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Leveson Inquiry: Pilditch, Flanagan and Fagge

David Pilditch, Padraic Flanagan and Nick Fagge

Evidence given to the Leveson Inquiry by journalists David Pilditch, Padraic Flanagan and Nick Fagge, who wrote about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann for the Daily Express

 
Witness List: Week Commencing 19 December 2011

Witness List: Week Commencing 19 December 2011

 
Leveson inquiry: jailed Daily Mirror reporter to give evidence on press standards, 21 December 2011
 
Leveson inquiry: jailed Daily Mirror reporter to give evidence on press standards The Telegraph

Former Daily Mirror financial reporter James Hipwell who was jailed for purchasing cheap stocks before recommending them to readers will give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry today.

8:15AM GMT 21 Dec 2011

- Extract -

The inquiry into press standards, which after today will break until January 9, will also take evidence from three journalists who wrote about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann from Portugal in 2007 for the Daily Express, Nick Fagge, Padraic Flanagan and David Pilditch.

In March 2008 Express Newspapers paid £550,000 libel damages and printed front-page apologies to the missing girl's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, over a series of articles falsely alleging they were responsible for their daughter's death.

 
Leveson Inquiry: live, 21 December 2011
 

Leveson Inquiry: live The Telegraph

By Andy Bloxham
14 December 2011

- Extract -

11:34 Hipwell has now left the stand, his evidence over. The next witness is David Pilditch, a former colleague of Hipwell and a journalist for 26 years on the Daily Mirror, then the Daily Express.

11:38 The opening topic for discussion is the Madeleine McCann story. Pilditch's first visit to Portugal, as an Express reporter, was for six weeks on a story that he said was "uniquely challenging".

11:40 He says working in Portugal - where it is illegal for the police to speak about stories - was "like Doctor Who, being transported into an Orwellian nightmare". He added that you could not cover the story which was "in everybody's interest" but couldn't cover it because you couldn't get to the truth.

11:44 Pilditch's initial sources are listed as resort workers, holidaymakers and ex-pats but the police refused to help.

Quote You would get a whole load of witnesses giving you a similar description and you go to the police with it and they can't tell you anything.

11:48 The inquiry hears that Portugese journalists were in contact with senior officers and a third party dialogue was used to stand up stories or develop lines. This enabled an "accurate insight" into the investigation into Maddie's disappearance.

11:53 Pilditch describes the pressures of writing stories for which there is great demand on scant reliable information.

Quote You feel uncomfortable writing stories when you are put in a position that you can't do what you normally do, to be certain that what you are doing is fair and accurate... [but] you couldn't just not write a story.

David Pilditch, of the Daily Express, giving evidence

David Pilditch, of the Daily Express, giving evidence

11:59 He tells the inquiry that the McCann's status of arguidos meant that they could be subjected to much tougher questioning, according to what he was told by Portugese lawyers.

12:00 He adds that the McCanns' spokespeople were telling journalists what the police were asking them in dealing with them as a type of suspect.

12:04 He describes the role of Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns' official spokesman, who...

Quote ...commented on every story and often in quite strident terms that this was part of a black propaganda campaign and there was no evidence to support what the police were saying.

12:07 Robert Jay asks whether Pilditch was responsible for a headline on his story. He clearly says "no". The inquiry hears it is never the journalist.

12:10 Leveson seems surprised that journalists do not read every word of every story that has their byline on it prior to publication.

12:13 The inquiry is hearing the nuts and bolts of how stories are compiled when multiple journalists are involved, with some on location around the world. Both Mr Jay and Lord Justice Leveson appear not to have come across this before.

12:18 Pilditch tells the inquiry more on the stages involved in handling stories, saying "I file my story and there are other processes involved after that".

12:26 He defends his use of Portugese police sources to stand up stories, saying:

Quote There must be some plausibility in what a modern police force were telling you in the 21st century in a European country.

12:43 Both Leveson and Jay are suggesting that what was written after Madeleine'e disappearance was not true but Pilditch is insistent that it was thought to be true at the time.

Leveson says: "It's all fluff, there's nothing to it." Pilditch responds: "Knowing what we know now, it's a very different picture," adding that his editors were aware of how fragile the threads of some stories might be.

12:56 James Dingemans QC, counsel for the Daily Express, has expressed his concern that the inquiry is being "highjacked" and turned from its "inquisitorial" nature into one which is increasingly "adversarial", with journalists being given questions for which they are not prepared.

13:04 Leveson interrupts a spiel from Mr Sherborne, who represents 51 "victims" of press malpractice, about allegations that the McCanns had something to do with Madeleine's disappearance to say:

Quote There is absolutely no foundation at all that the allegations that emerged through the press at this time that Dr and Dr McCann were involved in any way in any inappropriate conduct in relation to the disappearance of their daughter.

13:06 That's it for the morning session. More soon.



14:12 Padraic Flanagan, a senior reporter at the Daily Express, is now on the stand.

14:16 Flanagan says he had "between 50 and 60" sources who he used to call regularly when covering the Madeleine McCann story.

14:23 Flanagan is pushed on why sometimes stories have to be written in spite of an absence of provable facts on a major story and says:

Quote It would take quite a brave reporter to call the desk and say "I'm not really sure about this, I'm not going to send anything in today".

14:27 Observers on Twitter have pointed out that the impeccable Mr Jay's tie appears to have become askew.

14:28 Flanagan says the expense of sending reporters to foreign countries means you are expected to deliver stories.

14:29 Leveson again raising his concern that the stories under discussion were "fragile" with "a lot of theorising, no solid facts, and this was a great risk".

14:30 "Everyone was aware of these stories, how fragile they were, it's sometimes the case on these crime stories that there's theorising... I think it's a national tendency," Flanagan says.

14:32 Leveson asks: "Where does balance, fairness, propriety come into it all?"

14:33 Flanagan says: "I'm not sure I can answer that."

He goes on to explain that reporting is done before all the facts are fully investigated by those in authority and therefore not all is known.

14:34 Leveson is asking why newspapers don't carry stories saying how difficult it can be to do their job in reporting the full facts of any given story. Flanagan says that's fine but "what do you fill the paper with the next day?".



14:37 Flanagan is now done, the next witness is Nick Fagge, a former reporter for the Daily Express who now works for the Daily Mail.

14:42 Fagge tells the inquiry that he took steps to make sure the story was legally able to be published but added that:

Quote In Portugal, I wouldn't be thinking about the High Court to be honest.


14:48 Fagge says the bosses of the Daily Express were "obsessed" with the Madeleine McCann story:

Quote The Madeleine story was on the front page of the Daily Express more than any other newspaper because the editor decided it would sell newspapers. It became an obsession of his.

14:49 That's the end of evidence today. I hope our coverage has been interesting.

14:56 A final word from Lord Justice Leveson, who has asked for any participant who is concerned about the credibility of witnesses to let him know in writing:

Quote Fairness remains the watchword I'm trying to apply to all.

 
Leveson Inquiry: live, 21 December 2011
 

Leveson Inquiry: live Guardian News Blog

By Lisa O'Carroll and Josh Halliday
Wednesday 21 December 2011

- Extract -

11.36am:
David Pilditch, a former Mirror reporter who has also worked for the Express is about to be sworn in.

11.37am: Pilditch explains he has been a journalist for 26 years.

He is a general news reporter at the Daily Express and has been called to the inquiry to discuss the paper's coverage of the Madeleine McCann story.

He went to Portugal in 2007 and was there six times between then and 2008. He was there for six weeks on his first visit.

11.39am: Pilditch says "getting to the truth" of the matter was "impossible to find" because of the laws in Portugal.
"Certainly in relation to the police investigation, in a story like this you would expect the primary information would be coming from the police and in this case that just didn't happen. You are in an impossible situation, because you try and do everything to get to the bottom of what happened Madeleine McCann. That was left to the parents in this case."
11.41am: Pilditch says there was "a lot of pressure" to cover the story which had attracted large international interest.

Leveson inquiry: David Pilditch
Leveson inquiry: David Pilditch

11.42am: Pilditch explains "there was no strategy, just confusion all round, when there should have been focus".

Leveson asks was that not the story? Pilditch says "that was the story we were writing in the early stages".

11.43am: Pilditch explains how stories about suspects would emerge.
"The police had been round the resort and other areas on their own inquiries and we were finding out lines of inquiries from local people. They were given descriptions of potential suspects and when a whole lot of witnesses give the same description you have a pretty good idea of what the police were working on."
11.45am: Pilditch says in the absence of direct police information, he befriended local journalists who had good contacts with the local police.

He identifies three of his "best sources" – two Portuguese journalists who were in daily contact with the senior investigating officers and a translator.

11.52am: Due to the secrecy of Portuguese justice laws Pilditch says it was impossible to report the story to a legally sound standard normally expected of reporters.
"I knew that the reports were correct but I also knew that because there was no confirmation there were going to be difficulties if any complaints were made."
11.55am: Pilditch says he shared his discomfiture with his newsdesk
"We may not be able to defend these things because we may not be able to get confirmation. They took that on board."
He added:
"I am not a legal expert, but I felt that the situation as it presented itself, that was the case. I'm certain the newsdesk would have conversations with lawyers about this.

There would have been discussions - that was the situation we were in and there was no way around it."
11.57am: When the McCann's were named as "aguidos", it was not something that could be ignored.

The lawyers in Portugal said that effectively an aguido is a suspect and it gives the police an opportunity to put much tougher questions than they would to a witness and I think the McCanns themselves were given very tough questions.

Leveson intercepts and suggests it's like "active proceedings" in UK law when reporting restrictions are in place for the press.

12.01pm: Pilditch says this was an important development in the story.
"This was a very big story, obviously there would be discussions on the newspapers from lawyers, all sorts of parties involved. The actual legal aspects would be something that the lawyers would be discussing.

If you put it into context of the story. The story was such a huge story."
12.03pm: Pilditch explains that the McCanns engaged a PR man, Clarence Mitchell, who commented on every story, that this was "a black propaganda" campaign and there was no evidence to back up the claim [that the McCanns were suspects].

He says that senior detectives in the Portuguese police were briefing "off the record".

12.05pm: The inquiry is now talking about a series of defamatory articles written in the Express.

He is being asked if he was responsible for the headline on one story naming the McCanns as "prime suspects".

Pilditch says this would be the job of the editor or the night editor.

The story starts by saying "Kate and Gerry McCann are still regarded as the prime suspects in the disappearance of their daughter".

Pilditch explains he "didn't really write this story"; that it had another journalist, "Nick Fagge's name on it".

12.09pm: Pilditch explains that he can't comment on the story even though his name is on it.

He explains his "part" in the story and it would have been "inserted" into the story by the newsdesk or the reporter compiling the story.

Kate and Gerry McCann
Kate and Gerry McCann

12.13pm: The inquiry is discussing the mundanities of newsgathering and hearing how reporters may have "filed" some copy for a story but may not make the final cut. However their byline may still appear on the story.

12.16pm:
Jay is now quizzing Pilditch about the language used in a story that referred to the "10 fingers of suspicion".

The story also reports that "Portuguese detectives could fly to Britain for make-or-break interviews".

Jay puts it to him that the language is "quite heightened" and Pilditch is making it sound like guilt or innocence would turn on these interviews.

Pilditch says he can't remember if he wrote the exact words – the article was written four years ago.

Leveson now asks "whether he reads his own stories?"

12.19pm: Jay says a further Express story reporting DNA "findings" that Madeleine's body had been in the spare tyre-well in the boot was also inaccurate.

The DNA evidence was "at best inconclusive", says Jay. He refers to the testimony of the McCann's four weeks ago who said it was "simply untrue".

"Madeleine's DNA was not uncovered in the hire car," Jay points out.

Pilditch says "we know that now, but we didn't know that then" adding the local police were briefing that there were links.

12.29pm: The inquiry is now talking about the priest who helped comfort the McCanns in Portugal in the wake of their daughter's disappearance.

Referring to a story about the "tormented police", Jay observes "this is rather a loaded story".
"The priest, it says, felt under tremendous emotional strain because of some sort of confession had been given to him by Dr Kate McCann. The story says 'The tormented priest insisted he would stand by his vows and take his secrets to the grave'."
Jay says it was 'journalistic licence' to assert 'that the priest not merely stands by his religious obligation but that he would be taking the secret to his grave because he was given a confession by Dr McCann'.

He says everything in this last sentence about the grave is an "inference".

"You weren't told that by anyone were you?

12.38pm: Jay asks if "people like you" thought about the impact of their "stories which imply that the child has not been abducted but something far more sinister has happened".

Jay asks if Pilditch considered if this would add "to the emotional turmoil" of the parents.

Pilditch says:
"I think I explained, there is emotional turmoil, but I'm reporting what's happening on the ground, that particular day."
12.42pm: Leveson puts it to Pilditch that he was repackaging "tittle tattle" that exposed newspapers to massive damage claims.

Leveson asks did Pilditch make the paper aware of the "extreme fragility" of the information?
"All the things that are being written, about the priest ... it's all fluff, there's nothing to it"
Pilditch says:
"It's not tittle tattle, because it was information coming from senior detectives who were investigating the case."
12.46pm: Pilditch has now finished being questioned by the leading counsel and David Sherborne, barrister for the "victims" of press is on his feet.

12.50pm: James Dingemans, for Northern and Shell is objecting to questions being raised by David Sherborne with no prior notice.

12.59pm: Sherborne wants to put it on record that there is nothing in the police files to suggest that Madeleine's DNA was found in a car referred to in one of Pilditch's articles.

Leveson explains he is conducting an investigation into press ethics but is happy to put it on record that this is indeed the case.
"Everybody is agreed that there is absolutely no foundation at all for the allegation that emerged throughout the press at this time that Dr and Dr McCann were involved in any way, in any inappropriate conduct in relation to the disappearance of their daughter.

That doesn't need to be established for me. In the same way I wasn't going to go into what happened with the City Slickers column, this is very much a side issue."
1.06pm: The Leveson inquiry has now broken for lunch and will resume at 2.05pm.



2.07pm: David Pilditch's witness statements have now been published.

2.08pm: The Leveson inquiry has resumed and Northern & Shell barrister James Dingemans is questioning Express journalist David Pilditch.

