Clarence Mitchell at the Peter Levy Show
BBC Radio Humberside - 06.01.2011
transcrit par Nigel Moore
Peter Levy : Yes, here we are, BBC Radio Humberside, BBC Lincolnshire and we're into the second hour this Thursday. Thank you for being there. I hope your day is good. Now, anyone who's followed the sad case of the missing girl, Madeleine McCann, will know the name of my next guest. Clarence Mitchell is a former BBC journalist and television presenter who started his career here, at the BBC. He's been spokesperson for Kate and Gerry McCann since their daughter disappeared in May 2007 and Clarence is joining us on the programme today. Clarence, good afternoon to you.
Clarence Mitchell : Peter, good afternoon. How many years has it been since we last spoke?
PL : I don't know, it's, errr... it's quite a few years, errr...
PL : Too many... 'cause, errr... for people... Clarence used to work at, errr... Look North... in fact, you used to live... you used to live in Hull, didn't you? Or some...
CM : That's right, on Sunny Bank, in Hull, errr... I... I... it was a great city, and I very much enjoyed my time there. It was, phwooah, some years ago now. It would have been 88/89, around then; the last century, virtually.
PL : My... my, errr... memory, well, there's memory... many memories of you, but... but you actually were the... the journalist who... I think you were... you were travelling back from London in your car the night of the... of the terrible, errr... air crash at Kegworth, weren't you?
CM : I was. I'd actually been down to London to visit my parents, errm... while working on Look North during the week, errm... and I was on the way back up on the M1. I was at Leicester, Forest East Service Station, errm... and the first I was aware of what seemed to be a major accident was the number of ambulances and police cars flying under the... the restaurant that straddles the motorway there. Errr... And I immediately got in my car and basically followed them, as... as reporters should do, and it became clear very appar... very quickly that this wasn't a... a simple, local, small accident, errr... this was a major incident and, errr... yes, you're absolutely right. I... I broadcast live, errr... using a early rudimentary mobile phone from my car, errm... at the beginning of, errr... from memory, that would have been 89.
PL : Coming up to... to date, or more recently, how did you first meet the McCanns?
CM : I met them, errm... because of my role following the BBC, errm... I was with the BBC, as you rightly said, for around twenty years. I then joined the Cabinet Office, errm... as director of the media monitoring unit for, errr... the government which meant working at... with No. 10 and all of the major Departments of State and because of my existing media contacts, errm... whenever a big story came along, errr... I was considered, errm... as a possible, errr... press officer, if you like, for the government to go and assist the media on the ground. Now I thought it would be something like bird flu, or foot and mouth, or perhaps another terrorist incident where government press officers are... are sometimes sent out to assist the police or the emergency services on the ground deal with the media, errm... but as it was, errm... I was told that a... a child had gone missing in Portugal and, errr... the media interest was developing very rapidly and that the ambassador in Portugal had asked for assistance for his press office team, errm... So I was effectively seconded to the Foreign Office and sent out to Portugal. I actually met Gerry for the first time in Leicestershire. He came back to collect some belongings from home, errr... and he and I then flew back to Portugal in May 2007 and I met Kate out there for the first time. So that's... that's how it came about. I went out as a civil servant and met them through the... through the consular assistance that they were offered.
PL : What are they like as... as people, because, I mean, they... they've been through, you know, errr... hell and back really but... and also, at one time, of course, everybody was pointing fingers very much at... at them?
CM : They are coping as... as best they can under the circumstances. Nobody ever expected that, errm... we'd be here, what, nearly four years further down the line without Madeleine being found, errr... without her being recovered and brought home to... to her rightful place at home with them. Errm... they have good days and bad days like anybody. If they feel that there is momentum in the private investigation that's still very much ongoing - they have a small team of former British police officers working on the case - errm... they feel, they... they draw strength from that or if the campaigning side of the work that they constantly do, errr... is going well, again they... they draw strength from that. It's during the quieter periods when nothing much appears to be happening, errm... that they can... they can be knocked back a little bit and that's only natural and perfectly human. Errm... But they are very committed to the search for their daughter. They want an answer. And until they know what has happened to their daughter, and until this awful situation is resolved, they will keep going. And yes, you're right, there was a lot of criticism at different times and a lot of leaked rubbish, frankly, that came out in the Portuguese press and was then repeated without any attempt to check it in the British media and then recycled a third time into... back into Portugal. Errm...This was a very difficult period for them. They were, errr... part of the investigation as 'arguido'; the status that's given to people who, errr... the police wish to speak to about incidents in Portugal. But that status was ultimately lifted and the Portuguese Attorney General made it clear there was absolutely no evidence, errr... to, in any way, to implicate them in Madeleine's disappearance which, of course, there isn't because, errm... I know them well enough now to say with with absolute confidence that... that... of course, they were'nt involved. They are a grieving family and they need all the help and support they can get, errm... to keep the search for their daughter going.
