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Madeleine McCann’s parents slam ‘disgusting’ British press

The parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann told a press standards inquiry Wednesday of the “disgusting” behaviour of the British tabloid press as they covered her disappearance in Portugal.

Newspapers questioned Kate and Gerry McCann’s innocence based on flimsy facts, suggested they may have sold their daughter and, in the case of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World, published Kate’s diary without her consent.

“There was no respect shown for me as a grieving mother or a human being,” Kate McCann told the judge-led inquiry in London, which is on its third day of hearing evidence from people alleging press harassment.

Madeleine went missing from an apartment in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007, a few days before her fourth birthday, as her parents and their friends dined at the restaurant nearby. She has never been found.

Her parents told the inquiry that initial press interest was helpful, but that a more “sinister” tone began to take over after they were named as formal suspects in the case by Portuguese police five months later.

Gerry McCann said small leaks from the Portuguese press were treated as facts and then blown out of proportion by the British media, adding: “We were being tried by the media and we were unable to defend ourselves adequately”.

After their return to Britain surrounded by a “terrifying” media scrum that scared their two youngest children, they said they were subjected to a “disgusting” series of untrue stories.

Headlines which ran in late 2007 and early 2008 about the grieving couple, who are both doctors, included “Maddie sold by hard-up McCanns” and “Maddie mum orgy fury.”

On the first anniversary of her disappearance they agreed to an interview in Hello magazine to promote an alert system for missing children, and received an “irate” phone call from then-News of the World editor Colin Myler for not giving an interview to the tabloid.

The News of the World then published transcripts from Kate McCann’s diary, which the couple believed were obtained from Portuguese police — an experience that she said in a statement to the inquiry made her feel “mentally raped.”

They later won a £550,000 libel payout from the publisher of the Daily Express and Daily Star tabloids which had doubted their innocence, and also received a payment but not an apology from the publisher of the Daily Mail.