2.10pm: David Express journalist Padraic Flanagan is now being sworn in.

He has been a journalist for 21 years and covered the McCann story along with Pilditch back in 2007.

2.12pm: He says he had between 50 and 60 names and numbers he would call regularly on this story.
"There was a wide variety of sources that I used in Portugal"
2.13pm: He says he no sources in the police itself as they could not brief officially.

He is being asked about a story from 2007 which referred to questions British police were being asked by their Portuguese police.

He says it originated from a Portuguese journalist.

This journalist was shown "these 14 questions in a document that was being sent over to British detectives".

The story also reports that investigators believe the "Tapas 9" may have been involved in the crime.

He says he got that story from the same source.

2.18pm:
He says he would discuss what the best "lines of the day" were with the newdesk through the day, but that "considerations of the law" were left to his superiors.
"Working in Portugal the first question you asked yourself wasn't 'Can I stand this up?'; it was 'What can I find today?'"

Leveson inquiry: Padraic Flanagan
Leveson inquiry: Padraic Flanagan

2.23pm: Flanagan says it would be a "brave" reporter who called their newsdesk to say they didn't have any updates on the McCann story.
"It would be quite a brave reporter to call the desk and say 'I'm not really sure about this, I'm not going to send anything back today'

If they had the copy they could see the strength of the material and they could take a view on it ... he story was extraordinary, this snowball going down the incline as you said. Bearing in mind every newspaper and TV and radio reporters were there"
2.27pm: Flanagan is asked why Northern & Shell didn't defend the libel action by the McCanns. Was he surprised?

He replies:
"No, I think at the Express they're more likely to want to avoid massive legal bills. I get the impression they're more likely to want to settle out of court rather than fight cases"
2.30pm: Flanagan says there was "a very large vacuum" to fill in Portugal.
"A lot of theorising. I think everybody was aware of the strength of these stories, how fragile they were. I think it's sometimes the case on crime stories that this kind of thing process takes place; supposition and theorising ... with the Portuguese's stance on talking to the press there was a very large vacuum there."
He adds:
"I do have some responsibility - for instance I can't write a story that is a lie and claim to the newsdesk that it is true."
2.34pm: When Flanagan explains he can't write a story that there is no story, Leveson says "complete piffle" is not the alternative.

Leveson says:
"The one thing that you don't want to fill the paper story surely is stuff that is terribly damaging to people and maybe complete piffle."
2.37pm: Flanagan apologises to the McCanns.
"I would like to take an opportunity to apologise to the McCanns for adding to their distress and hurt for what I wrote."
2.39pm: Leveson says he is a supporter of freedom of express but he is keen to find balance.

He asks Flanagan to look at the case of Christopher Jefferies, the Bristol landlord linked to the murder of Joanna Yeates.
"Everyone just went like a train on the story and it's destructive."
Leveson says the answer may be "the story is not [written] in such bright colours"



2.41pm: The final witness of the day Nick Fagge is now giving evidence.

He worked at the Daily Express between 2001 and 2010 and is now a staff reporter at the Daily Mail.

He went to Morocco in 2007 to chase a story about Madeleine McCann.

2.43pm:
He says as a reporter in Portugal he would not be thinking of a potential libel action back in London.
"I wouldn't be thinking if the story came to the high court, I'd be thinking of verifying the story as best I good, I wouldn't be thinking of a potential libel case."
2.45pm: Flanagan is asked if he was surprised when the libel action was launched by the McCanns in 2008.
"No, because the editor of the time decided it was the only story he was interested in and put it on the front page regardless of how strong the story was."
Jay asks does he mean by this that the story might appear if it wasn't true?
"Not, at its truth. the Madeleine story was on the front page of the Daily Express more than any other newspaper, because he decided it would sell newspapers, it became an obsession of his."
2.46pm: Leveson is now expected to call in Peter Hill, the editor of the Daily Express in 2008, to give evidence after Flanagan's assertion that the McCann story was an "obsession" of his.

Leveson:
It can't just be a question of sales can it?

Flanagan
: I think you will have to ask the editor that.

Leveson:
I might do.

2.49pm:
Flanagan agrees that the coverage of the McCann story was regrettable.
"It is tragic"
Leveson thanks him for his evidence.

2.51pm:
The Leveson inquiry will resume on January 9th.

David Pilditch

 
Witness Statement of David Pilditch
 

Witness Statement of David Pilditch

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Witness Statement of David Pilditch (pdf, 433K)

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Leveson Inquiry: David Pilditch, 21 December 2011
 

Leveson Inquiry: David Pilditch

 
Leveson Inquiry: Transcript of David Pilditch's evidence, 21 December 2011
 

Leveson Inquiry: Transcript of David Pilditch's evidence Leveson Inquiry

Wednesday 21 December 2011

- Extract -

7   MR JAY:  Sir, the next witness is Mr Pilditch.

8   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Thank you.

9                    MR DAVID PILDITCH (sworn)

10                       Questions by MR JAY

11   MR JAY:  Please sit down, Mr Pilditch, make yourself

12       comfortable and tell us your full name.

13   A.  David Hamilton Pilditch.

14   Q.  You'll find in the bundle in front of you, I hope under

15       tab 2, your witness statement has been signed and

16       contains a statement of truth.  Do you stand by this

17       evidence?

18   A.  Yes.

19   Q.  I'm going to ask you first of all to tell us something

20       about yourself.  You have been a journalist for 26 years

21       now; is that correct?

22   A.  That's correct.

23   Q.  You started at a local paper, you were formally trained

24       by the National Council for the Training of Journalists.

25       You worked for a national news agency.  For eight years


                                            50


1       you were at the Daily Mirror and then you moved to the

2       Daily Express in 2003; is that correct?

3   A.  That's correct.

4   Q.  I think you are still at the Daily Express as a general

5       news reporter; is that right?

6   A.  That's right.

7   Q.  In relation to the Madeleine McCann story, you tell us

8       that you went to Portugal in 2007, indeed you were there

9       a total of six times until February 2008, and you were

10       six weeks in the country at your first visit; is that

11       correct?

12   A.  Yes, that's correct, six weeks, yeah.

13   Q.  Can I ask you first of all, please, in your own words to

14       tell us about the "uniquely challenging" aspects of

15       covering this story?  It's paragraph 4 of your

16       statement.  I'm not going to ask you to read it out, but

17       to tell us why it was uniquely challenging.

18   A.  Well, it was obviously a story of great interest and the

19       problem was sort of accessing information from the

20       police because of the secrecy of justice laws, which

21       meant that it was illegal for them to discuss any

22       details of the case or the investigation.  Normally in

23       a story like that, you would expect the police to be

24       organising appeals and they'd have a strategy of dealing

25       with the media and the press.  But it wasn't there in


                                            51


1       this case.

2   Q.  They didn't have a formal strategy because under

3       Portuguese law it was forbidden to speak to the press;

4       is that correct?

5   A.  That's right.

6   Q.  Then you tell us in the final sentence of paragraph 4:

7           "Quite frankly this was a ludicrous state of affairs

8       which made covering the story near impossible."

9   A.  That's correct.

10   Q.  Did you mean by that getting to the truth of the matter

11       or did you mean by that -- well, what did you mean by

12       that?

13   A.  Getting to the truth, yes.  I mean, it was as if you'd

14       been transported like Dr Who into some Orwellian

15       nightmare where the truth is impossible to find.

16   Q.  It might be said if the truth is impossible to find,

17       a journalist cannot properly say anything?

18   A.  Well, that's right, because certainly in relation to the

19       police investigation, in a story like this you'd expect

20       that the primary information would be coming from the

21       police, and in this case that just wasn't happening, so

22       you are in an impossible situation because obviously

23       you're trying to do everything to make sure that you can

24       get to the bottom of what's happened to

25       Madeleine McCann.  The parents were in the end left to


                                            52


1       do that job that the police would normally do.

2   Q.  Did you feel under any pressure to produce stories in

3       relation to this case?

4   A.  There was obviously a lot of pressure because there was

5       newspapers and TV networks from all over Britain and

6       Europe there, and the interest was in the story.  You've

7       obviously got to -- you can't sort of not cover the

8       story of something that -- that's why I'm saying it's

9       ludicrous, because you have to be in a position to cover

10       the story.  That's in everybody's interest.

11   Q.  You're making it sound, maybe this is the case, that you

12       were on the horns of a dilemma.  On the one hand you

13       were under pressure to cover the story; on the other

14       hand you couldn't cover it because you couldn't get to

15       the truth.  Is that a fair characterisation?

16   A.  That's right.  But you want to make sure, as

17       a journalist, that you've got facts and proper

18       information that you're dealing with, but without the

19       police co-operation it's impossible to do that.

20   Q.  You say in paragraph 6:

21           "The lack of official cooperation between the police

22       and the media in my view fatally flawed the

23       investigation into Madeleine's disappearance from day

24       one."

25   A.  Yes.


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1   Q.  Why do you say that?

2   A.  Because of these lack of appeals, there was just no --

3       the things that should have been done, the strategies

4       that should have been put in place by the police were

5       not there, so at the time when it was most important

6       that people were alerted to what was going on, that

7       didn't happen.  And throughout the whole investigation,

8       I think this lack of information meant that -- and there

9       were leaks of information as well, which meant that, as

10       I say, there was no strategy.  It was just confusion all

11       round, where there should have been focus.

12   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  But isn't that then the story?

13   A.  Well, the story is to find out what's happened to

14       Madeleine McCann.

15   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  No, isn't the story the lack of focus

16       and the accusation?  And obviously to find Madeleine,

17       but isn't that the position rather than just

18       repeating --

19   A.  That was the story that we were writing in the early

20       stages.  The story about the confusion, about the lack

21       of information.

22   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I'm running ahead of Mr Jay and

23       I shouldn't.

24   MR JAY:  Paragraph 13, please, Mr Pilditch.  You make it

25       clear that the police could not be an official source of


                                            54


1       information, but you tell us in paragraph 13:

2           "My stories were compiled using numerous sources of

3       information."

4           Can we just list, please, your sources of

5       information?  You say first of all:

6           "I interviewed witnesses, many locals connected with

7       businesses, resort workers, holidaymakers and expats."

8           What information did they give you which bore on the

9       Madeleine McCann story which was relevant?

10   A.  Well, the police had been round the resort and other

11       areas on their own enquiries, and we were finding out

12       lines of enquiry that the police were pursuing through

13       speaking to local people and they'd been given

14       descriptions of potential suspects, things like that,

15       and you'd get a whole load of witnesses giving you the

16       same description, then you have a pretty good idea what

17       the police are working on, and then you go to the police

18       and they can't tell you if that's right or wrong.

19   Q.  So the suspects, are these people who were suspected of

20       having abducted Madeleine; is that right?

21   A.  I think that's right, yes.  I mean, the police were

22       putting out a description of a particular man that

23       they -- I think witnesses had described being near the

24       apartment, a potential suspect.

25   Q.  Okay.  And what about the locals connected with


                                            55


1       businesses?  Is this the same sort of enquiry you were

2       making?

3   A.  That's exactly what I'm saying.  I mean, in the early

4       stages, when we arrived on the story, did what we do on

5       all stories, which is go around speaking to people in

6       the vicinity and trying to find out what they knew.

7   Q.  So during this phase, is this right, you were under the

8       impression that the police focus was on an abductor?

9   A.  Well, it certainly was, and -- I mean, there were

10       various lines of enquiry that emerged, but certainly in

11       the very early days they were putting out various

12       descriptions and there were also potential sightings

13       that were reported as well, but this information wasn't

14       coming from the police directly.

15   Q.  You say in paragraph 18, when you're dealing with other

16       sources of information, you'd previously identified

17       Mr Clarence Mitchell as being the McCanns' official

18       spokesman, which we know about.  Paragraph 18:

19           "In addition to quoting from Portuguese newspapers

20       and the Drs McCanns' official spokesman I approached my

21       own sources."

22           Could you make it clear for us, please, it's dealt

23       with in paragraph 19, who your own sources were?

24   A.  What I'm saying is that we were looking at the

25       Portuguese newspapers every day and that gave you a sort


                                            56


1       of starting point, very often, of what sort of lines you

2       might be pursuing on a particular day.  But then, as it

3       became apparent that the police weren't going to

4       co-operate directly, I had to try and make contact with

5       them in whichever way I could, and the way I did that

6       was by identifying journalists who had -- from the area

7       and crime reporters who'd got very good police contacts

8       and they were in daily contact with them, with the most

9       senior officers in the case, as I've said, who were

10       investigating the crime.

11   Q.  You identify three sources, don't you, who provided you

12       with information, you say.  Two were Portuguese

13       journalists who, you say, were in daily contact with the

14       most senior officers investigating Madeleine's

15       disappearance.  The third was a translator who worked

16       for the Portuguese police and translated, interpreted in

17       the Portuguese legal system.

18   A.  Yes.

19   Q.  Is that right?

20   A.  Yes.

21   Q.  So they were, as it were, your sources?  You haven't

22       given their names, but in terms of who they were --

23   A.  Yeah.

24   Q.  -- these are the individuals we're talking about?

25   A.  These were my best sources.  I mean, during the course


                                            57


1       of the time I was there, there were other people, but

2       these were the ones that I used on a regular basis.

3   Q.  So is this right: the senior officers in the Portuguese

4       police who, under Portuguese law, were not supposed to

5       brief Portuguese journalists, were doing just that,

6       unofficially, and then you were, as it were, picking up

7       on the scraps of their briefings from your contact with

8       those journalists?  Is that right?

9   A.  Yes.  And if there was -- I was able to sort of develop

10       a dialogue with the police through these third-party

11       sources, so sometimes in the Portuguese newspapers they

12       didn't -- there was only just one or two lines that

13       weren't developed that may need more developing, so

14       I was able to ask questions to the police, not directly,

15       but through the journalists who were talking to them

16       every day.

17   Q.  So you put a question to the journalists, the

18       journalists to the police, and the answer came back; is

19       that what you're saying, Mr Pilditch?

20   A.  Well, the answer didn't always come back, but yeah, that

21       was the process that I was working through.