PL : You can't imagine what it would be like as a...as a...as a parent to know that the finger is pointed at...at you, when they're going through that. I mean, it... it's extraordinary really, isn't it?
CM : Well, it... it is, but it is also perfectly understandable. In any police enquiry the police will look at those nearest and dearest to the victim of the crime. It... it's a standard procedure and... and, you know...
PL : Because, very often... very often it is those people.
CM : Well, in this case, it isn't! And, but... you know, Kate and Gerry would be the first people to say they welcomed the police looking at them so that they could be ruled out. You know, they made that point themselves several times early on, errm... that the police should do whatever they need to do to find the true abductor; the person responsible for Madeleine's disappearance. Errm... and, as I say, that process was a lengthy, drawn out one and there were very, errr... a great number of unhelpful leaks at times, speculative things that weren't factually correct, then got repeated, errr... there were language difficulties, translation difficulties, all sorts of things that led to this storm around them, errm... and it was... at times it was very bleak for them to have to cope with that, but they got through it and, as I say, they... they are as strong as ever as a couple and they're doing their best to... to cope and maintain momentum behind the search for their daughter.
PL : Well, you've given them, errr... amazing support your... yourself. Errm... What... how do they... when you say there's teams of people working, are these... these are not, errr... errr... ordinary police, these are... these are... are 'paid for' hired police, are they? Working on it, still?
CM : There is... there is no official police search, if you like, for Madeleine going on, errm... at all. When... when the Portuguese authorities shelved the case, errr... that effectively ended the formal police work. Of course, if any significant new leads were to develop, then the police may well re-visit it. But, at the moment, the only people actively looking for Madeleine are a small team employed by the McCanns, errr... through their Fund, and the pub... British public - in fact, the international public have been very, very generous to them - errr... money still occasionally comes in. Errm... They've also had a number of settlements with various newspaper groups, because of some of the libels that were written about them and their friends, and all of the proceeds of those actions have gone into the Fund to... to keep it going. Errm... And that money is used to employ... they've had a number of agencies, private detective agencies over the years, errr... on short term contracts. But currently, errm... it's the... the investigation is a private investigation being led by Dave Edgar, who's a former RUC officer, errr... retired, errr... and he calls in assistance, errr... from his colleague, former colleagues in various police forces, as and when he needs it. Errr... And there is work going on in Britain and in Portugal at different times but, because of the sensitive nature of it, obviously I can't go into any detail, but it's very much ongoing.
PL : No, I... I... I understand that to... totally. What... again, don't answer if you don't want to, but I know that every parent listening will be interested to know the answer to this. What do they... because it is a... the whole thing is a mystery; what... what do they believe, what do they think is the strongest possibility of... of what happened to little Madeleine?
CM : Kate and Gerry know Mad... know their daughter well enough to know she didn't wander out of the apartment, as has often been speculated. The only assumption they can make is that somebody took her out of the apartment. That is the working hypothesis on which the private investigation is also based. That there is somebody, perhaps one, or just two or three people out there who know what happened and that there was an element of pre-meditation, pre-planning went into it. Possibly because of the location of the apartment; it was on a fairly remote corner of that particular resort. Errm... Children would have been coming and going over months/weeks beforehand and there... it... the private investigation believes there was a degree of pre-meditation and planning, errm... and the very fact that nothing has been found of Madeleine since, not a trace, tends to suggest that she has been taken somewhere else and has been... hopefully, is being looked after, or at least cared for, errr... with someone. Errr... That is... that is the working hypothesis. In some cases, if... if God forbid, she had been harmed, she probably would have been found long ago but she hasn't been and that's why they keep going.
PL : So the belief is that she is... she is alive and being looked after, and probably still in Portugal?
