The lawyer for Madeleine McCann’s parents accused sections of the media of “inhumane” scandal-mongering as the couple launched a defamation action against a Portuguese newspaper.
Gerry McCann said he and his wife, Kate, were “deeply hurt” by a front-page story in Tal & Qual which claimed Portuguese police now believe they killed their daughter.
The August 24 article alleged the Policia Judiciaria (PJ) – Portugal’s CID – were certain the couple accidentally caused Madeleine’s death. Under the headline “PJ believes that the parents killed Maddie”, it implied that the young girl died a “victim of an excess of drugs”, possibly sedatives.
The McCanns, who are both doctors, “strongly refuted” the report and said they would never use sedatives on any of their three children.
It is now 120 days since four-year-old Madeleine disappeared from her bed in a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in the Algarve while her parents dined at a nearby tapas restaurant.
Portuguese Police have repeatedly said the McCanns, from Rothley, Leicestershire, are not suspects in the case. But in recent weeks the couple have been forced to defend themselves against a series of newspaper smears suggesting they could be involved in their daughter’s disappearance.
The McCanns’ lawyer, Carlos Pinto de Abreu, said the couple’s image had been “dragged through the dirt” by “character-assassinating, tabloid-style” news reports. Not knowing what has happened to Madeleine means they are already suffering “probably the most terrible trial that could happen to anyone”, he added.
The lawyer went on: “The press has engaged in a horrific exercise in scandal-mongering, replete with rumours and lurid commentaries which are all aimed at one thing – to sell more TV time and newspaper space to advertisers.
“Fortunately so far only a few character-assassinating, tabloid-style outlets have gone beyond the limits of decency. Enough! It is people’s dignity which is being questioned, and it is their image which is being dragged through the dirt. What has been happening is not legitimate and, above all, is inhumane.”