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McCann attacks media 'storm' over Madeleine

Madeleine McCann's father spoke today of how he and his wife found themselves at the heart of an international media storm after their daughter disappeared.

Gerry McCann told MPs on the Culture Media and Sport Committee the demands placed on his family by journalists were "unbelievable".

He launched an attack on the way many media outlets reported on the case.

He said: "Our family have been the focus of some of the most sensationalist, untruthful, irresponsible and damaging reporting in the history of the press."

Mr McCann, addressing the Committee's inquiry into press standards, privacy and libel, relived the early days after Madeleine went missing from Praia da Luz in Portugal on May 3 2007.

He said: "To be thrust from being on holiday one minute into the middle of an international media storm, and how to cope with that, was very, very difficult."

He said the media were much more interested in writing about him and his wife - what he called the "Kate and Gerry show" - than about the search for Madeleine.

Mr McCann said he and his wife took legal action against a number of British newspapers because they felt negative stories about them were distracting from efforts to find their daughter.

He told the MPs: "Our primary motive was we felt these were damaging the search.

"If people felt Madeleine was dead or we were involved in her disappearance, then people would not come forward.

"That was our absolute primary objective in taking that action."

Mr McCann also spoke of the concerns he had for his family's safety in the light of some of the negative coverage he and his wife received.

He said: "We have had a substantial amount of abusive mail.

"There have been one or two incidents around the house police have been involved in. Generally, it's not such an issue."