22   Q.  You say in paragraph 21:

23           "Despite the barriers thrown up by the Portuguese

24       criminal justice system, I was able to obtain an

25       accurate and truthful insight into ongoing developments


                                            58


1       within the police investigation at that time."

2           Is that right?

3   A.  Yes.

4   Q.  But in truth, is this not also right, that the best you

5       could do was to obtain from your Portuguese journalists

6       their report of what senior officers were apparently

7       telling those Portuguese journalists?

8   A.  Sorry?

9   Q.  The best you could do was to obtain from the two

10       Portuguese journalists who were your main source their

11       report of what they were apparently being told by senior

12       officers within the Portuguese police service?

13   A.  Yes.

14   Q.  You say in paragraph 21, five lines down -- maybe

15       I should read the preceding sentence:

16           "Indeed, by this point in time, one of my

17       contacts ..."

18           Is this one of the three you had identified

19       previously?

20   A.  Yes.

21   Q.  "... was informing me of day-to-day developments as they

22       were taking place and before they were being written

23       about in Portuguese newspapers.  This enabled me to

24       verify the accuracy of the information I was being

25       given."


                                            59


1           Would it be fair to say that enabled you to verify

2       some the accuracy of what you were being given?

3   A.  Yes.  It satisfied myself that this wasn't just

4       information that was being given to me that wasn't very

5       good information; it confirmed that my source was

6       dealing, as he said, with the most senior officers in

7       the case.

8   Q.  Can I ask you about paragraph 22:

9           "Although I was confident of the veracity of the

10       reports I was writing, due to the secrecy of justice

11       laws they were impossible to prove, to any satisfactory

12       legal standard, at that time.  The fact is that every

13       newspaper, TV network or media organisation that

14       reported on details of the investigation into

15       Madeleine McCann's disappearance were in the same boat."

16   A.  Mm.

17   Q.  You're effectively saying there that given all the

18       problems you've identified, in particular the

19       restrictions imposed by Portuguese law, on one level, at

20       least, what you were writing about was impossible to

21       prove to any satisfactory legal standard.  Is that what

22       you're saying?

23   A.  Yeah.  I mean, I knew that the reports were correct, but

24       I also knew because they -- there was no confirmation,

25       that there were going to be difficulties if any


                                            60


1       complaints were made because they just weren't from

2       a publicly declared statement.

3   Q.  I appreciate your role as journalist is not to obtain

4       legal advice, not to edit the story, but these

5       difficulties which you are frankly referring to here,

6       did they cause you to hesitate at all in writing the

7       stories you did?

8   A.  Yeah.  You feel uncomfortable writing stories where

9       you're being put in a position where you can't do it in

10       the way that you're used to, to be certain that what

11       you're saying is fair and accurate, and the only way

12       I felt that I could get round that would be to just

13       explain the information in terms of this is where the

14       information's being sourced from.  So if it was -- this

15       information's coming from the Portuguese police, I don't

16       know if it's 100 per cent correct, but I know that it's

17       coming from the Portuguese police.

18   Q.  Your discomfiture, was that something you discussed with

19       your news desk?

20   A.  Yeah, I mean we had dialogues all the time, every day,

21       and I explained to them the problems that we were having

22       and, as I say, you couldn't just not write a story,

23       particularly in the early stages of the enquiry, where

24       what you were doing was basically launching appeals and

25       trying to get people to come forward.


                                            61


1           So basically, every day when I'd speak to the news

2       desk, normally you'd say, "Look, this is what we know,

3       this is what the police are saying, and that's taken as

4       being fact", but the conversations I was having with the

5       news desk were explaining the information I had with all

6       the caveats that were attached to it.

7   Q.  Did you tell your news desk that which we see in

8       paragraph 23 of your statement, namely:

9           "Due to the restrictions of the Portuguese law,

10       anyone who was unhappy about something that had been

11       written or said about them and wished to take legal

12       action would almost certainly have been successful."

13           Was that sentiment shared with your news desk at the

14       time?

15   A.  Well, this is what I felt on the ground.  I'm not

16       a legal expert, but I felt that just the situation as it

17       presented itself, that that was the case, and I'm

18       certain that the news desk would have had conversations

19       with lawyers about this, and there would have been

20       discussions, ongoing discussions, and that was the

21       situation that we were in and there was no way around

22       it.

23   Q.  I must persist with the question.

24   A.  Sorry, yes.

25   Q.  Yes.  Did you share your discomfiture with your news


                                            62


1       desk?

2   A.  Yes.  I said "If we're going to have any problems, we

3       may not be able to defend these things because we just

4       cannot get any confirmation", and that was the

5       difficulty.

6   Q.  And what was the reaction from your news desk, if any?

7   A.  Well, they took my comments on board and as I said,

8       you're in a situation where it's a story of great

9       interest and you've got newspapers and TV from all

10       around the world who are covering it and you know that

11       your rivals are working on similar information and

12       they've got similar issues, and it's the sort of process

13       that, you know, reporters go through every day when

14       they're explaining what information they've got, and,

15       you know, I knew that all I could do was present it in

16       the -- with sort of explaining the sources that the --

17       where the information had come from.

18   Q.  You told us about three or four minutes ago you couldn't

19       not write the story.

20   A.  Yes.

21   Q.  And then you went back to what the position was at the

22       early stages with the missing child --

23   A.  Yes.

24   Q.  -- and all of that, but the position we're talking about

25       now with the defamatory articles, they were written


                                            63


1       between September 2007 and January 2008.

2   A.  Mm.

3   Q.  The McCanns were given arguido status under Portuguese

4       law I think on 7 September 2007?

5   A.  Yes.

6   Q.  It might be said, well, you could not write the story.

7       There was no imperative to write stories which you knew

8       wouldn't stand up to legal scrutiny.  Do you see that

9       point?

10   A.  Yes.  But the position that we were in was that this was

11       probably the most significant development that had

12       happened up to that time in the investigation.

13   Q.  Sorry, what was, Mr Pilditch?

14   A.  Well, when the McCanns were named arguidos.  It's not

15       something you could ignore.  It's not something where

16       you could just present a story that was based on

17       a comment from the McCanns' official spokesperson.

18   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Did you do any work to find out

19       precisely what that meant in Portuguese law?

20   A.  Yes, a lot of work, yeah.  We spoke to lawyers in

21       Portugal, and it was explained to me that there were

22       subtle differences between arguidos and suspects.

23       There's no legal equivalent.

24   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  They're merely entitled to have legal

25       representation and have other advantages, isn't that


                                            64


1       right?  That's what Dr McCann told us, I think.

2       I remove the word "merely" from what I just said.

3   A.  No, we were given a completely different version by the

4       lawyers in Portugal.  We were told that effectively an

5       arguido is a suspect.  It gives the police an

6       opportunity to put much tougher questions than they

7       could to a witness, and they were allowed legal

8       representation and I think the McCanns themselves were

9       given some very, very tough questions from the

10       Portuguese police.

11   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  So proceedings in English terms would

12       be active?

13   A.  There are subtle differences, but I don't think they

14       were arrested or anything like that.  But effectively

15       that was the -- was what was explained to us by the

16       lawyers in Portugal.

17   MR JAY:  Yes.  I'm not sure whether you fully saw the point

18       of that last question, Mr Pilditch.

19   A.  Sorry.

20   Q.  That it brings into play contempt of court issues.

21   A.  I see.  Well, I -- mm, yeah, I don't -- can't, really.

22       The problem is that the McCanns' spokespeople were

23       briefing the press at this time and explaining that --

24       even sort of the extent where sort of things that the

25       Portuguese police were accusing them of.


                                            65


1   Q.  We have a situation here where the McCanns are accorded,

2       if that's the right verb, arguido status under

3       Portuguese law.  They are prevented, in any event, from

4       speaking out.

5   A.  Yes.

6   Q.  To say that, this is right, they face a maximum two

7       years sentence of imprisonment if they do.  You can't

8       speak directly to the police because that is also

9       prevented under Portuguese law.

10   A.  Yes.

11   Q.  I'm just concerned with what are the imperatives, if

12       any, which drive the stories which we know you come to

13       write?

14   A.  As I'm saying, this was a very big development in the

15       story, and there were newspapers and TV networks

16       reporting what was going on, and obviously there would

17       be discussions on the newspaper from lawyers and all

18       sort of parties that would be involved, and I think, you

19       know, the actual legal sort of aspects would be

20       something that the lawyers would be discussing.

21   Q.  You make it sound as if the story acquires a life of its

22       own and almost defines itself, and then, like a large

23       snowball, runs down a snowy incline.  Is that fair or

24       not?  I suspect you'll say it isn't, but could you help

25       us with that?


                                            66


1   A.  I think if you put it into context of the story, the

2       story was such a huge story, and I suppose you're right,

3       I mean there is a sort of a vortex, isn't there, that is

4       created.

5   Q.  You keep on using the term "the story".  What do you

6       mean precisely by that?

7   A.  The disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

8   Q.  Yes.  But we're moving away from that, aren't we, with

9       the particular pieces you write?

10   A.  Well, I was just reporting on day-to-day developments

11       and that's what my job was to do.

12   Q.  Okay.  You say under paragraph 25 that all your stories

13       were checked with more than one source prior to

14       publication:

15           "Once Clarence Mitchell was appointed as [their]

16       spokesman, it was agreed that all stories would be

17       bounced off him rather than the Drs McCann directly.

18       This was strictly adhered to."

19           In relation, though, to the stories which we know

20       were by agreement deemed to be defamatory, did

21       Mr Mitchell comment on all such stories?

22   A.  Well, he commented on every story, and very often, you

23       know, in quite strident terms, just explaining that this

24       was part of a black propaganda campaign and that there

25       was no evidence to back up what the police were saying.


                                            67


1   Q.  Then you make it clear in paragraph 25, and this would

2       have to be the case under Portuguese law:

3           "On every occasion, Portuguese police refused to

4       comment on grounds that the enquiry was subject to

5       judicial secrecy."

6   A.  On the record --

7   Q.  In other words, in order to get to the truth or

8       otherwise of the story, which is what you were writing

9       about, you couldn't, because the police were refusing to

10       help you.  Is that fair?

11   A.  They were refusing to tell us on the record.  At the

12       same time, they were at this time leaking particularly

13       aggressively.

14   Q.  Some people within the police were leaking for whatever

15       reason; is that not right?

16   A.  Well, it was the senior detectives working on the case.

17   Q.  Doing it off the record; is that right?

18   A.  Yes.

19   Q.  Just look at some of the individual pieces, please.

20       These are under tab 4.  It's part of exhibit JM2.  I'm

21       going to look first of all at page 31647.  It is right

22       to say that all the pieces I'm going to refer to,

23       I believe all of them, are agreed to be defamatory

24       pieces and very substantial compensation was paid, so

25       I'm not, as it were, concerned to reopen that matter,


                                            68


1       which won't and can't be reopened.

2   A.  Mm.  Sorry, I don't know where I'm looking.

3   Q.  I'm immediately looking at the wrong page.

4   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Yes, because this is not an article

5       written by this witness.

6   MR JAY:  My note is suspect.

7   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  What's the date of the article,

8       Mr Jay?  Do you know?

9   MR JAY:  29 November.  No, my notes are just wrong.  I think

10       we're going to do better with 31645 on 1 December 2007.

11   A.  Yes, okay.

12   Q.  This is one we see you co-author.

13   A.  Mm.

14   Q.  Can I be clear first of all about one matter.  It says

15       at the start:

16           "Gerry and Kate 'still the prime suspects'."

17           That's the headline.  Were you responsible for that

18       headline?

19   A.  No.

20   Q.  You say that with confidence.  I'm sure in line with

21       usual practice, it won't be in dispute that the editor

22       or subeditor is responsible for that.  Do I have that

23       right?

24   A.  Well, it's not the subeditor, it would be the editor or

25       the night editor.  I'm not too sure who writes


                                            69


1       headlines, but it's not the subeditors.  They just fit

2       stories into space.

3   Q.  I think it's important for our purposes today to

4       establish it's not you, okay?

5   A.  No.

6   Q.  Is that always the case with these headlines; it's never

7       the journalist, it's always the editor?

8   A.  Well, it's never the journalist.  You know, something

9       that I think the editor or night editor -- I mean, I'm

10       not too sure, to be honest.  The editor would have

11       a final say about it, but --

12   Q.  But we can see from the first line of the text:

13           "Kate and Gerry McCann are still regarded as the

14       prime suspects in the disappearance of their daughter

15       despite inconclusive findings from DNA evidence."

16   A.  Yes.

17   Q.  So that's your wording, isn't it?

18   A.  No.

19   Q.  You don't think it is?

20   A.  You see, I didn't really write this story.  This has

21       Nick Fagge's name on it.  Normally, if you've got

22       somebody who is named first, they are the people who do

23       most of the writing.  I do remember this one because I'd

24       just arrived in Portugal that day and I think Nick Fagge

25       was being replaced and there had been a meeting going on


                                            70


1       between the British ambassador and senior police

2       officers at police headquarters in Faro, and I went

3       straight from the airport to the police headquarters and

4       basically I provided a bit of colour from police

5       headquarters.  I wrote about sort of official cars

6       coming out of these sort of colonial style police

7       buildings and things.  That was my role in the story.

8       Because nobody wanted to talk to me, so I was just sort

9       of stood outside the police headquarters.

10   Q.  Fair enough, but the general tenor of this is that the

11       line of investigation within the Portuguese police was

12       seeking to establish the truth of a hypothesis that

13       Madeleine died as a result of an accident in the flat

14       and the parents then hid and disposed of the body; is

15       that right?

16   A.  What, this particular story?

17   Q.  Mm.

18   A.  I can't comment on this particular story.

19   Q.  Let's look at another one that you might be able to.

20   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  But your name is at the top of it.

21       Should that be just ignored?

22   A.  No, I explained why my name is on the top of it, because

23       I played a role in the story, but that's all I did,

24       stand outside police headquarters.

25   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  You didn't read the story before it


                                            71


1       went out under your name?

2   A.  No.  I would have filed my bit of copy to either the

3       news desk or to Nick Fagge, who was compiling the story,

4       and it would have just been inserted into the story.

5       Very often reporters write stories and don't get their

6       bylines in the papers because somebody else is the main

7       reporter who is pulling it all together.  Very often

8       there could have been more reporters or could have been

9       more input into this story, but I don't think there was.