CM : As... as Kate and Gerry have always said, until they have the answer as to what has happened and until they are presented with incontrovertible proof that she has been harmed, they will continue to believe - just as logically, without any evidence to the contrary - that she could still just as easily be alive. And every time... even if they ever begin to doubt that themselves, which they don't, but if they ever do, something like Jaycee Lee Dugard in the States happens...
PL : Yeah.
CM : ...or other people emerge from diff... very different situations but it can happen. It is rare, errm... but it can happen and each of those cases do give them a renewed hope that one day they too will get that call that says Madeleine has been recovered safe and well.
PL : They must be very heartened by the huge amount of... of public interest and... and concern and care for... for them, that there's been over the last 3 and half years?
CM : They... they are immensely grateful to everybody who continues to support them, to the media as well. The very fact that you and I are now talking about it, so far down the line. Many other families of missing children, errr... have not had that luxury, if you like, of the continued media interest, which...
PL : Why did it capture the imagination so much?
CM : Oh, how long's your programme? There are all sorts of reasons but essentially, errm... it... it played into the... every parental nightmare of losing your children whilst on holiday, errr... it raised the whole question of parental responsibility. Kate and Gerry felt they and their friends were mounting a perfectly correct and proper checking system on the... on the... given the... the lack of resources available to them, at the time, but they made a mistake and they... they got it wrong.
PL : And it's kicking... it's kicking yourself isn't it? You know, it's... it's the... it's... it's the... you know, it... and that... they've got to live with that, haven't they?
CM : Yes, they do and, God forbid, they may have to live with that, you know, for the rest of their lives. Let's hope not, but... but they accept that they made a judgement call and... and, that million-to-one chance, it went wrong and, as you say, they... they have to live with that now. And some of the recriminations and online... there's a very small vocal minority online who... who attack them for being negligent. That is completely misplaced and entirely wrong and doesn't actually help find Madeleine in any shape or form. Errr... But the vast majority of right-thinking, decent people understand the awful situation that they find themselves in, errr... and are supportive and, of course, wish them well and hope that Madeleine will be found.
PL : And, of course, errr... we all do, and everybody listening as well. And they were planning a book to raise some money but they've delayed the publication because they didn't want it to... to clash with the royal wedding?
CM : Well, that was a decision that was taken by... by the publishers. Errm... As I'm sure you know, any book publication involves quite lengthy lead in times with dates for printing, and distribution, and promotion and all the rest of it, errm... and they had announced... the publishers had announced, it would be April the 28th. Errr... Kate is still writing the book, at the moment. Errm... She's well on with it, but she's still writing it, and, errm... then, of course, the royal wedding was announced just after that as being the very next day, so logistically the media and all the distribution processes will be dominated by the royal wedding, in the run-up to that date, and probably slightly beyond. So it made... it made sense from the publisher's point of view to move the production deadline, errr... and the production... the publication date. Errr... This is quite common with many book... book launches. Errr... its only been moved on a fortnight and it's on May the 12th now - will be the day it appears - which, of course, is Madeleine's eighth birthday, which is also highly appropriate, and it will still be very much tied into the... the fourth anniversary of Madeleine going missing if... if, God forbid, we... we have to get that far. Errm... and of course by then some of the royal wedding coverage may well have moved on, errm... and hopefully people will be able to see the book and see what Kate and Gerry are saying, errr... much more clearly.
PL : Okay, well listen, errr... Clarence, it's, errr... it's good of you to, errr... come on the programme and, errr... and talk about them and when you next speak to, errr... Gerry and Kate do give them our, errr... best wishes. Errr... Very good to have you on the programme. I wish you well, onward. And, errr... and how do you spend your days, these days, when you're not, errr... when you're not, errr... doing the wonderful work for them that you are?
CM : Well, thank you for the good wishes Peter, and, of course, I will pass those on... on to them. Errr... I speak to them pretty much virtually every day. I either phone or email or contact. Errr... And I will certainly make it clear to them that... that you... you've said that. Errm... I'm now working as a result of moving into Public Relations, if you like, with the Madeleine, errm... situation. I now work for a PR agency in London, Lewis PR. I'm the Director of Media Strategy and Public Affairs which means that I work with a number of their clients as well, advising them on their media contact. And if any particular stories flare up involving those clients I... I generally act as a... a bit of a go-between, in much the same way as I do for Kate and Gerry, with... with the media, the print, broadcast and online media. Errm... And on the public affairs side because of my governmental work, errm... I'm able to assist as well, where I can, with, errr... governmental contact for some of the clients too. So it's... it's a busy old agenda, errr... just as frenetic as... as the BBC in many ways; if it's on the other side of the fence.
