Thursday, 05 Mar 2009 20:31
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".
"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.
Discussions at the 3 arguidos:
COMMENTS FROM MURAT'S CAMBRIDGE UNION ADDRESS- 5 March
Lori Campbell: British authorities gave Kate McCann a police manual