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£550,000 libel win for McCann 'suspect'

Law Editor,Robert Verkaik
Wednesday 16 July 2008 00:00 BST

Eight British newspapers are to pay a combined total of £550,000 to a man they accused of being a prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

Lawyers for Robert Murat, who owns a villa 150 yards from the flat where Madeleine went missing while on holiday with her family in Portugal, confirmed yesterday that he had settled his claim for defamation against at least eight papers.

The case follows a similar sized libel payout by Express Newspapers to Gerry and Kate McCann, who won front-page apologies in the Daily Express and Daily Star over allegations that they were involved in their daughter's disappearance.

In May, The Scotsman published an apology to Mr Murat after its "seriously defamatory" and "untrue" coverage likened his behaviour to that of the Soham murderer Ian Huntley, suggesting that he was involved in the abduction of the thee-year-old girl.

Mr Murat, 34, was questioned by police 11 days after Madeleine went missing from the Praia da Luz resort on 3 May 2007, before being made a formal suspect or arguido. Police searched the villa where he lived with his mother after the Sunday Mirror journalist Lori Campbell spoke to the British embassy and the police about Mr Murat.

Last month Mr Murat said he hoped the return of computers seized from him by police signalled that they would soon drop his status as a suspect.

His mother, Jenny Murat, has always maintained she was with her son at home on the night of Madeleine's disappearance.

Mr Murat is expected to return to Britain on Thursday to attend a formal High Court hearing in which an agreed statement will be read out by his lawyers.

In their April statement, his lawyers named The Sun, the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star, Daily Mail, London Evening Standard, Metro, Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, News of the World and The Scotsman.

Early this month, Portugal's attorney-general confirmed that prosecutors had received the final police report, but said the case was still "the subject of careful assessment".

Local media said detectives have concluded there was not sufficient evidence to charge anyone, and that the case should be closed.

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