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McCanns win $1M libel damages

  • Story Highlights
  • McCanns accept damages and apology for stories published in newspapers
  • Couple will use the £550,000 libel damages to look for Madeleine
  • The Daily express and Daily Star printed an apology on their front pages
  • Had alleged that the McCanns were responsible for the death of the missing girl

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The parents of missing Madeleine McCann have accepted £550,000 ($1.1 million) libel damages and an apology over stories published in two British newspapers that alleged they were involved in the disappearance or death of the girl.

The front pages of the Daily Express and the Daily Star newspapers featuring apologies to Kate and Gerry McCann.

In a statement read by the couple's spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, outside the High Court in London on Wednesday, the McCanns said they were "pleased that Express Newspapers have today admitted the utter falsity of the numerous grotesque and grossly defamatory allegations that their titles published."

The McCanns accepted the damages and the couple said the money will go towards the Find Madeleine campaign.

"As part of our settlement, Express Newspapers have also agreed to pay damages, by way of a donation of £550,000, to the Fund that was established to help find Madeleine. We feel it entirely appropriate that the search for Madeleine will now benefit directly out of the wrongs committed against us as her parents."

The Daily Express and Daily Star, both owned by Express Newspapers, printed an apology on the front page of their Wednesday editions apologizing to Kate and Gerry McCann for suggesting the couple was responsible for the death of their daughter.

"Kate and Gerry McCann: Sorry," read the headlines.

The newspapers said there was no evidence to back up a series of articles they printed alleging the parents had a role in their daughter's disappearance or death.

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

Both papers said they had paid "substantial" sums to Madeleine's Fund as a way of expressing their regret. The fund is a nonprofit company that says it was set up to help find Madeleine, support her parents and bring to justice anyone who played a role in her disappearance.

"Kate and Gerry, we are truly sorry to have added to your distress," the Daily Express wrote. "We assure you that we hope Madeleine will one day be found alive and well and will be restored to her loving family."
Video Watch video on the newspapers apologies »

Media commentator Roy Greenslade told the BBC it was "unprecedented" for two national newspapers to run front-page apologies simultaneously.

"I think this is an amazing stand-down, U-turn, by the Express newspapers," he said. "I think when people realize that more than 100 stories have been complained about as being grossly defamatory, it will annihilate the Express' readers sense of trust and credibility in their newspaper."

Madeleine's parents reported her missing last May 3, just days before her fourth birthday. At the time, they were on a family vacation at a resort in Praia da Luz, in southern Portugal.


The parents have since garnered international support in an effort to find their daughter, enlisting the support of celebrities such as David Beckham and even Pope Benedict XVI.

Portuguese investigators named the McCanns as official suspects last September. The parents deny any involvement, saying they believe Madeleine may have been abducted. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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