A suspect in the disappearance of schoolgirl Madeleine McCann in Portugal last year won £600,000 in libel damages yesterday for “the utter destruction” of his life.
The 10 newspapers involved in the case had wrongly accused Robert Murat, who lived in the same resort where McCann vanished last May sparking an international search, of being involved in the girl’s disappearance.
Although he was questioned by Portuguese police soon after Madeleine McCann went missing from her parent’s holiday apartment in the resort of Praia da Luz and later declared a formal suspect, he was never charged and denied any involvement.
“The newspapers in this case brought about the total and utter destruction of mine and my family’s life and caused immense distress,” Murat said outside the High Court in London.
“I am pleased that the publications concerned admitted the falsity of their allegations and I can now start to rebuild my life.”
Murat had often spoken to reporters in the days just after the disappearance of Madeleine from her bedroom, saying she looked like his daughter in England. His mother’s house was about 150 metres from the resort apartment where the McCann family was staying. However, numerous tabloid newspapers in Britain wrote a series of “made-up” allegations.
Publishers of the papers involved – with a combined circulation of 15 million copies – apologised, admitting the claims were untrue, and agreed to pay the damages. The newspaper groups are also paying six-figure sums to two other claimants.