PL : Well, I know you're a workaholic. That's what... that's what I can tell people, errr... but, errr... people, errr... in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Errr... Very good to have you on the programme, Clarence.
CM : Peter, lovely to speak again, thanks very much.
PL : Bye.
Stephen Nolan : Our last story, errr... of tonight. Nearly four years since their daughter disappeared, Kate and Gerry McCann have written a book about their ordeal. Tonight, I've been talking to the man charged with keeping the hunt for Maddie in the public eye. A hard job these days for Clarence Mitchell, the McCann's spokesman.
Clarence Mitchell : Well that's the fickle nature of the news media, isn't it, and the attention span of news desks. I mean the... the situation with Madeleine is still very much continuing and I'm still very much working on it on behalf of Kate and Gerry and all of the people who are... are helping them looking for Madeleine. Errm... I now work for a firm in London, Lewis PR, errm... but I'm still very much, as I say, active for Kate and Gerry and media enquiries still come in from around the world every day, in one form or another. Errr... All sorts of enquiries, interview requests, suggestions for features, sightings of possibly Madeleine. All sorts of things. They all have to either be passed on to the private investigators or we take decisions as to how we deal with them. So although I, and Madeleine, and the whole situation may not be in the news as much as it was, its still very active for me.
SN : And, of course, it... it's by the very nature of how news works that you're going to have that period that you've got to exploit, for want of a better word. You've got to get the maximum publicity because, you know, it will go away and it's gone now.
CM : Well, I would argue that it hasn't gone completely. Kate and Gerry and myself are very grateful to the international news media, not just the UK, around the world for the continuing interest in Madeleine and whether she will be found. Errm... many, many families around the world of missing people have not had that luxury, if you like, where the media visit them at the start of their situation and then go away for good. That hasn't quite happened in Madeleine. I mean, look, here we are, nearly four years on, and still here we are discussing her on national radio. For that I'm grateful to the BBC and to you and your programme producers.
SN : How possible do you think it is though, Clarence, because you're a journalist at heart and you... you understand the amount of publicity you got; you understand that was exceptional. How... how possible is it that Madeleine is still alive given that level of publicity'
CM : It is still possible that she is alive because there is no evidence to suggest that she isn't and that's the whole basis on which the investigation, the private investigation, continues to this day. In the absence of anything to suggest that she has been harmed or, as you suggest, has been killed, and there is no evidence to suggest that, then not only Kate and Gerry but everybody working with them will continue to keep going until an answer is found.
SN : Did the campaign cost a lot of money'
CM : The campaign has cost a lot of money and continues to cost a lot of money and it's only happening because of the vast generosity of people around the world. If you remember an awful lot of money came in very quickly due to that publicity level that we were discussing. People responded and Kate and Gerry, everybody associated with them are immensely grateful to this day for every penny of it. It was all spent in terms of the investigation and running a private investigation in two countries, sometimes in several continents where if things have to be followed up around the world, is a very expensive business. All of that's been spent on various contracts, on various private agencies, errm... since... since it happened. At the moment, a small team led by Dave Edgar, a former RUC officer, errr... are... are still investigating and they are funded by the Find Madeleine Fund. We also, if you remember, had a number of settlements against certain newspaper groups, not least the Express, and all of the monies that were raised through that in settlement to Kate, Gerry and their friends went back into the fund and have been ploughed back into it. So the money is still there but it... it ebbs and flows as the investigative needs require.
SN : I want to talk to you, Clarence, about how the newspapers, errr... errr... dealt with Gerry and Kate in... in the context of what's happened in... in the Jo Yeates murder, as well, errr... of... of recent times. But before we do that, errm... what is your gut instinct because you've seen all the information and all the leads coming in' What's your gut instinct now as to what's happened' Are you comfortable sharing that'
CM : My instinct has been, and remains, that there is a chance that she's alive and that's the basis we're all doing this. We wouldn't... if we thought there was no hope, you know, what would be the point of going on' But, because there is that absence of anything to suggest what's happened, it is just as logical to keep going. That's certainly what keeps Kate and Gerry going. Obviously, as her parents, they will maintain that. But for all of their supporters, people who are trying to help them, myself included, I honestly don't know what happened and therefore I've got to keep going, and as long as they want me to keep helping them then I'm happy to do that.
