Madeleine: Murat speaks out against tabloid fairytales
Robert Murat has delivered a scathing attack on the journalists who defamed him over the abduction of Madeleine McCann, saying he felt "like a fox being pursued by a pack of hounds".
Mr Murat won undisclosed libel damages for defamatory claims made by 11 national newspapers about Madeleine, whose disappearance and suspected abduction in a Portuguese holiday resort dominated headlines over the summer of 2007.
Tonight, addressing an audience of students at Cambridge University's Union Society, Mr Murat described in detail for the first time the "horror story" of being pursued by journalists.
During his speech Mr Murat explained how he blamed a specific unnamed journalist, who was "so anxious, it appeared, to break a story that she literally created her own".
Sky News Ian Woods speaks to Lori Campbell 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 they admit that they did the spinning about Robert Murat.
"To my personal cost, I now know what the maxim 'never let the truth get in the way of a good story' really means," he said.
"Over a period of many months, day after day, a torrent of outlandish, untrue, and deeply hurtful allegations about me were systematically splashed across the pages of British newspapers.
"I was one day said to be a sexual predator, another day a kidnapper; the tabloids reported apparently that I had been outside the McCann flat on the night Madeleine went missing, with her DNA apparently found in my home.
"They even came up with a story that I had a secret chamber under the floor of the house. Fairytales. Every single one of them, as the police themselves concluded."
Mr Murat argued against the motion that 'tabloids do more harm than good', describing them as a "travesty" and a "force for harm".
"My own life will be scarred for ever by the lies they printed," he added.
Media litigation lawyer Louis Charalambous, Mr Murat's lawyer of Simon, Muirhead and Burton, said his former client had had his "reputation destroyed" by the press.
He said: "Although Mr Murat's good name has now been rightfully restored and he and his family have begun rebuilding their life, the intolerable distress and stress they experienced as a result of such malicious reporting to benefit ad revenues and market share, is a shameful episode in the history of the British press."
Other speakers at the Union debate included Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik, former Endemol chairman Peter Bazalgette and Guardian assistant editor Michael White.
Madeleine was three when she disappeared from her parents Kate and Gerry McCann's holiday villa in Praia da Luz.
Mr and Mrs McCann, as well as Mr Murat, were named as arguidos - official suspects - by Portuguese police, who dropped the investigation into Madeleine's disappearance last year.
A team of private investigators hired by Mr and Mrs McCann, from Rothley, Leicestershire, is still trying to locate Madeleine.
Robert Murat 'scarred forever by tabloid newspaper lies'
By Paul McNally
Robert Murat, the British expatriate falsely linked to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal, has said his life has been "scarred forever" by the tabloid press.
The property consultant, who last year won £600,000 in libel damages for almost 100 "seriously defamatory" stories in British newspapers, was speaking at the Cambridge Union Society in favour of a motion that "the tabloid press does more harm than good".
In his first public speech on the matter, Murat said the intense press interest in him for eight months turned his home village into a "ghoulish carnival" and "nearly destroyed" his family's lives.
Murat accepted "substantial" damages from Associated, Mirror Group, News Group and Express Newspapers in July last year.
Express Newspapers also paid out to Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, and the so-called "tapas seven" - the group of friends staying in the Algarve holiday resort of Praia da Luiz when the three-year-old girl disappeared.
"There was never a shred of evidence that I was in any way involved, despite eight months of lurid headlines," Murat said.
"At times, I felt like a fox being pursued by a pack of hounds. I was literally forced to jump over fences to avoid the scramble of photographers waiting outside."
Murat claimed British journalists sent out to Portugal were so anxious to develop new angles that they fabricated stories - and "the lies got bigger and bolder".
"To my personal cost, I now know what the maxim: 'Never let the truth get in the way of a good story' really means," he said.
"Mobiles glued to their ears, ringing through to their newsdesks to bid and outbid one another for the next outlandish tale, British tabloid journalists did not so much cover the story as move it on from one breathless mix of speculation and invention to the next."
He later added: "My own life will be scarred forever by the lies they printed."
Murat's lawyer, Louis Charalambous from Simons Muirhead and Burton, was also speaking in favour of the motion.
He said: "It's not the fact that they are tabloids, or the fact that they are not broadsheets, but that they cynically exploit their readers, with an agenda which suits their editors and owners, often at the expense of their targets - be they good or bad, deserving or undeserving."
Also speaking in support of the motion were Montgomeryshire MP Lembit Opik and Guardian assistant editor Michael White.
The motion was opposed by media consultant Peter Bazalgette and Sport Newspapers editor-in-chief Murray Morse.
Source: Press Gazette