Kate McCann felt 'violated' by newspaper


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The Independent Online

Kate McCann told the Leveson Inquiry today that she felt like "climbing into a hole and not coming out" when the News of the World printed her intensely personal diary.

She described feeling "violated" by the paper's publication of the leaked journal, which she began after her daughter Madeleine disappeared on holiday in Portugal in 2007.

Mrs McCann, 43, said the diary - which was so private she did not even show it to her husband Gerry - was her only way of communicating with her missing daughter.

She had just returned from church on Sunday September 14 2008 when she received a text message from a friend which read "Saw your diary in the newspapers, heartbreaking. I hope you're all right", the press standards inquiry heard.

Mrs McCann recalled that this came "totally out of the blue" and left her with a "horribly panicky feeling".

The News of the World had apparently obtained a translation of her diary from the Portuguese police and published it without her permission, the inquiry was told.

Mrs McCann said: "I felt totally violated. I had written these words at the most desperate time of my life, and it was my only way of communicating with Madeleine.

"There was absolutely no respect shown for me as a grieving mother or a human being or to my daughter.

"It made me feel very vulnerable and small, and I just couldn't believe it.

"It didn't stop there. It's not just a one-day thing. The whole week was incredibly traumatic and every time I thought about it, I just couldn't believe the injustice.

"I just recently read through my diary entries at that point in that week, and I talk about climbing into a hole and not coming out because I just felt so worthless that we had been treated like that."

Mr McCann, 43, said his wife felt "mentally raped" by the News of the World's publication of the journal under the headline: "Kate's diary: in her own words."

Mr McCann said the story gave the impression that his wife had authorised the publication of the diary.

"This added to our distress as it gave the impression that we were willing to capitalise financially on inherently private information, which could not have been further from the truth," he said in a statement to the inquiry.

The News of the World's then-deputy editor, Ian Edmondson, had told the couple's spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, that the paper was going to run a positive article that week but did not mention that it had a copy of Mrs McCann's diary.

The McCanns, from Rothley, Leicestershire, also described how News of the World editor Colin Myler "beat them into submission" after they gave an interview to a rival publication.

Mr Myler was "irate" when he learned that they had spoken to Hello! magazine around the first anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance to promote a Europe-wide alert system for missing children, the inquiry heard.

Mr McCann said: "He was berating us for not doing an interview with the News of the World and told us how supportive the newspaper had been.

"He basically beat us into submission, verbally, and we agreed to do an interview the day after."

The couple said on other occasions they had to stop newspapers from publishing untrue stories, giving the example of a false claim that they had undergone IVF treatment to have another baby to "replace Madeleine".

There was another time when they had to persuade a Scottish Sunday paper not to publish a photograph of them with Madeleine as a baby, which a journalist had obtained from Mr McCann's mother Eileen, the inquiry was told.

Mrs McCann said: "They were fighting it, actually saying 'We've got the picture'. It was like 'It's our daughter'. Incredible."

Mr McCann acknowledged that the media had helped the couple to launch appeals which brought in "huge amounts of information" about the possible whereabouts of their daughter, who was nearly four when she vanished from her family's holiday flat in Praia da Luz in the Algarve in May 2007.

He described how the early support they received from journalists gradually changed over the summer and they came to face a barrage of negative headlines.

After they returned to Britain in September 2007, photographers camped outside their house, hid behind hedges and, on several occasions, banged on their windows, the inquiry heard.

The couple eventually took legal action against Express Newspapers, and in March 2008 received £550,000 in damages paid to their fund to find Madeleine and front-page apologies in the Star and Express titles.

Mr McCann called today for reforms to press regulation, including rules banning the publication of photographs of private individuals going about their business without their written consent.

Explaining why the couple wanted to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, he said: "It is for one simple reason, in that we feel that a system has to be put in place to protect ordinary people from the damage that the media can cause by their activity, which falls well below the standards that I would deem acceptable."

Meanwhile, lawyer Mark Lewis, who represents a number of phone hacking victims, claimed today that the illegal interception of voicemails was "much more widespread" than just the News of the World.

He told the Leveson Inquiry that hacking the phones of celebrities and other people in the news was "too easy to do" for journalists.

And he suggested that reporters, at least initially, thought of the practice as no worse than driving at 35mph in a 30mph zone.

Mr Lewis also told the inquiry that News of the World journalists wrongly concluded that Professional Footballers Association (PFA) chairman Gordon Taylor was having an affair after hacking his phone.

He said the paper's reporters misinterpreted a voicemail message from a woman expressing her gratitude to Mr Taylor for speaking at her father's funeral in which she said: "Thank you for yesterday, you were wonderful."

Prime Minister David Cameron set up the Leveson Inquiry in July in response to revelations that the now-defunct News of the World commissioned a private detective to hack murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone after she disappeared in 2002.

The first part of the inquiry, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, is looking at the culture, practices and ethics of the press in general.

The second part, examining the extent of unlawful activities by journalists, will not begin until detectives have completed their investigation into alleged phone hacking and corrupt payments to police and any prosecutions have been concluded.