10       I think Nick Fagge wrote the story and I, as I say,

11       arrived at the airport and went straight to the police

12       headquarters in my hire car, so that's all I did, and

13       then informed him of what had happened at the police

14       headquarters, which was just I was witnessing what took

15       place at this meeting.

16   MR JAY:  In terms of the procedure, though, Mr Pilditch, the

17       assumption I was making, but it may be incorrect in the

18       light of what you're saying, is that this is emailed

19       back to London; is that right?

20   A.  Yes.  I can't remember whether I emailed my part of it

21       to London or if I emailed it to Nick Fagge, but it would

22       be one of the other, I think.

23   Q.  Isn't it standard practice that if, on the face of it,

24       a story is being coauthored, that the copy is sent to

25       you -- imagine Mr Fagge is the primary author -- for


                                            72


1       comment, you approve it or not, and then, you having

2       made any contribution you see fit, the text is emailed

3       to London?

4   A.  No.

5   Q.  Probably here by Mr Fagge.  Is that not what happens?

6   A.  No.  I wouldn't have seen the whole article.  As I say,

7       I would have simply passed on the part of the story

8       I was doing to the news desk or -- you know, I think

9       that's what would have happened -- or the reporter who

10       was compiling the story.

11   Q.  Okay.  So which part of this piece do you say you did

12       write?

13   A.  To be honest, I'm not even sure if anything went in,

14       because, as I say, I went to the police headquarters

15       where this meeting was taking place.

16   Q.  Yes?

17   A.  And I would have written some colour about, you know,

18       what I saw.  I saw the police officers and I saw the

19       people that I recognised, who I knew who they were, but

20       there was a whole load of, as I say, official cars.

21       Basically, I was stood outside the police station and

22       when the meeting was over, I saw the people who were

23       involved, or some of them, leaving the police

24       headquarters and I'd have just filed some colour about

25       what I saw at the scene.  That was my involvement in the


                                            73


1       story.

2   Q.  I think it looks as if, from what you're saying, that in

3       truth Mr Fagge was the sole author, your name shouldn't

4       have been on this at all.

5   A.  No, because --

6   Q.  We're not sure where we're seeing the colour you

7       imparted.

8   A.  It looks like someone's knocked it out of the story.

9       Doesn't look like it's made the cut.  The only thing

10       that made the cut was my name.

11   Q.  But we do see from the penultimate sentence:

12           "The McCanns were named as suspects on September 7."

13   A.  Yes.

14   Q.  Are you sure that's right?

15   A.  Well, I didn't write this story.  That's what I'm

16       saying.

17   Q.  Let's look at one which we can be sure that you did

18       write.  31643, dated 3 December.  Just cast an eye over

19       it.  Your source here is someone within the Portuguese

20       police speaking to a journalist, who then speaks to you;

21       is that correct?

22   A.  It looks like it.  I mean, it doesn't source any --

23       doesn't say that there was any other -- I mean,

24       I haven't attributed any other source to it, so --

25   Q.  The only attribution, but this is not going to help us


                                            74


1       much, is at the very end:

2           "The source added: 'Once interviews have been

3       conducted the filed will be passed ...'."

4           So whoever the source was, was close to the police

5       investigation, as it were, and we know from the evidence

6       you're giving us it's likely to be one of the two

7       journalists, isn't it?

8   A.  Yeah.

9   Q.  In terms of the colour, though, which you refer to in

10       the context of the previous piece, which you say you

11       didn't have a hand in, the term "fingers of suspicion",

12       whose was that?

13   A.  I don't know.  I can't say at this --

14   Q.  Might it have been your term, Mr Pilditch?

15   A.  No.  I mean, it's not -- I don't really know what it

16       means, to be honest.

17   Q.  Well, because some of the language here might, by some,

18       be said to be somewhat loaded.

19   A.  Mm.

20   Q.  For example:

21           "Portuguese detectives could fly to Britain to sit

22       in on make-or-break interviews ..."

23           You're making it sound as if guilt or innocence

24       might turn on the result.  It is quite heightened, isn't

25       it?


                                            75


1   A.  Well, I mean, we certainly knew that this was something

2       that Portuguese police were considering at that time.

3   Q.  Okay.  And then what about the sentence about eight

4       lines down:

5           "Detectives want to focus on the 10 issues that have

6       haunted them ..."?

7   A.  Mm.

8   Q.  That must be your terminology, mustn't it?

9   A.  Well, they were obviously struggling, weren't they, the

10       detectives?

11   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I'm sorry, Mr Pilditch, I'd just like

12       to understand this.  In the first sentence it says "10

13       'fingers of suspicion'".  Are you saying you didn't

14       write that?

15   A.  I can't recall whether that was my specific wording or

16       not.

17   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Well, do you read the articles when

18       they come out in the paper and think about whether

19       they've been changed back in London?  Or do you not

20       bother?

21   A.  What I'm saying is I wrote this story four years ago,

22       and I can't remember if those were my specific words or

23       not.

24   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  And "10 issues that have haunted

25       them", Mr Jay's question, is that your word?


                                            76


1   A.  I'm saying the same thing.  I mean, I can't remember if

2       I used that word.  The thing is that I file my story and

3       there are other processes involved after that, so if I'd

4       written this story last week, then I'd know exactly --

5       well, even if I wrote it last week, I wouldn't know

6       exactly my specific words, without referring to the

7       original copy that I'd sent.

8   MR JAY:  Did you not assemble -- forgive me for putting it

9       in these terms -- these ten issues from what you'd

10       gleaned from reading Portuguese newspapers and then

11       turned it into a story in your own language?

12   A.  Well, I think it would have been speaking to my source.

13       I wrote a story, I presented a story the way I'd written

14       it, and I can't tell you for certain whether this is the

15       story that I wrote word for word.  I doubt that it was,

16       because it normally isn't, but I don't know which words

17       I used and which words were used in part of the

18       subediting process.

19   Q.  Your source was only telling you that interviews could

20       take place.  I think my question was in order to work

21       out what the subject matter of the interviews might be,

22       you looked at Portuguese newspapers and assembled what

23       you thought were the ten key issues which might be put

24       to the McCanns.  Is that not a fair supposition?

25   A.  Well, this is what my source would have been telling me,


                                            77


1       yeah.

2   Q.  Are you sure about that?

3   A.  Well, I mean why wouldn't it be?

4   Q.  Can I just pick up on one of the ten points.  The

5       forensic findings, do you see that?

6   A.  Yeah.

7   Q.  "-- though not conclusive -- that Madeleine's body was

8       in the spare tyre ..."

9   A.  Yes.

10   Q.  You're suggesting there, aren't you, that there were

11       findings -- presumably this is a reference to DNA

12       evidence -- which established, although did not do so

13       conclusively, that Madeleine's body was in the spare

14       tyre well in the boot; is that right?

15   A.  Yeah.

16   Q.  The DNA evidence did not go anything like that far, did

17       it?

18   A.  Well, I think at this time it wasn't known how far it

19       had gone.

20   Q.  That's precisely the point.  You're making it sound as

21       if there were findings, when in fact the DNA evidence,

22       if you're going to properly characterise it, was at best

23       inconclusive.

24   A.  I think we know that now, but I don't think we knew that

25       at this time.


                                            78


1   Q.  Well, what did you know at the time about the DNA

2       evidence?

3   A.  Well, that there was DNA evidence that was being

4       examined.

5   Q.  But you didn't know what the results of the examination

6       were, did you?

7   A.  No.

8   Q.  The McCanns' evidence, at page 35 of the transcript --

9   A.  Transcript?

10   Q.  Sorry, pardon me, Mr Pilditch, it's under tab 5.

11   A.  Yeah.

12   Q.  The question which was put at the bottom of page 34:

13           "The overall flavour or thrust of this article [not

14       the article we're looking at now, but it doesn't matter,

15       the point is the same] was that there was DNA evidence

16       which linked your daughter with a hire car.  What do you

17       say about that?

18           "Answer:  The first thing to say, it's simply

19       untrue.  Madeleine's DNA was not uncovered from the hire

20       car.  That's the first thing."

21   A.  We know that now, but I don't think we knew that then.

22       The police were saying that it had been.

23   Q.  The police were saying that some what might have been

24       human tissue was found in the car.

25   A.  Yes.


                                            79


1   Q.  And that they had done some tests in Portugal on it and

2       the results were inconclusive?

3   A.  Well, I think the tests were carried out in Britain.

4   Q.  And they were also inconclusive, weren't they?

5   A.  Well, they were, yeah.

6   Q.  I'm just troubled by --

7   A.  I'm just explaining what the police --

8   Q.  I'm just troubled by the use of the term "findings" in

9       relation to this eighth or ninth finger of suspicion.

10       I must suggest to you it is wrong and unfair to have

11       characterised them as findings at all.

12   A.  Well a finding --

13   Q.  Whether or not one adds in parentheses that they are not

14       conclusive.

15   A.  A finding is something that you found, isn't it?

16       I don't know.  But they found something and it was

17       something that was being analysed.

18   Q.  There are two different senses in which the word

19       "finding" is being used.  The first is, "We've found

20       something which we believe to be human tissue", and the

21       second is, "We've analysed the human tissue and our

22       finding is X", the finding may be it is the DNA of

23       a particular individual.

24   A.  Yes.

25   Q.  We never got, did we, to that second stage at all; do


                                            80


1       you see that?

2   A.  Well, I was explaining what the findings were.

3       I mean -- mm.

4   Q.  I think I've taken that point as far as I reasonably can

5       with you.

6           I'm not going to look at all of these, but you did

7       write quite a few of these articles.  There's another

8       one at 31640.

9   A.  Mm.  This is -- is this before or after that one?  Yeah.

10   Q.  Although it's earlier in the bundle, we are working --

11   A.  Backwards.

12   Q.  -- chronologically forwards, I hope, because the

13       previous one was dated 3 December.

14   A.  No, you're right, yeah.

15   Q.  Here you are reporting what the police theory was at

16       that point, at least the theory which was being

17       apparently put out by some in the police to Portuguese

18       journalists.

19   A.  Mm.

20   Q.  Namely, Madeleine died in an accident and then the

21       parents covered up the crime and later disposed of their

22       daughter's body.  You do rightly say in this piece,

23       about eight lines down:

24           "Months of painstaking analysis on DNA uncovered in

25       Portugal had so far failed to produce conclusive


                                            81


1       evidence."

2           That was the position.  And then there were going to

3       be further tests, I believe, in this country; is that

4       right?

5   A.  I can't recall the chronology of when the tests were

6       carried out and what point the investigation had reached

7       at this point.

8   Q.  Did you make any personal assessment, did you ponder in

9       your own mind about the inherent plausibility or

10       otherwise of the police position as apparently reported?

11   A.  Well, I mean, I didn't know what was going on, but my

12       assessment was that, you know, there must be some form

13       of plausibility in what a modern police force is telling

14       you in the 21st century in a European country.  You

15       wouldn't think they would just, you know.

16   Q.  You were telling us earlier that the Portuguese police

17       investigation was fatally flawed, and that was the view

18       you formed from the outset.  That's in your witness

19       statement.

20   A.  Yeah, I'm talking now about the lack of appeals and

21       the -- the investigation didn't get off the ground, but

22       I don't know what's going on with experts examining

23       forensic evidence and all this sort of thing.  That's

24       just a different part of it.

25   Q.  And then at 31634, 10 December, again this is your


                                            82


1       piece.

2   A.  Mm.

3   Q.  The thrust of this piece is that Portuguese detectives

4       were apparently fearful of the fact that British police

5       would not properly interrogate the McCanns; is that

6       right?

7   A.  Yes.

8   Q.  Did you think at the time there was any basis for that

9       fear?

10   A.  Yeah, I did, yeah.

11   Q.  From your own knowledge of British police and Portuguese

12       police?  Did you really think that?

13   A.  Yes.

14   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  What did you think, that the British

15       police would go easy on suspects?

16   A.  No, that the Portuguese police believed that.  There

17       seemed to be lots of -- I don't know if it was cultural

18       differences, but there seemed to be lots of

19       disagreements going on behind the scenes between various

20       authorities, and the officers who were investigating

21       this case, the senior officers, this is what they were

22       saying.  They believed that -- I think they were

23       concerned they'd complain that they'd ask for

24       information and were upset because they only got one

25       piece of paper or something, background information.


                                            83


1       There was obviously issues going on behind the scenes

2       between the Portuguese police and other authorities.

3   MR JAY:  Okay.  There's only one other piece I'm going to

4       ask you about, it's 31629, please, Mr Pilditch,

5       12 December 2007.  This is the piece about the priest.

6       Do you remember this one?

7   A.  Yes.

8   Q.  Your source, I think, three-quarters of the way down the

9       page, is a "close friend of the priest"; is that right?

10   A.  The priest?

11   Q.  Yes.

12   A.  Yes.

13   Q.  Are you able to give us any further information about

14       that?

15   A.  Um ... well, this was information that was passed on to

16       me by people who were in contact with the priest.

17       I mean, I was speaking all the time to parishioners and

18       worshippers in Praia da Luz.

19   Q.  You think it might have been one of those individuals

20       who passed it on to you; is this right?

21   A.  Yes.

22   Q.  This is, if I may say so, a rather loaded story because

23       the suggestion is, do I have this right, that the priest

24       felt under tremendous emotional strain because some sort

25       of confession had been given to him by Dr Kate McCann.


                                            84


1       That's what you're getting at, isn't it?

2   A.  Where have -- is that part of the story?

3   Q.  Yes.  Right in the middle of the page:

4           "Investigators became convinced Kate had confessed

5       to him -- but the tormented priest insisted he would

6       stand by his vow to take the secrets of the confessional

7       to the grave."

8           Are you sure about that sentence, Mr Pilditch?

9   A.  I know that the police interviewed the priest and

10       nothing came from it, and I think this is what the

11       police were saying.

12   Q.  It might be said that you were drawing a bit of an

13       inference here, that you knew from what you were told

14       that the priest had been interviewed by the police, but

15       it's just the clause "the tormented priest insisted he

16       would stand by his vow to take the secrets of the

17       confessional to the grave", I'm troubled a bit by that,

18       whether that's a bit of journalistic licence on your

19       part.  Are you sure about the accuracy of that

20       statement?

