View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. Media Law
March 19, 2008

“Wife-swapping orgy” stories among those cited in £550,000 McCanns libel deal

By Roger Pearson

Kate and Gerry McCann today accepted one of the widest publicised ever public apologies at London’s High Court along with an agreed £550,000 libel pay-out after national paper slurs alleging among other things that they had sold their missing daughter, Madeleine, because they were hard up.

Today’s award, one of the largest ever agreed libel settlements was against Express Newspapers over allegations carried in the Daily Express, the Sunday Express the Daily Star and the Daily Star Sunday.

Solicitor Adam Tudor for the McCanns told Mr Justice David Eady that the papers had published over 100 articles which he said were ‘seriously defamatory’of the McCanns.

‘The general theme of the articles as to suggest that Mr and Mrs McCann were responsible for the death of Madeleine, or that there were strong or reasonable grounds for so suspecting and that they had then disposed of her body; and that they had then conspired to cover up their actions, including by creating ‘diversions’ to divert the police’s attention away from the evidence which would expose their guilt,’said Mr Tudor.

He continued : ‘In addition to the allegations referred to above, the Daily Star published further articles (under the headlines ‘Maddie Mum ‘Sold’ Her’and ‘Maddie ‘Sold’ by Hard Up McCanns) which sought to allege that Mr and Mrs McCann had sold their daughter in order to ease their financial burdens. A further article alleged that Mr and Mrs McCann were involved in ‘swinging’ or wife-swapping orgies.’

Mr Tudor said that Express Newspapers now acknowledged that all the allegations were and remained entirely untrue.

‘In particular, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Mr and Mrs McCann were responsible for the death of their daughter or that they were involved in any sort of cover-up, and there was no basis for Express Newspapers to allege otherwise,’he said.

Content from our partners
How PA Media is helping newspapers make the digital transition
Publishing on the open web is broken, how generative AI could help fix it
Impress: Regulation, arbitration and complaints resolution

‘Equally, the allegations that Mr and Mrs McCann may have ‘sold’ Madeleine, and that they are involved in ‘swinging’ or wife-swapping, were entirely baseless.’

Counsel for Express Newspapers told the judge : ‘Express Newspapers regrets publishing these extremely serious, yet baseless allegations concerning Mr and Mrs McCann over a sustained period of what will already have been an enormously distressing time for them, and at a time when they have been trying to focus on finding their daughter.’

He said that as an expression of their regret they had agreed to publish front page apologies acknowledging the falsity of the allegations and reflecting the fact that they should never have been made.

Topics in this article :

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network