Kate and Gerry McCann today gave evidence at the Leveson Inquiry about the press intrusion their family has endured whilst trying to find their daughter.
Many people criticise them for courting the media and then crying foul because of malicious, false and libellous headlines, implicating them in the disappearance of their daughter.
Just for one minute, take a step back and put yourself in their shoes, just walk a mile and then you will understand why they wanted to use the media. They wanted people to search for their daughter, they wanted people to be vigilant and look out for their daughter. The crux of the matter was they wanted their daughter found and over four years later their plight has still not ended.
Today they are no closer to finding Madeleine than they were back in May 2007, but what they do have is the heartache of never ending days of not knowing if their daughter is alive.
Kate McCann, looked tired, the pain clearly etched on her face. Gerry gave evidence, but you could tell by the tone of his voice at times how stressing times have been.
Just imagine the fear that two little children must have had with photographers banging on car windows and taking photos. Kate McCann spoke of how her youngest daughter, told her she was scared at what was happening to them.
When Kate and Gerry spoke of those awful headlines, any mother would have felt her pain. They accepted that the police might have looked at them closely to see if they were involved. But who would have thought, evidence contained in those Police files would eventually find its way to the News of the World, especially as those documents were of no value to the investigation and a judge had ordered their destruction.
Yes Kate McCann had to read her personal diary word for word bar a few mis-translated words spread across the Sunday Tabloids. Private thoughts that should never have been in any papers not here and definitely not in Portugal. But was the News of the World the first paper to print Kate McCann’s private diaries? No they have previously been printed in a Portuguese Newspaper CdeM.
For years I doubted the McCanns, why because of the media, especially the news emanating from Portugal. There I was, and probably many others, being led by our noses that the British Press were protecting the McCanns and vilifying the Portuguese Police. We were being brainwashed that the McCanns were guilty and that what was printed about the case was factual, it is only reading the files that you begin to understand the true implications of what the press did to the family of Kate and Gerry McCann.
What a shock to hear how many weekends, that were supposed to have been spent as a family, were ruined because of press intrusion and phone calls telling them, that this and that would appear in the paper.
Today I felt for the parents of Madeleine McCann and felt ashamed that I allowed myself to be manipulated by people and the media, into thinking they could be responsible. It is so easy to get swallowed up in some mad conspiracy theory that has no basis whatsoever. I have learnt the hard way, I have learnt never judge another person and accuse them and form an opinion based on media coverage. What I have learnt is what the papers tell you might never be the truth.
Nothing will ever put right what my actions did, but all I can do is apologise for my actions. Nothing will ever be right for the McCann family until they find their daughter. And yes I wholehearedly agree with Gerry McCann, the media coverage of the McCanns has distracted and harmed the search for Madeleine McCann.
To listen to the evidence of Gerry McCann speak of those headlines, where Kate was supposed to have harmed her daughter, was like seeing a mob mentality attack a grieving mother.
Yes you can grieve without suffering a bereavement, you can have your heart broken and your prayers unanswered when you have a missing child. Should the McCanns have been pilloried by the media? Most definitely not.
Today, we saw the worst of our media, we saw how they can turn from aiding a family to destroying that family without remorse. Today, through the damning evidence given by Kate and Gerry McCann, we saw decent jounralists feel ashamed at what their profession did to the family of a missing child.
Today we learnt, that the old saying, today’s headlines are tomorrow’s chip paper, simply is not true. What words are printed, whether it be mainstream media or forums and blogs, affect real people. Malicious comments based on unfounded allegations and pure speculation can cause added stress, strain and pain to a family who are already suffering the most horrendous pain imaginable by having their child missing.
Today the world learnt the true extent of those headlines, I, like many others, never knew how much this poor couple were suffering at the hands of the press… today should be the day that we each learn to stick to the facts and not the supposition, innuendo and assumptions that so many people seem to thrive on.