21   A.  I think the accuracy is that priests -- that's how

22       confessional works, isn't it?

23   Q.  As a matter of general proposition it may well be, but

24       you're going a bit further than that, because you're

25       suggesting that not merely would the priest stand by his


                                            85


1       religious obligation, but he would also be taking the

2       secrets of the confessional to his grave because he was

3       given a confession by Dr Kate McCann.  Isn't that what

4       you're getting at?

5   A.  I think the Portuguese police were saying that they'd

6       interviewed Father Pacheco and they hadn't got anything

7       of any use.  The problem with a lot of this stuff was

8       the way the information was leaking out, it was like

9       thinking out loud, really.

10   Q.  Yes.

11   A.  These were the sort of conversations that in a police

12       sort of a, you know, force in this country would be the

13       sort of things that officers would be talking about

14       behind the scenes.  But --

15   Q.  But all you knew as a fact, if your source was to be

16       trusted, and let's assume for the purposes of this

17       exchange that your source could be, is that the police

18       had interviewed the priest.

19   A.  Yes.

20   Q.  But everything else was an inference that you might have

21       drawn, indeed did draw, in particular the bit about the

22       tormented priest insisting he would stand by his vow to

23       take the secrets of the confessional to the grave.  You

24       weren't told that by anyone, were you?

25   A.  I think the police were explaining why they thought they


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1       wouldn't get anything from the priest, because he was

2       duty-bound not to tell them anything.

3   Q.  Mm.

4   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Do you not get the point that Mr Jay

5       is making?

6   A.  Sorry.

7   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  That the inference in the sentence

8       goes rather beyond that and suggests that the priest had

9       a secret to take to the grave?

10   A.  It says "investigators became convinced".  I mean,

11       that --

12   MR JAY:  Yes.  Absolutely.  If you read the whole lot as one

13       piece, it reinforces precisely that point.

14   A.  Mm.

15   Q.  Because here we have a very -- well, I've made the point

16       already, Mr Pilditch.  I'm not sure that you're fully

17       seeing it, though.

18   A.  No.

19   Q.  Okay.

20   A.  What I'm saying is this is what the investigators --

21       they interviewed the priest and got nothing from him,

22       and I think they probably thought that they were just

23       going through a routine of interviewing a priest.

24       I think they suspected that they wouldn't get anything

25       from him.  So I'm just saying what was going on, what


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1       the police were -- how they were -- as I say, this is

2       like a bit of thinking out loud by the police that was

3       in the public domain and it's the sort of thing that

4       normally police officers wouldn't sort of tell you,

5       really.

6   Q.  To be fair to you, Mr Pilditch, can we be clear about

7       two or three matters?  First of all, you don't, of

8       course, have a lawyer advising you as to what to put or

9       not to put into your copy?

10   A.  No.

11   Q.  We know that, it's not standard practice for that to

12       happen.  That happens higher up the chain, doesn't it?

13   A.  Yes.

14   Q.  And secondly, it's ultimately the editor's decision, not

15       yours, as to whether to publish any particular story

16       that is put up by you or any other journalist; is that

17       right?

18   A.  Yeah.

19   Q.  And in terms of the chains or lines of communication,

20       the standard line of communication is between you and

21       the news desk, and then the news desk and the editor; is

22       that also right?

23   A.  Yeah.

24   Q.  Did you have any conversations with the editor at any

25       stage about any of these stories?


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1   A.  No.

2   Q.  I think you've told us earlier that any misgivings you

3       had about the accuracy of the stories and the

4       difficulties you were having were shared with the news

5       desk; is that correct?

6   A.  Yes.

7   Q.  Is that something you think might have happened once or

8       something that might have happened more than once?

9   A.  Sorry?

10   Q.  Your discussions with the news desk?

11   A.  Yeah.

12   Q.  In particular about misgivings in relation to the story

13       and the difficulties you were having in verifying

14       a story.

15   A.  I think every day you would have conversations with the

16       news desk throughout the day and you'd explain the

17       information that you had and where it had come from.  As

18       I say, you'd explain the caveats that were attached to

19       it.

20   Q.  My final point is, is this a possible explanation for

21       what happened here in relation to, to use your term, the

22       story: the McCanns are declared arguidos by the

23       Portuguese authorities on 7 September 2007, and the

24       direction of the story changes?

25   A.  Yeah.


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1   Q.  And instead of being a standard story about child

2       abduction, it becomes a rather more sinister story, in

3       inverted commas.  It's that story or version which

4       starts to dictate the direction in which people like you

5       are writing their copy?  Is that a fair characterisation

6       of what might be happening here?

7   A.  Well, at that particular point in time, I was reporting

8       on the sort of day-to-day developments that were going

9       on on the ground, and this is pretty much what was

10       happening.  During this time, there was also -- there

11       were contradictory reports.  You know, the Portuguese

12       police at different times were saying contradictory

13       things.  One day they're saying that, you know, they're

14       going down one route and the next day they're heading

15       off in a completely different direction.  So not all the

16       reports were of this nature, but at this particular

17       point in time when the investigation had reached this

18       point, then this was the sort of information that was

19       coming out.

20   Q.  Okay.  There is one more question, I hope you don't mind

21       me putting this.  I appreciate that it's the editor's

22       decision as to whether this material is published.

23   A.  Yes.

24   Q.  But did you have any personal concerns about this

25       material going up to the editor with the likelihood that


                                            90


1       it would be published simply on the human basis that we

2       have already a tragic situation, parents have lost their

3       daughter in the sense that the daughter has disappeared?

4   A.  Yes.

5   Q.  Absolutely clear.  They are in a state of emotional

6       turmoil?

7   A.  Yeah.

8   Q.  And then to add to that natural emotional turmoil, what

9       is being written about them.

10   A.  Yeah.

11   Q.  How does this factor into this, if at all, from your

12       perspective?  Not from your perspective now, but from

13       your perspective at the time?

14   A.  At the time, I really didn't know what was going on.

15       I knew that the police investigation was headed down

16       this particular path and, as I say, I'd have no idea why

17       the police were heading down this path and, well, this

18       is the point that we were at and this was -- I didn't

19       know what happened to Madeleine McCann, I still don't

20       know, so I'm just saying that at this time, this was

21       what was happening and I was reporting on the

22       developments that were happening, but I didn't know if

23       the police were barking up the wrong tree or if, you

24       know, as I say, you'd expect them to have some form of

25       competency.


                                            91


1   Q.  I'm not sure you have answered my question.  Can you

2       remember what it was?  I can repeat it again.

3   A.  Yes, if you could repeat it, yeah.

4   Q.  You already have a huge amount of emotional turmoil:

5       a four-year-old child has disappeared.  It goes without

6       saying.

7   A.  Yeah.

8   Q.  And then people like you, if you don't mind me putting

9       it in those terms, are writing stories which imply that

10       the child has not been abducted, something far more

11       sinister has happened.

12   A.  Right.

13   Q.  The propensity of those matters being written about

14       would naturally add to the emotional turmoil which is

15       already immense.  It's whether that enters into your

16       thinking at the time at all when you are writing these

17       stories?

18   A.  Well, I think I explained.  I mean, there is emotional

19       turmoil, but I'm reporting on what's happening on the

20       ground.

21   Q.  Okay.

22   A.  On that particular day.

23   MR JAY:  I think I understand, Mr Pilditch.  Thank you very

24       much.

25   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I have a slightly different point,


                                            92


1       which is this: you may not understand the Portuguese

2       law, and that's entirely fair enough.

3   A.  Yeah.

4   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  But you do understand, I'm sure you

5       would agree, that stories have to stand up?

6   A.  Yes.

7   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  And that your paper is at risk of

8       massive damages claims if you write something that's

9       defamatory?

10   A.  Yes.

11   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  That you can't then stand up?

12   A.  Yes.  Well, I think I've said that in my statement.

13   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I understand.  You were getting all

14       sorts of tittle-tattle --

15   A.  Right.

16   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  -- from different people in

17       circumstances when you knew the police couldn't

18       officially talk, is that fair?

19   A.  Yes.

20   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  And as far as you were concerned they

21       were going off in very different directions, one day

22       this, one day something else; that's your assessment of

23       what they'd been doing?

24   A.  But at this point in time, they were very much focusing

25       on this.


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1   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  So be it, but you had the experience

2       of what they had been doing.

3   A.  Mm.

4   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Did you ever have any concern that

5       you wouldn't be able to stand up this story?

6   A.  Yeah.

7   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  And did that give rise to concern

8       that you shouldn't be writing it as it was written?

9   A.  I think I was writing it in the only way I could write

10       it, because I was explaining where my sources were

11       coming from and I was explaining that this isn't

12       something that I can prove or confirm.  But those sort

13       of decisions would be made further up the chain about

14       the law.  But I was just writing on developments that

15       were going on on the ground at that time.

16   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  So you saw your role purely to reduce

17       whatever you heard, from whatever source you heard it,

18       into a story?

19   A.  It's not tittle-tattle, you see.  This was --

20   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Isn't it?

21   A.  No, because it was information that was coming from the

22       senior detectives investigating the case.

23   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Or so you were told.

24   A.  Well, I know now that it is, because there's files that

25       have been released and there's --


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1   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Yes, but you didn't know at the time.

2   A.  No, but I knew at the time that these were genuine lines

3       of enquiry and this particular line was the only line

4       the police were pursuing at that time.  I didn't know

5       the truth.

6   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  But the evidence you've got, that

7       you've now seen, doesn't in fact justify some of this

8       stuff, does it?  Because the DNA was not in this

9       condition that you described it in your article.

10   A.  Yeah.  The police were claiming it was in a -- I think

11       the police were telling lies and trying to claim they

12       had more than they actually had.  But in 2008 in July

13       when the police released their official file, this was

14       some time after this period, there's lots of

15       documentation and there's lots of all sorts of

16       statements and -- the whole file that they'd been

17       investigating.  It's only when that was published that

18       you could see that actually this whole thing was based

19       on a false premise.  The police went as hard as they did

20       down this line and they had no reason to do it, they had

21       no evidence to back them up.

22   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  So all the stuff, for example, about

23       what the priest might have been told, it's all fluff.

24       There's nothing to it.

25   A.  It's all things that were happening at the time.  But if


                                            95


1       you look at things now, knowing what we know in the

2       public domain, it's a very different picture.

3   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I agree, and that's why I asked you

4       whether you were concerned at the time that you couldn't

5       stand the story up with the risk that your paper was

6       exposed to massive damages claims, as indeed they were.

7   A.  Well, I was uncomfortable writing stories like this, but

8       I felt it was the only way to write it, but the sort of

9       decisions about the risk were taken by lawyers and by

10       executives on the paper.

11   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Did you write a piece, perhaps not

12       for publication, but for your editors, to underline the

13       extreme fragility of this information?

14   A.  They were well aware of that.  I mean, this was the only

15       way you could operate in Portugal at that time.

16   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I see.

17   A.  And other newspapers were doing it.  There was no other

18       way of doing it.  All I could do was exactly spell out

19       who was saying what.  I was saying if it was a police

20       source, this is what the police are saying.  Or if it

21       was somebody else, I'd say this is what they were

22       saying.  As a journalist, as a reporter, you want to

23       write stories based on fact when you know it's fact, but

24       because of the secrecy of justice law in Portugal, you

25       had to do it in a different way, an unsatisfactory way,


                                            96


1       but the only way you could do it, which was to say,

2       "I don't know that this is fact, but this is what people

3       are saying about these different things".

4   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Yes, well, I think we've probably

5       done that point.  Thank you.

6                     Discussion re procedure

7   MR DINGEMANS:  May I ask some questions?

8   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Yes, you may.  Just before you do,

9       Mr Dingemans, I think Mr Sherborne also wants to.

10       I think you would probably rather ask after

11       Mr Sherborne.  What's the topic, Mr Sherborne?

12   MR SHERBORNE:  Sir the topic is really one of the topics

13       that you raised in the questions you asked Mr Pilditch.

14       It's in paragraph 24 of his witness statement, and it

15       refers to his assessment, if I can put it that way, of

16       the police files.  You've heard Mr Pilditch say more

17       than once now that the police files have revealed that

18       the articles he was writing were truthful and accurate,

19       and I'd like to pick him up on that comment and take him

20       through one or two of the articles to demonstrate how

21       that's simply incorrect.

22   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  But I don't think he's quite saying

23       that and I don't think we need to go too much into the

24       facts.  As I understand what you're saying, as

25       I understand what the witness said, he was accurately


                                            97


1       reporting that which the police were thinking; he wasn't

2       accurately reporting that which the police could

3       actually prove, because that's not what the police were

4       telling him.

5   MR SHERBORNE:  What he says in his statement, sir, is:

6           "Under the Portuguese system, the authorities

7       released the official police file ..."

8           Then he refers to the documents in there, then says:

9           "Through the release of those documents and

10       subsequent legal actions in Portugal it is now a matter

11       of public record that the reports I was writing between

12       September 2007 and January 2008 were truthful and

13       accurate."

14           So that is a fairly sweeping statement and it is one

15       which, very simply, can be demonstrated to be untruthful

16       and inaccurate, and I would ask you to be able to do so.

17       I can do it, as I say, relatively shortly, and then

18       there are one or two supplemental questions I'd like to

19       ask him on behalf of Dr Kate and Dr Gerry McCann.

20   MR DINGEMANS:  Sir, may I make submissions to my learned

21       friend about whether this is appropriate?

22   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  You may, but I think, in the light of

23       my understanding of the evidence of this witness, the

24       truthfulness and accuracy is not intended to reflect the

25       facts as revealed by the evidence, but as revealed by


                                            98


1       the police concerns.

2   A.  Yes.

3   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  But you can ask that question and

4       then -- I mean, nobody is suggesting, and he certainly

5       isn't suggesting, as I understand the witness, that any

6       of the allegations in relation to DNA or in relation to

7       these other features are established by the facts in the

8       record; merely, as I understood it, by what the police

9       believed, even though they couldn't prove a single word

10       of it.

