation of the media is appropriate.
Date : 30.10.2011
Kate MC souscrira à cette déposition et la signera le 22.11.2011
(1) L'ex-journaliste du Daily Mirror, SD, fut en fait envoyée par le Foreign Office à PDL comme attachée de presse, chargée d'accompagner les MC dans les conférences de presse et les interrogatoires policiers.
(2) Donc avant la rencontre avec Sir Christopher Meyer.
(4) C'est le même argument qui servira dans l'assignation en justice de Gonçalo Amaral.
(5) Le PR portugais n'a pas dit que il n'y avait pas, mais qu'on n'avait pas trouvé... d'indice impliquant les MC. Il a dit aussi qu'il était plus plausible que Madeleine soit morte.
(6) Montant tenu secret.
(7) La situation a sans doute changé, car les MC ont eu les moyens d'assigner en justice Gonçalo Amaral pour la somme de 1.250.000 €, soit trois fois plus que les dommages demandés à l'Express Group.
(8) Les MC ont en fait, image ?, pris le train en route, l'idée de ce type d'alerte, déjà appliqué en France, date du début du siècle.
(9) Le destin de cette somme, en fait £21,257.32, est incertain, compte tenu de la disparition de NotW. Elle aurait été remise à Madeleine's Fund.
(10) 125 mille livres, tout de même.
(11) Bonnes feuilles à ne pas mettre entre toutes les mains (spéculations sur Madeleine chez les pédophiles) qui ont valu (à Madeleine's Fund) 550.000 livres.