SN : Oh look, Kate and Gerry have recently said that they may need to face the fact that they may never face... they may never find their daughter.
CM : Well, in their darker moments, of course, it was perfectly human, perfectly natural, to think that, but equally they're very rational and they think that until they know, they will keep ploughing all of their efforts into it. It's for Madeleine, it's their daughter for goodness sake and, of course, you or I would do the same, I would think. They've been very fortunate in having the resources and having the support because so many people have been kind enough to back them.
SN : When you get that world-wide attention, you see all different types of humanity because lots and lots of people are... are contacting you with information. And indeed some... some crazy people are contacting you with crazy information.
CM : Anything that develops a profile, errr... as high as this case has, does attract all sorts of people. You're quite right. Errm... most of them, the vast majority, are well meaning and if information can be checked out and is credible or potentially credible then it goes through, not only to the British police, it goes through to the Portuguese police, and it goes through to the private investigators to be assessed; prioritised. It's very much a police operation. It's former British policemen that are working on it and then they will act upon it. Now amongst those, of course, there are the occasional slightly more lunatic things that are said.
SN : Did you get much nasty stuff'
CM : There was a certain amount, errm...
Stephen Nolan: And what... what was that' People... people gloating that she'd been killed or what... what type of stuff was it'
CM : I'm not going to talk about things that will lead inevitably, even now, to tabloid headlines about ghouls saying X, Y or Z. Some of the things that were said were awful, hurtful and, in cases where there was a direct threat, or any suggestion of anything happening, it went straight to the police and, in certain cases, which have never received publicity, police took action to stop it. To this day there is a very small but highly vocal minority online; the joys of the Internet. The Internet is a wonderful thing but it has its downside, as we all know. There is a very vocal but very small minority of people who believe Kate and Gerry were negligent and to this day they rail and rant against them. They are powerless, they know nothing and it... it's totally irrelevant. But we keep a... a weather eye on what they're saying and if action needs to be taken, in certain cases, then it is.
SN : So, share with me, what it is like for Kate and Gerry when there is this media onslaught suggesting that they might have killed their own children. What is that like'
CM : Well... it... what do you think' It is just appalling. Errr... It is hurtful in the extreme but it... it is just dreadful. And, of course, what makes it all the more frustrating for them was that they knew that much of the coverage was based on either falsehoods, misunderstandings, deliberate leaks from certain quarters, that were then mistranslated, either through mistake or through deliberately. A story that would appear on a Monday in Portugal, saying something was possibly the case - which we knew wasn't true - would then become hardened up as fact on the Tuesday in the British press and then, on Wednesday, it would be repeated, 'as reported by the illustrious London paper X or Y'.
SN : And presumably, Clarence, you're on the phone to the editors of those newspapers warning them about legal threats. The lawyers are on the phone. You're on the phone trying to stop them doing this and continuing to do this'
CM : I was trying to brief the reporters on the ground. There were three packs, if you like, of journalists at the height of it. There were journal... journalists on the ground in Praia da Luz - where we were - wanting... almost in tears some days, demanding lines because they were under pressure from their news desk to deliver a front page splash. And certain days we didn't have anything to say, or the police had asked us not to say anything, and I couldn't help them but the whole thing was a nonsense but it was driving sales of papers. I had a second group of journalists in Leicestershire, and in the UK, trying to get to Kate and Gerry's relatives, trying to dig up stories about them and what was going on back here. And then, I also had all the columnists who had... it had become, if you remember, almost the dinner party topic of choice, for a couple of summers. You know, obviously there were legitimate questions about child safety and, errr... parental responsibility. Absolutely fine for discussion, no problem with that at all. But occasionally the odd commentator would overstep the mark and say hurtful things. We would talk to journalists on the ground and we would talk to editors. It made a difference sometimes. Overall, in certain cases, it made not jot... not a jot of difference.
SN : I know... I know you'll understand the... the limitations as to how much we can talk about... about the... the Jo Yeates, errr... murder at the moment but there has been, errr... a... a man, Mr Jefferies, who has not been found guilty; is an innocent man in the eyes of the law. He's been released on bail. He has not been charged, and you will have seen the front page coverage on him, and he has not been found guilty. What are your thoughts'
CM : I think, from a journalistic point of view, a lot of the coverage, in certain papers which I won't name, was... was very near the mark, in terms of breaching the Contempt of Court Act. The basic standard in law, quite rightly, is that any person is innocent until proven guilty and that is a matter for the police to prove.