11   MR SHERBORNE:  Indeed.  I don't think Mr Pilditch could

12       possibly suggest for one minute that they were true.

13   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Yes.

14   MR SHERBORNE:  But what he does suggest is that there were

15       documents and other material in the police file which

16       support the truth of what he was saying the police were

17       saying, if I can put it that way.  And that is simply

18       incorrect.  I can demonstrate that by three articles,

19       and I can do it very quickly.

20   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Right, let me hear what Mr Dingemans

21       says about that.

22   MR DINGEMANS:  Sir, the whole purpose of your Inquiry is

23       inquisitorial.  It is at this stage not going into

24       dissent of adversarial fact-finding matters.  There has

25       been no notice from this core participant.  Contrast


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1       a matter when we wanted to raise questions of his

2       witnesses, we would put them through counsel to the

3       Inquiry, and we respectfully submit that you would

4       permit this whole Inquiry to be hijacked into

5       fact-finding matters which are not suitable for this

6       stage of this process.

7   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I understand the point, but I have

8       raised concerns, as you heard at the very end of the

9       witness's evidence.

10   MR DINGEMANS:  Yes.

11   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  The witness has made it clear the

12       limit of his reporting.  It's probably not going to

13       advance the customs, practice and ethics analysis to

14       look at whether the way in which the allegations

15       dribbled out of the Portuguese police were picked up and

16       reported, but on the other hand, in the same way that

17       I've been content for various core participants to stand

18       up and make a correcting statement simply so that the

19       public domain -- so there isn't a misleading impression

20       given, I don't think it's appropriate to prevent

21       Mr Sherborne from doing that, and maybe he can do it by

22       way of statement, because I've got the evidence of the

23       witness on the topic.  But to cut it out entirely runs

24       the risk of leaving a potentially unfair picture.

25           But whether it goes to customs, practise and ethics,


                                           100


1       I take your point.

2   MR DINGEMANS:  My other point is questions to this witness.

3       There's been no notice that he was going to be asked

4       questions on behalf of this core participant.  I have no

5       problems, and, sir, it's entirely up to you whether you

6       permit people to make statements, but in our submission

7       there shouldn't be a practice of standing up to ask

8       questions simply because they want to ask further

9       details when there's been no notice to the relevant

10       witness.

11   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Well, I don't know whether this is

12       a topic which Mr Sherborne informed Mr Jay about.

13   MR DINGEMANS:  He didn't, according to the information

14       I have.

15   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I certainly required all core

16       participants to do that, so that we could make

17       a decision, and I think that was the approach that

18       I adopted.

19   MR DINGEMANS:  Sir, that's only my point on this point.  The

20       only reason for objecting is if one is trying to prepare

21       fairly witnesses for what may happen and then people

22       decide to pick up points that they haven't decided or

23       bothered to notify to counsel to the Inquiry.

24   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  All right.  Well, Mr Sherborne, that

25       seems a not unfair point.


                                           101


1   MR SHERBORNE:  Can I deal with that point before I deal with

2       my substantive one, and that's this.  You'll appreciate

3       that this witness statement was only provided I think to

4       us yesterday afternoon.  That's the first I saw of this

5       witness statement.

6   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I'd be very surprised, but --

7   MR DINGEMANS:  It was provided to the Inquiry two weeks ago.

8       I can't talk about my learned friend.

9   MR SHERBORNE:  It may have been provided to the Inquiry two

10       weeks ago, I did not see it until yesterday afternoon.

11   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  All right.

12   MR SHERBORNE:  But that perhaps is a point of lesser

13       importance.  A point of greater importance is that this

14       paragraph 24 was a matter that only was raised by you,

15       sir, in your question to Mr Pilditch, and that's when he

16       relied on it to positively reinforce the fact that what

17       he had published by way of reports of what the police

18       were saying was truthful and accurate, having had sight

19       of the Portuguese police file.  That is why I stand to

20       ask those questions.

21   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  No, no, Mr Sherborne, that doesn't

22       work, because, as you will know, the statement would be

23       going on the Internet in any event, so it's a public

24       document for all to see, and if the point had to be

25       made, the point was going to be made as soon as you read


                                           102


1       it, even if it was only last night.

2   MR SHERBORNE:  Sir, when a witness seeks to reinforce

3       evidence he's given in response to a question you've

4       asked, it assumes far more importance than it would do

5       in the pages of the witness statement that have been

6       provided.

7   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Identify to me your three examples,

8       please.

9   MR SHERBORNE:  Sir, I can do it by way of a speech.

10   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  No, I don't want you to make

11       a speech.  I want you to identify the three examples.

12   MR SHERBORNE:  The three examples are firstly, and they're

13       examples that -- I tried to pick on examples as Mr Jay

14       was going through, which are not the same articles.

15       October 1, 2007, which is an article -- I don't have the

16       exhibits, so I can't tell you the page.  It's entitled

17       "Now police say she fell down the steps: the hunt for

18       Madeleine".  It's one that Mr Pilditch co-wrote with

19       Mr Evans, but on this occasion, since his name comes

20       first, I assume he will accept that he was responsible

21       for it.

22   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Let's just see it.  I'm concerned

23       with the facts so that an impression should be -- an

24       incorrect impression should be put right.  So 1 October,

25       did you say?


                                           103


1   MR SHERBORNE:  Yes:

2           "Now police say she fell down the steps" is the

3       front page headline, "The hunt for Madeleine".  And the

4       opening words are:

5           "Madeleine McCann's parents faced new smears

6       yesterday after it was reported their daughter died

7       falling downstairs.  It is claimed Portuguese police are

8       100 per cent certain Madeleine was killed in an accident

9       at her family's holiday apartment and Kate and Gerry

10       covered up the tragedy."

11   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Right?

12   MR SHERBORNE:  "The theory is Madeleine, four, wandered out,

13       stumbled" --

14   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  All right, but what's the point?

15   MR SHERBORNE:  The point is this: there is nothing in the

16       Portuguese police file to suggest that Madeleine had

17       been harmed in any way.

18   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Yes, but --

19   MR SHERBORNE:  There is also --

20   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  But are you able to say that the

21       police were not putting that out?

22   MR SHERBORNE:  There is nothing in the police file which

23       suggests that the police had found evidence that

24       Madeleine had been harmed in any way.

25   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Yes.  My question was rather


                                           104


1       different.  Are you able to say that the police didn't

2       put that out?

3   MR SHERBORNE:  What I'm able to say is there is no

4       suggestion the police were putting that out in the

5       police file.

6   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  All right.

7   MR SHERBORNE:  That's why I say this is not about disproving

8       that the articles were true or that the facts suggested

9       were true because it's not even stated they are.  It's

10       about disproving that there was evidence or that the

11       police were suggesting there was evidence to support

12       these allegations.  And there is nothing in the police

13       files to suggest the police were suggesting that.

14           If one turns then to 17 October, this is a point

15       that was raised not in relation to this article, this

16       article is Mr Pilditch's article alone, entitled

17       "Parents' car hid a corpse.  'It was under carpet in

18       boot', say police", and refers to the DNA evidence.

19   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Yes.

20   MR SHERBORNE:  It's right to say that there is nothing in

21       the police files to suggest that Madeleine's DNA was

22       found in the car.  Indeed, as the police files show, and

23       as Mr Pilditch would know, the McCanns only hired the

24       car after Madeleine had disappeared.

25   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Yes, but that's the same point about


                                           105


1       the conclusive/inconclusive DNA, isn't it?

2   MR SHERBORNE:  It's a similar point, but as I say, what the

3       police files show is that no DNA of Madeleine was ever

4       found in the car, so there's nothing in the police files

5       to support the suggestion that DNA of hers was found,

6       which is what is stated in the article.

7   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  All right, and the third point?

8   MR SHERBORNE:  And the third for example relates to one that

9       I think Mr Jay did take Mr Pilditch to, which is the

10       priest bans Madeleine, the 12 December article.  It

11       relate to this.  I don't know whether you have that

12       article.

13   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Yes.

14   MR SHERBORNE:  It refers to the investigators becoming

15       convinced that Kate had confessed to the priest, and of

16       course again there is nothing in the police file to say

17       that Kate McCann had confessed to the priest.  Indeed,

18       the witness statement of the priest makes perfectly

19       plain, and that is in the police file, that no such

20       confession was given.

21   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  All right, I understand the point.

22       Thank you.

23           Mr Pilditch, I am going to ask you the question in

24       this way: you've obviously seen this entire file.

25   A.  I've seen it some time ago.  I have seen it.


                                           106


1   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Well, you can consider over the --

2       no, I won't ask you to do that.

3   A.  Could I just say something in relation to this?

4   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  All right.

5   A.  It's not just the police file that I'm referring to

6       here.  I'm talking about statements that have been made

7       in courts, and in fact the chief -- the head of the

8       police inquiry has written a book, and I'm talking about

9       a whole series of different sources of information that

10       are now in the public domain --

11   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Oh, well, then --

12   A.  -- that weren't in the public domain at that time.  It's

13       not just the police file in isolation I'm talking about.

14   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Then actually your sentence is quite

15       wrong in paragraph 24, because your sentence in

16       paragraph 24 says:

17           "Through the release of those documents [that's the

18       police file] and subsequent legal actions in Portugal,

19       it's now a matter of public record that the reports I'm

20       writing were truthful and accurate."

21   A.  Yes.

22   MR DINGEMANS:  Sir, the legal action was concerned to put --

23       My learned friend Mr Sherborne was seeking to

24       cross-examine on a false premise anyway, because he's

25       ignored the legal actions.


                                           107


1   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I've got the point.  But more

2       significantly it's, as I expressed the view, slightly

3       dependent upon the brief that Mr Pilditch was fulfilling

4       the extent to which decisions thereafter were made,

5       which were appropriate.

6           Right.  I understand the point.

7   MR SHERBORNE:  With respect, sir, I wasn't allowed to

8       cross-examine.  If I had cross-examined, it would not

9       have been on a false premise.

10   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I'm not going to get into the issue

11       between you and Mr Dingemans.  I'm not going to go down

12       the route of trying to unpick what one Portuguese police

13       officer said, either in a book or in a legal proceedings

14       or in the record.  Everybody is agreed that there is

15       absolutely no foundation at all for the allegation that

16       emerged throughout the public hearing throughout the

17       press at this time, that Dr and Dr McCann were involved

18       in any way in any inappropriate conduct in relation to

19       the disappearance of their daughter.

20           So that doesn't need to be established for me and in

21       the same way that I wasn't going to go into what

22       happened in relation to the City Slickers column, this

23       is very much a side issue.  I understand the point, and

24       I understand the reason why it is very important for

25       your clients to make that position critically clear, and


                                           108


1       I am happy to emphasise it and I am sure that

2       Mr Dingemans wouldn't want to say anything to the

3       contrary, and he is nodding, so I put that into the

4       record.  But further than that I simply don't consider

5       it necessary to go.

6           If I say, because of my natural sympathy for Dr and

7       Dr McCann, that it's appropriate, then actually I have

8       opened a door which I cannot prevent other people from

9       seeking to examine in different ways and I haven't

10       sufficient requirement to go into these areas to justify

11       it.

12   MR SHERBORNE:  Sir, I accept that.  It is simply this.  You

13       need to consider, obviously, in terms of the culture,

14       practices and ethics of the press, whether it was

15       responsible or, as one might say, utterly irresponsible

16       to publish this kind of information.

17   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I think you'll find that the question

18       I asked was designed to that very issue.

19   MR SHERBORNE:  I understand that, but it is the statement

20       you've seen in paragraph 24 of the way in which it's

21       being said these stories were being put together that is

22       necessary to be tested and that's why I asked for it to

23       be tested in the way I did.

24   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I understand.  Right.  Thank you very

25       much, we'll resume at 2.05 pm.


                                           109


1   (1.05 pm)



Afternoon session

- Extract -

1

2   (2.05 pm)

3   MR JAY:  Sir, the next witness is Mr Flanagan.

4   MR DINGEMANS:  I had one question I understood I was going

5       to be able to ask?

6   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Of course you did.

7   MR DINGEMANS:  That's all right.  I know it's not very

8       valuable, but I'd still like to ask it.

9   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Well, that's a good trailer.

10                    Questions by MR DINGEMANS

11   MR DINGEMANS:  Can I take you to the article of 1 December

12       2007, for you sir the reference 1645.  You were asked

13       what was your contribution to this article and on quick

14       scanning through, you couldn't work it out.  Can you

15       read the fourth paragraph up from the bottom?

16   A.  Yes.

17   Q.  Does that help answer that particular question?

18   A.  Yes.  I think it was a meeting between the British

19       ambassador and police officers at the head of the

20       investigation and the Portimao District Attorney at the

21       police headquarters in Faro.

22   Q.  Just in case people have no understanding of how joint

23       headlines and bylines work, does that mean, because your

24       name appears on the top, that this is like a sort of

25       lawyer's letter with two names at the bottom, or legal


                                             1


1       advice that is prepared by counsel, that is prepared and

2       signed and not altered, or do you just file separately

3       and it gets put together back in London?

4   A.  The first name on the byline is normally the person who

5       is putting it all together.  My role was as I stated.

6       I went to the airport, I'd literally just landed and it

7       was near the police station so I went straight there and

8       I just stood there and witnessed what was going on, and

9       all I did was relay that, I can't remember, either to

10       the news desk or to the reporter, but it was just simply

11       what I saw which was again police officers wouldn't talk

12       to me, but I saw the people involved leaving.

13   MR DINGEMANS:  Thank you very much.

14   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Thank you.  Mr Dingemans, you were

15       probably right, but it's important to be clear.  Thank

16       you.

17   MR JAY:  Thank you, Mr Pilditch.  It's Mr Flanagan next.



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Padraic Flanagan

 
Witness Statement of Padraic Flanagan
 

Witness Statement of Padraic Flanagan

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Leveson Inquiry: Transcript of Padraic Flanagan's evidence, 21 December 2011

 

Leveson Inquiry: Transcript of Padraic Flanagan's evidence Leveson Inquiry

Wednesday 21 December 2011

- Extract -

17   MR JAY:  Thank you, Mr Pilditch.  It's Mr Flanagan next.

18                  MR PADRAIC FLANAGAN (affirmed)

19                       Questions by MR JAY

20   MR JAY:  Make yourself comfortable, please, Mr Flanagan.

21       Your full name?

22   A.  Padraic John Flanagan.

23   Q.  Thank you.  I hope you'll find in the bundle in front of

24       you under tab 1 your witness statement, which is signed

25       and dated 12 December of this year, and appended to it


                                             2


1       is a statement of truth.  Is that right?

