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Archive for Thursday, March 20, 2008

British tabloids send apology, libel damages to missing girl’s parents

March 20, 2008

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— For British tabloid editors, sorry always seems to be the hardest word.

Readers and journalists got a shock Wednesday when they saw the headlines in the Daily Express and the Daily Star: "Kate and Gerry McCann: Sorry."

Both newspapers ran rare Page 1 apologies to the parents of missing child Madeleine McCann, acknowledging there was no evidence to support claims they caused their daughter's death.

The words - and the papers' million-dollar libel payout to the McCanns - sent a chill through the British media. But some media-watchers doubted the case would rein in Britain's fiercely competitive tabloids, which regularly blur the lines among rumor, innuendo and fact.

In their apologies, the newspapers said, "Kate and Gerry are completely innocent of any involvement in their daughter's disappearance."

"Express Newspapers regrets publishing these extremely serious, yet baseless, allegations," said the papers' lawyer, Stephen Bacon.

The McCanns said the newspapers had been called to account for "grotesque and grossly defamatory allegations."

Madeleine's story has fascinated Britain since she vanished May 3 - a few days before her 4th birthday - during a family vacation in Portugal. No trace of her has been found.

Four months after Madeleine disappeared, Portuguese police named her parents as "arguidos," or formal suspects - although they have not been charged and were allowed to leave the country. The couple insist they were not involved in their daughter's disappearance, and mounted a campaign to find her.

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