SN : So, why is our media getting... doing this, and how are they getting away with it, Clarence'
CM : There... there is this insatiable desire now to be first, to be fastest. The 24/7 machine, the monster that I used to work in, and you still work in, needs feeding all the time. And news desks, I'm not saying the BBC... the BBC, thank goodness, is one of the... is one of the most responsible organisations but some news desks almost fall over themselves and almost forget the law. At the end of the day, no matter what deadlines and yawning spaces of coverage you... you need to fill, there are still basic tenets of fairness and justice in this country and I'm very grateful they... they exist. They serve everybody's interest, not just the defendants but the journalists as well.
SN : It... it... it is his legal right that Mr. Jefferies is presumed to be innocent. That is his legal right. Do you feel sorry for him given the coverage that he has endured'
CM : I feel sorry for anyone who finds themself, for whatever reason, at the centre of the media firestorm these days. It's always been bad. You don't... wouldn't want journalists on your door step, and that would have happened in the forties or the fifties, if necessary, but it was much more at a leisurely pace and was nothing like the onslaught that it is now with the competition.
SN : So, Clarence, what... what needs to happen' Does... does the PCC work, the Press Complaints Commission' Errr... Does there need to be a change of legislation' What needs to happen'
CM : Well, we... we tried to resort to the PCC, at times, and they were very helpful in terms of logistical things, like keeping photographers away from the McCann's home. There were photographers camped outside their house, at the end of their drive, for six months. We even had paparazzi photographers, who normally do celebrity jobs in... in Los Angeles, turning up looking for them. And, you know, we had to patiently explain the McCanns were not celebrities, they didn't warrant this sort of intrusion and these photographers needed to be moved. Now the PCC were fantastic in that case, they were really helpful. But in terms of making the news desks and the editors in certain papers sit up and really listen, I'm afraid we had to, reluctantly, pick up the rather large hammer of defamation action and say, 'You will apologise, you will settle this, errr... on our terms, or we will go further'. And thankfully, after a lot of discussion - the Express group being the best example - finally agreed with us. Errm... But it was a reluctant action. You know, it shouldn't have got to that stage. But it wasn't of our making.
SN : It's interesting you talk about defamation because, of course, we see Nick Clegg very much pushing, errr... a bill and a proposal at the moment. The leader of the Liberal Democrats, obviously, in terms of relaxing, changing the defamation laws, errr... in... in this country.
CM Well, personal view, I... I think if anything there's... there's... there should be some argument for them to be slightly tightened up.
SN : Tightened up in the UK'
CM : Well, because people... these days... or certainly there needs to be some sort of statutory reminder, not just to journalists but to all of your bloggers who are now online. These days a lot of people think, wrongly, that they can write what they like on a website. They are publishing that. It is a newspaper in all but name, an electronic version of it and the person responsible for distributing that material is legally responsible, certainly under British jurisdiction, for what they say in it.
SN : How on earth do you control the Internet' How does an Internet service provider know everything that's going onto their site and onto their channel' They don't, and that's the problem.
CM : They don't.
SN : You can't control this beast.
CM : This is... this is... this is the problem and this is what the politicians need to work out.
SN : So what would you do ?
CM : Well... hah... I... I would...
SN : Because you have been in the middle of one of the most high... prolific Internet campaigns that... that there will have been. So what would you do, given the experience you've had'
CM : I would make it clear, if it's a... if it's a story around an... a crime. I would make it clear that the police, I think, from the first instance, have a remin... have a duty to remind journalists much more forcibly and clearly than they have done so far. In the Yeates case you mention, we saw the Attorney General having to come out and... and issue a warning around the coverage of Mr. Jefferies. Well, that's fine and absolutely proper but he should have done... that should have been done beforehand. A lot of young journalists are coming up through the ranks now who have not necessarily and this makes me sound like a bit of an old dinosaur but they have not necessarily come up through the... the traditional route of local newspapers, sitting in courts, watching juries, listening to verdicts. They don't necessarily know the finer points of defamation law, contempt of court, and I think a general reminder both in the journalistic industry, better training, errr... of the basic tenets of law and for the police, perhaps, in a high profile case, to sit down right at the outset and remind all of the covering media of their responsibilities. That won't stop online gossip. It won't stop tittle tattle. You're right. That can't be controlled. We watch what's said about Madeleine only when it enters the real world and goes beyond the keyboard and the screen in the middle of the night, then do we act. But in the... with responsible mainstream media I think there's a time for a reminder of some of the basics here that have... that have served journalism so well for generations.