2   A.  It is.

3   Q.  Is this the evidence which you stand by, as it were?

4   A.  I do.

5   Q.  You have been a journalist, you tell us, for 21 years.

6       You followed a typical career path, if I may say so,

7       through regional press and then you joined the national

8       press, indeed the Daily Telegraph in the year 2000 where

9       you have stayed ever since; is that right?

10   A.  The Daily Express.

11   Q.  Pardon me, the Daily Express.  You now are a senior news

12       reporter at the Daily Express, is that so?

13   A.  That's right.

14   Q.  You tell us in paragraph 2 that you were the third

15       journalist sent by the Express to Portugal to cover this

16       story.  You remained there for more than a month.  You

17       visited Portugal four times, usually fortnightly spells,

18       to cover the story.

19           A lot of what you say has already been covered by

20       the previous witness, but did you have any sources on

21       the ground in Portugal which differed from those that

22       Mr Pilditch was talking to us about?

23   A.  I don't know all Mr Pilditch's sources, but I was

24       checking this morning my records and I had between 50

25       and 60 names and numbers of people that I called


                                             3


1       regularly on this story.  Not all of them in Portugal.

2       Some of them, the extended families back in Britain, but

3       there was a wide variety of sources that I used in

4       Portugal.

5   Q.  In relation to the Portuguese police, can we identify

6       who your sources were?  You had no one in the police

7       itself, since they officially could not speak to you, is

8       that so?

9   A.  Yeah.  It was impossible to get any official comment

10       from the police.

11   Q.  Right, so sources around the police, we've heard of two

12       journalists and a translator.  Were they the individuals

13       who were effectively your sources as well?

14   A.  Probably more than two journalists, I think.  There were

15       lots of TV, radio and newspaper crime specialists who

16       were -- who we made contact with and became friends

17       with, and we helped them on the British side of the

18       story and they helped us on the Portuguese side of the

19       story.

20   Q.  Right, but did they have contacts within the Portuguese

21       police?

22   A.  Yes.

23   Q.  Thank you.  Can I ask you, please, about specific

24       stories you wrote.  I think the first of these is

25       paragraph 11, 25 October 2007, which is page 31664.


                                             4


1       You'll find this in the bundle you have probably under

2       tab 4.

3   A.  Yeah.

4   Q.  "Police want answers to 14 questions."

5           This is dated 25 October 2007.  Can we be clear who

6       the source is for this story?  The answer may be found

7       seven lines from the bottom.

8   A.  I think this story originated actually in one of the

9       Portuguese newspapers and it was written by a journalist

10       I became friends with and I called him up and asked him

11       where he'd got it from and he said he was shown these 14

12       questions in a document that was to be sent over to

13       British detectives, and said it was absolutely true.

14       That's where it came from.

15   Q.  So when you say "a source within the Policia

16       Judiciaria" --

17   A.  Yeah, that's via him, via the journalist.

18   Q.  So the journalist who has written the piece in the

19       Portuguese paper, that was his or her source, and then

20       you're setting this out here in your piece; is that

21       right?

22   A.  Yes, it is.

23   Q.  Can I ask you, about ten lines from the top of the

24       story:

25           "Investigators believe [do you have that?] that


                                             5


1       members of the party -- dubbed the Tapas Nine after the

2       Spanish themed restaurant they were in when Madeleine

3       disappeared -- may have been involved in the crime."

4           Where did you get that from?

5   A.  From the same source.

6   Q.  How was it put to you?

7   A.  I was talking to him as I often did about the latest

8       developments that he'd heard and, telling me about this

9       dossier of questions, he also told me about -- that he

10       thought the members of -- the friends that were with the

11       McCanns at the time of the disappearance may have

12       been -- may have had something to do with that.

13   Q.  Anything more specific or was it at that level of

14       generality?

15   A.  Yeah, it was that general.

16   Q.  How did you believe that this piece, this story, if at

17       all, could be stood up if it ever came to litigation?

18   A.  Well, it would be very difficult to do that.  I think it

19       needs to be said that I wasn't sort of working alone, as

20       it were, in Praia da Luz, scratching around for

21       something to send back.  These stories were all the

22       result of conversations with the news desk about the

23       strength of them and the sources, and a view was taken

24       whether to proceed or to drop it.

25           I mean, I'm not trying to evade responsibility, but


                                             6


1       I had to make it clear to my superiors, you know, the

2       strength of the story and whether it was something that

3       they would want me to write up later in the day.

4   Q.  So is this your evidence: you did make it clear to the

5       news desk that you felt that it would be difficult to

6       stand up this story if it were ever tested?

7   A.  Well, I illustrate -- I don't think I would put it in

8       those stark terms, because at the time, working in

9       Portugal surrounded by every rival newspaper who were

10       working on the same stories, it was my duty to tell my

11       desk what the sources were and where the stories were

12       coming from, but I didn't feel as though it was my sole

13       decision to establish, you know, the -- whether I could

14       stand up in a court of law and defend it.

15   Q.  No.  But in order to assist their decision, did you

16       share your misgivings about the ability to stand this

17       story up with the news desk or not?

18   A.  No.  I think once you'd told them the sources and where

19       it had come from, then they could draw their own

20       conclusions.

21   Q.  Mm.  How would they do that?

22   A.  Well, by reading what I've written.

23   Q.  Right.  So you felt that it would be obvious to the news

24       desk, given that you had misgivings about being able to

25       stand this story up, you needn't spell it out to the


                                             7


1       news desk, they would make the same deduction; is that

2       the position?

3   A.  Broadly.  Working in Portugal, the first question you

4       asked yourself wasn't: can I stand this up?  It was:

5       what can I find today?  What's the best material that

6       I can offer the news desk and keep up with my rivals and

7       do what I'm being paid to do?  Considerations of the

8       law, you know, were always going to be further down the

9       line that day for my superiors.

10   Q.  That's a very frank answer, Mr Flanagan, but are you

11       telling us that the predominant consideration, given all

12       the pressures you were under to produce a story, was to

13       produce really the best you could and then leave it to

14       others to worry about the legal niceties?

15   A.  Well, it's quite a stark way of putting it.  You would

16       be discussing with the news desk through the day what

17       you were doing, what was happening in Portugal, what

18       were the likely best lines of the day.  I mean, bear in

19       mind that although we're concentrating on single stories

20       here, you know, it's highly likely that when I was

21       writing this, I might have been writing a front page

22       story and a spread inside the paper, so there would be

23       an awful lot of material to work through.

24           So it -- what I'm trying to say is that there were

25       constant discussions and I felt that the desk were fully


                                             8


1       aware of what I was doing and the strength of the

2       material.

3   Q.  So judgments about whether to publish in the light of

4       obligations under the PCC code, clause 1, the accuracy

5       requirement, would be for others, not for you; is that

6       what you're saying?

7   A.  Ultimately, yes.

8   Q.  But didn't you feel that you were under an obligation

9       under the code and generally to, if I can put it in

10       these terms, worry about the accuracy of the story?

11   A.  Yes, you would, but you'd also be conscious of trying to

12       do the best that you could to stand up as much as you

13       could, where you could, but, you know, working in

14       a foreign country under their legal conditions proved

15       very difficult.

16   Q.  Yes.  I think that eloquently speaks to the difficulties

17       you were under and demonstrated why it would be

18       difficult, moreover, to stand up the story, but then

19       there's the sort of anterior question: why write the

20       story at all?

21   A.  It would be quite a brave reporter to call the desk and

22       say, "I'm not really sure about this, I'm not going to

23       send anything back today".

24   Q.  Yes.

25   A.  Because --


                                             9


1   Q.  Sorry, please continue.

2   A.  -- I felt that they could see, if they had the copy, the

3       strength of the material and they could take a view on

4       it.

5   Q.  We're interested in culture and practices.  "It would

6       take a very brave reporter".  Are you able to elaborate

7       on that a little bit for us, please, Mr Flanagan?  It

8       may be so obvious it goes without saying.

9   A.  As you mentioned before, the story was extraordinary,

10       this snowball going down the incline, as you said.  Bear

11       in mind that every newspaper, TV, radio reporters were

12       there, there was a huge appetite in the UK for this

13       story and there was a huge appetite for this story on

14       the news desk and the -- with the editor of the

15       Daily Express.

16   Q.  When it all went pear-shaped, if I can put it in that

17       way, a letter before action, I think there was a claim

18       form, it doesn't matter, there was a decision not to

19       defend the case on liability.  Were you surprised or

20       not?

21   A.  No.

22   Q.  Because?

23   A.  I think at the Express they're more likely to want to

24       avoid massive legal bills and -- I just get the feeling

25       that they're more likely to settle cases out of court


                                            10


1       rather than fight cases.

2   Q.  Even though the damages in this case were mega, weren't

3       they?

4           Okay.  I'll ask you about one other piece,

5       Mr Flanagan, at 31619, 22 January 2008.  Do you have

6       that one?

7   A.  Yes.

8   Q.  "The manhunt by Madeleine investigators prompted by

9       a drawing of a possible abductor is designed to divert

10       suspicion from Kate and Gerry McCann, the Portuguese

11       police believe.

12           "Last night, sources in the Policia Judiciaria

13       revealed reports of a dishevelled man lurking around

14       Praia da Luz were investigated months ago and found to

15       be groundless.

16           "One stormed: 'The purpose of this latest exercise

17       by the McCanns is the same as always.  It's another

18       diversionary tactic.'"

19           So again the "sources in the PJ", that was the

20       journalist, not a policeman; is that correct?

21   A.  Well, it was a policeman source of the journalist.

22   Q.  Was this piece based on anything other than an article

23       in the Portuguese press?

24   A.  I think it was -- I can't recall exactly, but during the

25       months that we were there a series of likenesses were


                                            11


1       produced, which always generated a series of stories,

2       and this looks as though this is another release of

3       a likeness presumably based on Gail Cooper's description

4       to an FBI-trained artist.

5           But, yeah, the retired PJ inspector, Moita Flores,

6       was often on Portuguese TV and I think that would be

7       where his quote came from.

8   Q.  Did you feel under pressure to deliver?  Almost

9       a continual stream of this sort of story?  Otherwise in

10       one sense you weren't doing what was required of you?

11   A.  Yeah.  For the Daily Express to send overseas, spend

12       that money on a news operation in a foreign country, is

13       considerable and you're sent there to produce stories.

14       It's quite clear that's what you're there to do, rather

15       than sort of investigate yourself and decide whether

16       there's anything worth writing about.

17   Q.  You tell us in paragraph 19 of your statement there was

18       almost -- or there was constant dialogue between the

19       news desk and reporters.  Did the news desk ever come

20       back to you with this sort of message: "Either we or the

21       editor is concerned about a particular piece; could you

22       stand it up for us, please, explain the reliability of

23       your source?"  Was there ever that sort of conversation?

24   A.  I don't remember a conversation like that, but there

25       might have been.


                                            12


1   Q.  You don't remember one?

2   A.  I don't remember one.

3   MR JAY:  Yes.  Those are all the questions I have for you.

4   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I'd like to use the word I used

5       before.  These were clearly very fragile stories in the

6       sense that it was all -- I used the phrase

7       tittle-tattle, but information coming from somebody who

8       was getting information from somebody else, who wasn't

9       supposed to be saying anything anyway.

10   A.  Yes.

11   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  That's certainly right.  You told

12       Mr Jay that you had some concerns about that.  Did you

13       do anything at all to express concern that a lot of

14       theorising was taking place, no solid fact, and this was

15       a great risk?

16   A.  I didn't raise it specifically.  I didn't phone and ask

17       someone and say, "Look, I'm really worried about this",

18       but I think everybody was aware of the strength of these

19       stories, how fragile they were.  I think it's sometimes

20       the case on crime stories that this kind of procedure

21       takes place where there's supposition and theorising in

22       the absence of any hard information being released.

23       It's a kind of natural tendency to fill a vacuum, and

24       with the Portuguese police's stance on speaking to the

25       press, there was a very large vacuum there.


                                            13


1   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  And you mentioned that all your

2       competitors are there.  But who takes the decision --

3       well, I suppose I can answer my own question.  The

4       decision as to what is right and what is not right is

5       not yours; is that fair?

6   A.  It's partly mine, I think.  I do -- I do have some

7       responsibility, but, for instance, I can't write a story

8       that I know to be a lie and claim to the news desk that

9       it's true.

10   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  No, I hope we'd agree about that.

11   A.  But, also, the news desk and the editor also have a key

12       role.

13   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I understand that, and I'm sure

14       you're right.  But you appreciate that I am looking at

15       this phrase that we bounce about customs, practice and

16       ethics all the time, and I'm just trying to grasp the

17       nature of the problem.  You've been sent out to

18       Portugal, it's costing a lot of money.  All your

19       competitors are doing the same.  There's enormous

20       pressure, which you've told Mr Jay about, to file

21       something, you want something that's interesting, that's

22       going to command attention.  Where does balance,

23       fairness, propriety come into it all?

24   A.  I'm not sure I can answer that.

25   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Well, does it have a place at all?


                                            14


1   A.  I think it does, but --

2   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I'm pleased you said that.

3   A.  -- it's very difficult on any given day to be able to

4       look at a story, as we are now, in the whole.  We know

5       some things to be false, a lot of things to be false,

6       that we didn't know at the time.  I think what you try

7       to do is faithfully and accurately report what you're

8       finding out from people who know more about what's gone

9       on than you do.

10   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  You see, one of the things you could

11       have said in these articles, repeatedly, is, "This is an

12       impossible job.  The police won't talk to us, they're

13       not permitted by law to, but for some unusual reason

14       they're prepared to leak like a sieve to people they

15       know, who will then tell us.  How accurate all this is,

16       who knows?"

