1.Everyone shall possess the right to freely express and publicise his thoughts in words, images or by any other means, as well as the right to inform others, inform himself and be informed without hindrance or discrimination 2.Exercise of the said rights shall not be hindered or limited by any type or form of censorship Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, Article 37.º

British media faces record payout as family of Robert Murat demands apology and damages

A British expatriate who was named as a formal suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann is launching one of the largest libel claims in the history of the British media.

Robert Murat lists 11 newspapers and one TV station in his demand for damages, which litigation lawyers believe could lead to a record cumulative payout of more than £2m. It is the largest number of separate libel claims made by one person against the British media on the same issue.

Murat, 34, who lived close to the Praia da Luz apartment in Portugal where Madeleine went missing, was made an arguido, or formal suspect, after a British tabloid reporter voiced her concerns to Portuguese police shortly after the child disappeared. The Sunday Mirror journalist claimed that Murat's behaviour was reminiscent of Soham murderer Ian Huntley.[Lori Campbell, actually called the Mirror first, the British authorities and Sky News and the Portuguese Police was the last to be contacted]

Almost a year after Madeleine's disappearance, the Murat family are now seeking a formal public apology and undisclosed damages from the British media in light of what one relative yesterday described as 'unfair stains on the name of a man against whom there is not a shred of evidence'. They are understood to be particularly aggrieved at sections of the British press which repeated a range of 'outlandish' and frequently lurid allegations that appeared in the Portuguese press after he was named an arguido.


Sky's Ian Woods speaks to a British journalist in the Algarve who contacted police with suspicions about Robert Murat. Lori Campbell of the Sunday Mirror describes Murat as a 'vague character', claiming he lied to her about his role in the inquiry. In this video we can see how they did the spinning about Robert Murat.

A statement from a London-based firm of solicitors, Simons Muirhead and Burton, confirmed it was 'representing Robert Murat in respect of a number of libel actions against Sky, the Daily Express, the Sunday Express, the Daily Star, the Daily Mail, the Evening Standard, the Metro, the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror, the News of the World, the Sun and the Scotsman'. Simons Muirhead and Burton, which specialises in media litigation, would not comment further on the case.

Media lawyer and litigation expert Caroline Kean of media law specialists Wiggin said that if Murat successfully argued that the articles inferred that he was involved in the abduction or murder of Madeleine then his claims could result in a record payout. 'You could expect at least £200,000 per paper, per claim, and that would clear £2m,' she said.

Currently the largest libel award stands at £1.5m. It was won by the late Lord Aldington in a celebrated case against Count Nikolai Tolstoy, great-nephew of the author of War and Peace. He won his case in 1989 after Tolstoy claimed that he had the blood of '70,000 innocent men, women and children on his hands' but died 12 years later without ever collecting the record damages.

Sources close to Murat said a number of graphic and damaging claims made in the British press were never substantiated and in at least one case - the allegation that there were pornographic images on his computer - have led to a media correction in Portugal. His family are also upset about a number of other reports by the British papers or on TV - including what they say was an utterly untrue suggestion that Murat has a glass eye and had removed it 'as a party trick' while at school.


Martin Brunt in Madeleine:Anatomy of a Mystery, an RTP production, you can see the full 60 min. documentary here or a short translated clip from Anatomy Of A Mystery.

Although Murat, 34, remains an arguido, police recently returned a computer, clothing and other items taken by police from the Murat home, where he lives with his mother Jennifer less than 100 metres from the apartment where Madeleine disappeared.

In addition, Portuguese police have approved an extended trip to England to visit his three-year-old daughter - raising the Murat family's hopes that his arguido status will soon be ended. Murat has always vehemently denied any involvement with the disappearance of Madeleine with some believing he is merely a maligned scapegoat in a bungled investigation.

It is not surprising that the media is now facing a huge damages claim, as it was British journalists who first suggested Murat might be involved in Madeleine's disappearance. Sunday Mirror reporter Lori Campbell wrote an article headlined 'Why I shopped Maddy suspect' in which she claimed: 'There was an evasiveness and unease about Murat that left me feeling extremely uncomfortable.' Murat, a self-employed property developer, told her that he was assisting the police and had offered his services as a translator.

On 14 May 2007, Murat was questioned by Portuguese police and became the first person to be declared an official suspect. On the same day Campbell told Sky News: 'It was just very reminiscent of the Soham murders, that was my first thought. He was hanging around, asking us questions and maybe trying to find out what we knew.'

The following day police seized laptops and other material. For almost four months Murat remained the only arguido. Then in a dramatic development in early September Portuguese police named Madeleine's parents - Kate and Gerry - as arguidos, a move that sparked a slew of allegations against the couple.

Last month Express Newspapers issued front-page apologies to Madeleine's parents and paid £550,000 to the Find Madeleine campaign. The McCanns have refused to rule out libel action against other publications.

Source: Guardian

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1 comment:

  1. Q: As a journalist, you followed the Jessica and Holly story, in Soham. The children were found dead two weeks later. Did you feel Maddie's case would have the same outcome?

    CMitchell: I thought by this time she'd have been already found dead or alive. But an outcome similar to Holly and Jessica is possible. I don't want to, and I can't, talk about Robert Murat but some journalists who worked with me in Soham, and that now were in Portugal, saw resemblances between that case and Robert Murat. And I won't say more.

    ReplyDelete

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