SN : Just finally, Clarence, we... we understand that the McCanns obviously are releasing this book. Is this going to be, errm... a summary of everything we already know'
CM : No, it's going to be Kate's story. Kate is writing it. Gerry, of course, is... is helping her but essentially it will be Kate's work. For... virtually from the first day it happened, errr... I was coming under pressure from various publishers, some of them very polite, but very persistent, saying they should write a book, or it should be ghost written. Kate and Gerry always said they didn't want to do that, they didn't feel the time was right, they had far more important things to do in the search for their daughter. They've now decided, and it's largely been driven by the need for funds for the... for the search to continue, that the time is right for the book to be written. Kate has been writing it for some months. She's probably finished about sixty to seventy thousand words and, errm... it's coming out on May 12th which is Madeleine's eighth birthday. It is designed to keep the search for her going. That is the simple reason.
SN : That's Clarence Mitchell talking to me earlier on tonight. That's it from the Nolan team for tonight. Thank you so much for your company. We'll be back tomorrow night, Saturday night, ten o'clock when you and I will talk about the big news stories of the day.
Clarence Mitchell et les pirates du téléphone
22.01.2011 - BBC Radio 4
transcrit par JJPOO
Eddie Mair : For years there have been allegations about what methods were used by some journalists to get stories including hacking into messages on mobile phones. But have such methods been used more recently' After inquiries triggered by PM, the man who speaks for the parents of Madeleine McCann, who was abducted from a Portuguese resort almost four years ago, believes someone attempted to access information about his mobile phone account and his voicemail. There's no evidence to suggest who may have been responsible but Clarence Mitchell is to speak to the police about it. John Mennell reports.
JM : Madeleine McCann disappeared from a holiday apartment in Portugal in May 2007.
KATE MC : Please, please do not hurt her. Please don't scare her.
JM : There was intense media interest.
(Sounds of journalists calling to KMC)
JM : The story continued to make headlines for months.
Clarence Mitchell : This is a typical piece of coverage. This was in late July, 2008 just after Kate and Gerry had their arguido status lifted.
CM : I had journalists, some of them almost in tears on certain days, saying they were under such pressure from their news desks they needed a front page splash by four o'clock that afternoon. And if I didn't get it to them the implication was they would almost be fired.
CM : I was always concerned, if some journalists were up to this sort of thing, that I might be a target but I had no proof. The BBC through yourself approached me so I approached my phone company, Vodafone, and asked them to go back over my records which is what they've done.
CM : They were very good. They said they could look back. They don't keep all of the records, each and every single phone call, I think for more than a year. However, what they were able to do was go back much further on their customer service number and there are records for that going back several years.
CM : Yes, these are the records of all calls regarding my number to Vodafone Customer Services. It details everything from bill payments, payments received or any queries or problems you have with your phone.
CM : That's right. The first ones were on the 29th of February, 2008. The operator lists it saying a gentleman had called wishing to check the phone as he gets calls each night from the number and wanting information and is, quotes, 'a witness on the CID trial for McCanns'. Well that doesn't make sense. It certainly wasn't me that made that call. I would never use that phraseology and there is, there was no such thing as a CID trial for the McCanns. Its ridiculous. That appears to me to be a blatant attempt to get information about whose number it was and what was happening. Thankfully the operator didn't give him any.
CM : The entries that Vodafone have flagged up I know absolutely that I did not make these calls to Vodafone Customer Service.
JM : And if we turn over the page?
JM : It seems because there are no records of calls made to or from your phone number any more, it's impossible to tell who did this.
CM : I don't think they would have done it that way. I'm sure they have legal routes to getting hold of that material and will work closely with the phone companies if required in any particular situation. I, er,,, No, I'm categoric about this. This was cack-handed, pretty low-level, amateurish attempt and thankfully, as I say, Vodafone did the job and stalled it.
CM : Well I'm angry and I'm shocked by it but not surprised.
CM : Well, I'm afraid they've got a very dim view of the British press, certainly some sections, so there's a sort of world weariness about this. Yes of course, they're angered by this and will be upset but again like myself in some respects not surprised that somebody could be so stupid as to possibly try this.