17   A.  Well, there were critical reports of the Portuguese

18       police.  There's a convention that newspapers don't tend

19       to write about their own problems, they don't write

20       about journalism, they don't write about the challenges

21       that reporters are facing to -- gathering stories.

22       Maybe in the media sections of the broadsheets they

23       will, but it's not saying --

24   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  But don't you think -- and I don't

25       edit a tabloid newspaper, indeed any newspaper, but


                                            15


1       don't you think that's itself a very substantial story?

2       You all back in the UK want to know about this missing

3       girl.  We want to give it to you.  We want to find out.

4       And this is the problem we've got.

5   A.  Mm.

6   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  And the result is that "Everything

7       I say you must now take with a pinch of salt."  Because

8       you personally were taking it -- I'm not saying you

9       didn't believe that you were being given genuine

10       information, that's the honesty bit that you mentioned,

11       but I rather gather from the thrust of what you say that

12       you did not find this particularly comfortable, so

13       you're saying that's not a story?

14   A.  I think it is a story, but then you're faced with the

15       problem: what do you fill the paper with the next day?

16   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  But the one thing you don't want to

17       fill the paper with, surely, is stuff that is terribly

18       damaging to people and may be complete piffle.

19   A.  As I said, I think all you can do is the best that you

20       can in the circumstances.

21   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Yes.

22   A.  That's the dilemma.  And it's true that especially

23       reporting on crime stories, you know, the effects on the

24       families of victims is appalling.  And I would like to

25       take this opportunity to apologise to the McCanns for


                                            16


1       adding to their hurt and distress through what I wrote.

2           Only a week or two ago we had an advisory from the

3       Dowlers reminding us about the effects of seeing

4       a photograph of their murdered daughter in the paper

5       every time somebody wrote about the deleted emails

6       story, and it brings it home to you what a searing

7       experience it must be to keep being reminded.

8           So we are mindful that these stories can be

9       incredibly distressing, but at the heart of the story it

10       is a crime, a little girl went missing, and while I was

11       out there, that was the focus.

12   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I understand.  But it's not as though

13       the problem is unique.  I mean, one can look at what

14       happened -- and I'm not in any sense asking you

15       questions about it, but one could look at what happened

16       to Mr Jefferies thereafter.  And everybody goes like

17       a train at a story, which is destructive.

18           I have made it very clear that I am an absolute

19       believer in freedom of expression, there's no question.

20       But I am concerned to find a way of identifying balance,

21       which might, I appreciate, mean that the story is not in

22       such bright colours.

23   A.  I think that's a reason why we're all so interested to

24       hear what you conclude.

25   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  You're not alone.


                                            17


1           All right, thank you very much.  Thank you very much

2       indeed.



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Nick Fagge

[Witness Statement of Nick Fagge not yet available (as at 22/12/2011)]

 
Leveson Inquiry: Transcript of Nick Fagge's evidence, 21 December 2011
 

Leveson Inquiry: Transcript of Nick Fagge's evidence Leveson Inquiry

Wednesday 21 December 2011

- Extract -

3   MR JAY:  The last witness is Mr Fagge, please.

4                    MR NICHOLAS FAGGE (sworn)

5                       Questions by MR JAY

6   MR JAY:  Your full name, please, Mr Fagge?

7   A.  It's Nicholas Hilton Fagge.

8   Q.  Thank you.  You provided us with a statement which bears

9       yesterday's date.  It doesn't have a statement of truth

10       on it, but that's not a criticism, Mr Fagge.  Do you

11       stand by this statement as your evidence?

12   A.  I do.  I don't think I have it with me.  It's in the

13       other bundle.  Excuse me.

14   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Do you not have a copy?

15   A.  My statement is just there.  Excuse me.

16   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  That's all right.

17   MR JAY:  Mr Fagge, dealing with your career, you started as

18       a journalist after a career in advertising in 1996.  You

19       obtained your NCTJ qualification.  You then worked in

20       the local press in Camden and then via the National News

21       Agency and Ferraris; you joined the staff at the

22       Daily Express at the end of the year 2001, is that

23       correct?

24   A.  Correct.

25   Q.  You left the Express in August 2010 and you're now


                                            18


1       a staff news reporter at the Daily Mail?

2   A.  Correct.

3   Q.  Thank you very much.  You tell us in paragraph 2 your

4       experience at the Express.  You had covered a series of

5       major news stories, the tsunami in Sri Lanka and

6       Indonesia, criminal proceedings relating to the murder

7       of Caroline Dickinson and various other high profile

8       stories, is that so?

9   A.  Correct.

10   Q.  You also speak French and Spanish, which was relevant,

11       I think both languages, relevant to the Madeleine McCann

12       case; is that so?

13   A.  Correct.

14   Q.  You explain in your statement how you were involved in

15       the Madeleine McCann story.  First of all, you went to

16       Morocco in September 2007 because you speak French and

17       you were following up a lead there, I believe; is that

18       right?

19   A.  That's right, yeah.

20   Q.  And then you went to Portugal.  In Portugal, we've heard

21       about sources close to the PJ, two journalists in

22       particular, and a translator.  Were your sources the

23       same or different?

24   A.  My sources certainly would be amongst those, as we all

25       made friends with different people and there were


                                            19


1       different people there at different times, I certainly

2       had two journalists I trusted and spoke to almost --

3       well, on a daily basis, as well as other people I spoke

4       to more infrequently.

5   Q.  Yes.  Looking at this at a reasonably high level of

6       generality, because I think we've derived the picture

7       from previous witnesses, did you share the concerns

8       we've heard them express about the ability to stand

9       these stories up if it ever came to litigation or

10       something similar?

11   A.  From the outset of my filing stories from Portugal, I'd

12       always make the news desk aware of who the source of the

13       story was, how much credibility we'd give to it, but

14       ultimately said to them they had to make the decision

15       whether or not they thought it was legally safe, and in

16       fact on the top of every single story I ever filed from

17       Portugal, I would write, "Please legal", as I'm sure my

18       colleagues did as well.  This is a reference to ensure

19       the news desk pass the story to the lawyers working for

20       the newspaper to determine whether it was legally safe

21       or not to publish.

22   Q.  But did you, regardless of the steps you took to get the

23       matter covered by legal advice, did you have concerns

24       about the ability of the Express to stand these stories

25       up if it ever came to litigation?  Given the nature of


                                            20


1       your sources.

2   A.  In Portugal, I wouldn't be thinking about if it came to

3       the High Court, in all honesty.  I would be doing my

4       best to verify the story as best as I could.  I wouldn't

5       be thinking about a potential libel case some time in

6       the future.  I think that's unlikely.

7   Q.  But you would be concerned, of course, with clause 1 of

8       the PCC code and the requirement of accuracy, wouldn't

9       you?

10   A.  Yes.

11   Q.  And you'd also be concerned, wouldn't you, in more

12       general ethical terms, that your story should indeed be

13       true, and if the matter had to be tested, you would be

14       able to substantiate your stories, wouldn't you?

15   A.  I'd certainly verify the story as best as I could and

16       try to be as accurate as I possibly could be, but, as

17       you've heard before, you couldn't get the police to

18       verify anything at all, therefore you'd have to rely on

19       less credible sources because you'd have to talk to

20       somebody to talk to somebody else.

21   Q.  Yes.  This weakness in the evidence base, if I can

22       describe it in those terms, was that a matter which you

23       expressly communicated to the news desk, or did you

24       cover it simply by the moniker "legal please" or words

25       to that effect?


                                            21


1   A.  The working day would start about 8 o'clock in the

2       morning, when you'd speak with the news desk, explain

3       what the developments had been overnight, explain what

4       stories the Portuguese papers were running, and you'd

5       probably last speak with them about 8 o'clock in the

6       evening.  All through the day they knew exactly what was

7       happening, you'd explain the strength of the stories,

8       and if there were legal concerns, you'd explain them as

9       well.

10   Q.  So were you surprised when the matter, as it were,

11       turned litigious in February 2008 and had to be resolved

12       by a substantial payment to the McCanns?

13   A.  No.

14   Q.  And why not?

15   A.  Because the editor at the time decided it was the only

16       story he was interested in and put it on the front page

17       almost regardless of how strong the story was.

18   Q.  Can I just understand that answer, please?  Are you

19       suggesting that he ran the story regardless of its truth

20       or are you suggesting something different?

21   A.  No, not of its truth, but the Madeleine story was on the

22       front page of the Daily Express more than any other

23       newspaper because he decided it would sell newspapers.

24       It became an obsession of his.  I don't know quite

25       how -- what more to say.


                                            22


1   Q.  Okay, but in the evenings then over a beer in Portugal

2       with your colleagues, seeing this obsession played out

3       on the front pages of the Express, weren't you troubled

4       by the direction in which this was going?

5   A.  Yes.

6   Q.  Okay.  We know this was a very big story, we know you've

7       written other stories where the same difficulties

8       haven't arisen, I trust.  Was this the only occasion in

9       which this sort of difficulty arose, or are there

10       others?

11   A.  I can't think of another situation similar to this.

12   MR JAY:  Unless it's thought helpful, I'm not going to go

13       through the individual stories because it's the same --

14   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  The same point.

15   MR JAY:  -- point.  Thank you, Mr Fagge.

16   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Well, you've heard what I've said to

17       your colleagues.  If you have any different answers to

18       the questions I've asked, I'd be interested to hear

19       them.

20           It can't just be a question of sales, can it?

21   A.  I think you have to ask the editor that, sir.

22   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I might do.  But in relation to

23       a story like this, where you're hearing through several

24       layers, to what extent do you feel it's right, as the

25       journalist on the ground, to spell out perhaps in an


                                            23


1       article, perhaps some other way, the -- the word I have

2       used is the fragility of what you're reporting.  Or do

3       you think it's just sufficient to say "legal"?

4   A.  No, these would be conversations that I would have with

5       the news editor of the day, or -- over a number of days.

6       I explained the difficulty of establishing exactly what

7       did happen in certain circumstances, the information

8       I received or the new information I'd learnt about.

9       This would be conversations with the news editor and the

10       news desk in general.  It wouldn't merit an article or

11       even really a --

12   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  But it is a -- maybe it isn't.

13       I must be wary about seeking to write stories.  It is

14       a story, isn't it, how impossible it is to get

15       information that's reliable?  Or isn't it?

16   A.  It is a story that was published in the Daily Express

17       and I think a number of other papers about how

18       incompetent the Portuguese police appeared, but

19       Madeleine continued to be missing, the interest in the

20       story remained very high, there were new developments

21       each day, of which the newspaper and the readership were

22       interested in.

23   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  And the impact on the victims, that's

24       unfortunate but there it is?

25   A.  Yes.  It's tragic.


                                            24


1   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Is it unfair of me -- and you're

2       entitled to answer "yes" -- is it unfair of me to be

3       concerned that after all that happened, then when we got

4       to a similar high-profile case somewhat later, the press

5       broadly act in a not dissimilar way in relation to

6       Mr Jefferies?

7   A.  I wasn't there.

8   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I know.

9   A.  You may take that view.

10   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  I think that's probably fair enough.

11       Right, Mr Fagge, thank you very much indeed.

12   A.  Thank you.

13   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Thank you.

14   MR JAY:  Sir, that concludes the evidence for today.

15           I should point out that the statements of Messrs

16       Pilditch and Flanagan were made available on Friday, not

17       yesterday.  Mr Fagge's statement, which we've seen is

18       dated yesterday's date, was necessarily only made

19       available to the CPs yesterday, which was as soon as we

20       obtained it.

21   LORD JUSTICE LEVESON:  Thank you very much for that

22       information.  Doubtless, it will be passed to

23       Mr Sherborne.  Right.



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Daily Express editor was 'obsessed' with Madeleine McCann story, inquiry hears, 21 December 2011
 

Daily Express editor was 'obsessed' with Madeleine McCann story, inquiry hears The Guardian

Lord Justice Leveson accuses newspaper of publishing 'complete piffle' and 'tittle-tattle' about missing girl

Lisa O'Carroll and Jason Deans
Wednesday 21 December 2011 17.21 GMT

Former Daily Express journalist Nick Fagge leaves the Leveson inquiry, where he was quizzed about the paper's coverage of Madeleine McCann.

The Daily Express editor became "obsessed" with the Madeleine McCann story and put it on its front page repeatedly just to sell newspapers, the Leveson inquiry has heard.

Nick Fagge, a former reporter who worked on the story of the missing girl in 2007, said the reason his editor didn't care about the strength of individual stories was because he believed they would boost circulation.

"The editor of the time decided it was the only story he was interested in and put it on the front page regardless of how strong the story was.

"The Madeleine story was on the front page of the Daily Express more than any other newspaper, because he decided it would sell newspapers, it became an obsession of his," said Fagge.

Lord Justice Leveson said he would probably call the then editor, Peter Hill, to explain Fagge's assertion that he was "obsessed with the McCann story".

Leveson accused the newspaper of writing "complete piffle" and "tittle-tattle" about Madeleine McCann.

One story claimed there was DNA evidence that could show the little girl's body had been stored in the spare tyre well of a hire car, yet the DNA analysis was "inconclusive" and there was no foundation for making that allegation.

Another story claimed that Kate McCann had given some sort of confession to a local priest in Portugal. The story claimed "the tormented priest insisted he would stand by his vows and take his secrets to the grave".

The reporter was accused by the counsel for the inquiry, Robert Jay QC, of using "journalistic licence" to make an inference of innocence or guilt. Leveson went further, describing it as "fluff".

"All the things that are being written, about the priest … it's all fluff, there's nothing to it," Leveson said.

The Express group, which includes the Daily Star, paid out £500,000 to Kate and Gerry McCann over libellous coverage of the disappearance of their daughter and published a front-page apology.

David Pilditch, another journalist at the Express, denied his stories were "tittle-tattle" and said they were based on information he had garnered from sources at the time. He said he warned his bosses in London that police were not briefing journalists officially and that it was their decision to decide whether to run them.

The judge heard from a former Daily Express reporter, Padraic Flanagan, who said the press were under pressure to fill the "very large vacuum" left by the lack on information on the McCann case.

Leveson warned: "The one thing that you don't want to fill the paper surely is stuff that is terribly damaging to people and maybe complete piffle."

Flanagan apologised to the McCanns for adding to their "distress and hurt".