The purpose of
this site is for information and a record of Gerry McCann's Blog
Archives. As most people will appreciate GM deleted all past blogs
from the official website. Hopefully this Archive will be helpful to
anyone who is interested in Justice for Madeleine Beth McCann. Many
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you wish to contact the McCanns directly, please use
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The McCanns and their new spokesman, Clarence Mitchell
The parents of Madeleine McCann today stepped up their campaign to maintain their innocence with the appointment of a
media expert to act as their spokesman.
Clarence Mitchell, speaking outside Gerry and Kate McCann's home in Rothley, Leicestershire, confirmed he had resigned
from a senior post in the civil service to handle the intense international press interest in the case of Madeleine, who vanished
while on holiday with her family in Portugal.
Mr Mitchell, a former BBC reporter, spent a month with the family as the representative of the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office, during the summer.
Speaking with the couple at his side, Mr Mitchell said he had spent up to 14 hours a day with the couple and had never
seen anything to suggest they had had anything to do with the four-year-old's disappearance.
"All I saw was a loving family that has been plunged into a dreadful situation - two parents trying to cope amidst their
loss. To suggest that they somehow harmed Madeleine accidentally or otherwise is as ludicrous as it is nonsensical. Indeed,
it would be laughable if it was not so serious," he said.
Mr Mitchell said he was "proud" to be able to help the McCanns deal with the pressure of the media interest.
The McCanns have been named by Portuguese detectives as official suspects.
Mr Mitchell said his job in the Cabinet Office as head of the media monitoring unit was "untenable" from the moment he
accepted an invitation from the family, supported by their legal team and financial backers, to represent them.
"More importantly, I have [resigned] because I feel so strongly that they are innocent victims of a heinous crime that
I am prepared to forego my career in government service to assist them."
He said the McCanns were happy to continue cooperating with the Portuguese authorities and that attention must return
to finding Madeleine, who disappeared on May 3 from the family's holiday home in the Algarve resort of Praia de Luz while
the parents dined nearby.
"The focus must now move away from the rampant, unfounded and inaccurate speculation of recent days, to return to the
child at the very centre of this: Madeleine," he said.
Mr Mitchell said the family would like to appeal to the media to stop taking photographs of, or filming, the McCanns'
younger children, two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie.
Mr Mitchell was reported to have been earning around £70,000 in his post at the Central Office of Information.
Later he told Sky News that his new job was being paid for by a "generous financial backer who wishes to remain anonymous".
He was not receiving money from Mr or Mrs McCann or the Find Madeleine appeal.
As for accusations about DNA evidence against the McCanns, Mr Mitchell said that there "were wholly innocent explanations
and Gerry and Kate will be able to explain everything if it gets to that stage. To suggest they harmed Madeleine is just plain
During his time with the McCanns in the summer, Mr Mitchell spent most of the day with the family accompanying them on
trips around the Algarve and to a number of countries to publicise the case.
Earlier, the Correio da Manha newspaper reported that Judge Pedro Daniel dos Anjos Frias had rejected a police request
to have the McCanns brought back to Portugal for further questioning.
Instead Mrs McCann could be re-interviewed this week by British police acting on behalf of Portuguese authorities.
A UK police source said it would be "unusual" for British officers to carry out interviews on behalf of a foreign police
force but stressed that "anything is possible" in a major inquiry. It is more common for officers from other countries to
visit Britain to question witnesses or suspects in person with the assistance of the local force.
Sir Richard Branson has donated £100,000 towards the couple's legal costs, stating he "trusted them implicitly" and wanted
them to have a fair trial if they were brought before a Portuguese court.
The Virgin boss confirmed that he had been in talks with other wealthy people to encourage them to contribute to a legal
fund, and said at least one other anonymous donor had already been signed up.
The McCanns' new spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, is no stranger to major stories, having dealt with a report into the death
of Princess Diana and the suicide of INXS singer Michael Hutchence during his time as a BBC reporter.
Mr Mitchell announced today that he was stepping down from his role as director of the media monitoring unit at the government's
Central Office of Information to help the "innocent victims of a heinous crime".
The unit, which is responsible for providing 24-hour coverage and in-depth news briefings for press officers, policy
officials, special advisers and ministers across all government departments, is based in the Cabinet Office in Whitehall.
Mr Mitchell joined the unit in April last year but this summer found himself in Portugal - at the request of the Foreign
Office - advising the McCanns for around a month until the end of June.
While in Portugal he was reportedly behind the McCanns' visit to the Pope and their tour of Spain, Germany and Morocco.
Upon his return he went back to his former role; just last month he was pushing a new initiative at the MMU looking at
an online monitoring product to track public debates from blogs.
Until today the McCanns' media relations had been handled by Justine McGuinness, a lobbyist and former Liberal Democrat
Mr Mitchell was seconded because of his extensive broadcasting background and contacts as a former BBC reporter and correspondent.
Reporting from Sydney in 1997 for the BBC, he covered the funeral of Australian INXS rock star Michael Hutchence.
