Guardian 13/03/08 - The McCanns take on the Express at last

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Guardian 13/03/08 - The McCanns take on the Express at last Empty Guardian 13/03/08 - The McCanns take on the Express at last

Post  Andrew on Thu 24 Nov 2016, 8:25 pm

McCanns take on the Express at last

Thursday 13 March 2008 11.43 GMT Last modified on Thursday 11 August 2016 18.53 BST

I am delighted that the McCann family has begun to get to grips with the scandalous story-telling in the Express titles following the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. It is all very well being obsessed by a story - that can often be of value - but to publish, day after day, contradictory and speculative articles based on anonymous sources and laced with innuendo is a disgrace.

Whatever opinions people hold about Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry, it is beyond dispute that the Daily and Sunday Express have published articles that were so offensive it was obvious that the McCanns could not let them pass.

I am not prejudging whether they can be deemed libellous. But no rational person who has read them on a regular basis, as I have done since May last year, can regard them as anything other than inappropriate, no more than speculation dressed up as fact.

Express editors have relied on that ignoble convention of using 'single quotes' in headlines to publish virtually anything, sometimes attributed merely to "police" and sometimes to unnamed sources. In so doing, they have gradually heaped suspicion on the McCanns. Here's a random selection of front pages:

'We can prove parents did it' - Portuguese police.

Kate faces ten years in jail - now parents could be charged with abandoning their children

'Syringe found in Madeleine's apartment'

Madeline was 'killed by sleeping pills' - sensational new claim

'Find body or McCanns will escape' - Portuguese prosecutor (allegedly) to police

McCanns 'are hiding a big secret' - speculation by John Stalker

'McCanns or a friend must be to blame' - interview with a waiter

Parents' car hid a corpse - Portuguese police again

McCann friends to be named as 'suspects' - (they were not)

70% don't believe McCanns - a splash based on Spanish TV phone vote

Many of these stories were followed a day later with articles carrying denials. But the drip-drip-drip damage of the negative splash headlines was surely more influential.

I am certain that some of the anti-McCann hysteria from those self-appointed busybodies who rage against the family stems from the prejudicial reporting in the Express titles. I have no hard evidence for that claim, of course. But I have hunch it's truer than many Express articles on Madeleine.

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