Madeleine McCann ‘suspect’ Robert Murat sues British media for libel

By Gary Cleland
Last Updated: 2:27PM BST 28/04/2008

Robert Murat, the British expatriate made a formal suspect over the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, has begun one of the largest libel claims in the history of British media.

The 34-year-old, who lived close to the Portugal apartment where the missing girl was last seen, has launched libel proceedings against 11 newspapers and one television network.

It is the largest number of separate libel claims made against the British media by one person on the same issue.

If he is successful, media lawyers believe Mr Murat could receive more than £2 million.

He and his family are believed to be particularly aggrieved by a number of reports in the aftermath of his being made an arguido – or official suspect – which repeated claims made by Portuguese media.

In at least one case – the false allegation that there were pornographic images on his computer – the Portuguese media later published corrections.

A relative of Mr Murat said the British reports had left “unfair stains on the name of a man against whom there is not a shred of evidence”.

In a statement, London-based law firm Simons Muirhead and Burton said that it “is representing Robert Murat in respect of a number of libel actions against Sky, The Daily Express, The Sunday Express, The Daily Star, The Daily Mail, The Evening Standard, The Metro, The Daily Mirror, The News of the World, The Sun and The Scotsman.”

It added: “At this time neither the firm nor its client will be making any comment.”

Media lawyer and litigation expert Caroline Kean, of media law specialists Wiggin, said that Mr Murat could receive a record payout if he successfully argued that the articles implied that he was involved in Madeleine’s disappearance.

She said: “You could expect at least £200,000 per paper, per claim, and that would exceed £2 million.”

Mr Murat was questioned by police on May 14, 2007, less than two weeks after Madeleine’s disappearance from the holiday resort of Praia da Luz, and was subsequently made an arguido.

He has always strongly protested his innocence.

Police recently returned a computer, clothing and other items taken from the home he shares with his mother, just yards from the apartment in which the McCanns were staying.

Mr Murat has also been given permission to travel to England to visit his three-year-old daughter, which has raised the family’s hopes that his arguido status will soon be lifted.

The only other formal suspects in the case are Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann.

Last month Express Newspapers printed front-page apologies to the McCanns on four national newspapers for running stories suggesting they were involved in their daughter’s disappearance.

The newspaper company also paid £550,000 into the Find Madeleine fund.

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