In 1999, as royal correspondent, he covered the report into the crash that killed Dodi Fayed and Princess Diana.
Between 2003 and 2005 he covered a number of stories around the conflict in Iraq, including from the Middle East region.
He said today that in his new role he would be "proud to be able to help them [the McCanns'] deal with the pressure of
the continuing immense international media interest in their situation.
"I am prepared to forego my career in Government service to assist them," Mr Mitchell added.
Page last updated at 11:43 GMT, Monday, 24 September 2007 12:43
Clarence Mitchell is back in front of the camera again - this time as the spokesman for Kate
and Gerry McCann, the parents of missing four-year-old Madeleine. Former colleague Laurie Margolis recalls his time as a BBC
My first memories of Clarence were when he joined the BBC as a regional reporter in Leeds.
Then he made it down to London, first on Breakfast News, then as one of the team of reporters who worked for the main
news bulletins on national TV and radio.
I was another in that reporter pool in the early 1990s, and it was a difficult time for many of us, because the BBC bosses
of that era became obsessed with specialists, people who may well have known their topic, but were often poor at turning that
into watchable TV News.
General reporters like Clarence were highly skilled TV journalists, able to get their heads round any subject at short
notice. But such people were out of fashion, and I think Clarence found it frustrating.
Nevertheless, he became a major figure in several big domestic stories.
He was closely involved with the Fred and Rosemary West case, where a murderous couple had killed young girls and buried
the bodies under their patio in Gloucester.
He was one of the first reporters to arrive at Gowan Avenue, Fulham in south west London, when the immensely popular
BBC TV presenter Jill Dando was shot dead in a murder many feel has never been satisfactorily explained.
And more recently, in a story he worked on right up to the day he left the BBC, Clarence led coverage of the murder of
the Surrey schoolgirl Millie Dowler in 2002. The case has never been solved.
Towards the end of his BBC career Clarence became heavily used on royal stories. He was deeply involved in coverage of
the post-Diana era and the death of the Queen Mother.
Clarence was also a presenter on various BBC news programmes, and may have been looking to make that the main plank of
But the presenting world is a precarious and capricious one, and he never quite made it.
One night, when I was working through the night, Clarence was presenting hourly bulletins on BBC News 24.
He did the 1am, and the 2am, but at 3am a slightly dishevelled looking producer appeared doing the news. It turned out
Clarence had closed his eyes, and had slept through the 3am programme.
Clarence left the BBC quite suddenly, making a move into the Labour government as director of its Media Monitoring Unit.
His salary was widely reported to be £70,000 a year.
As the Madeleine McCann story exploded this summer, it became clear that a high level of control and organisation would
be needed to cope with the media maelstrom.
Clarence was plucked from his job, and sent out to handle the media, rather than be part of the media, on a massive crime
story. Now he's left his government job and gone in with the McCanns full-time.
Setting aside the essential tragedy of whatever happened to Madeleine McCann, I would imagine Clarence is content in
his new role as the family's voice.
He's centre stage on a huge story, intimately involved as ever, and on television and in the papers all the time.
It was extraordinary how, last week, his intervention seemed to eliminate within hours any misgiving about the McCanns
in the British media.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if he gets to tell us Madeleine has been found safe and well?
Investigation may last a year, 29 September 2007
Investigation may last a year Expresso (no online link)
It is in the experience
of Clarence Mitchell that the McCanns put their trust to regain public opinion
29 September 2007
Thanks to 'maya' for translation
Clarence Mitchell goes through the streets of
London at the same speed at which he speaks in his mobile - which actually never stops ringing. The McCann's spokesperson
receives about 60 calls a day (Gerry call's him about 5 to 6 times). Mitchell spoke to Expresso whilst he had breakfast,
one day before the publishing of the picture taken in Morroco by a Spanish tourist.
You exchanged your position as a servant of the British Government for spokesperson of the McCanns. Did you make this decision
for sentimental reasons or professional ambition?
A: I am not a sentimental
person and neither am I making any plans for the future. I accepted the invitation by the McCanns because I know that they
Q: Have you ever asked them if they are involved in their
A: I have never felt the need to ask them that
question because we have spoken contantly about this subject, and both tell me that they are innocent. Since I have spent
a month with them, I believe in what they tell me. It is enough to see how they deal with the twins, Sean and Amelie.
You can see that they are dedicated to their children and that they would never do anything to hurt them. This argument may
not prove anything, but for me it is important that I work with honest people.
In order to defend the McCann's innocence with such surety it is necessary that you know more than what you say...
A: I know the facts that can explain all the police suspicions regarding what was found in the
car or in the apartment rented by them. I can not reveal any more details. Some of the accusations that appear in the PT press
- the British papers only translate what is written there - supposedly happened whilst I was with them. Therefore I
know the truth.
Q: How do you explain the cadaver scent detected in the
vehicle rented 25 days later?
A: It is not up to me to reply. There has
never been anything that has happened that has led me to suspect the McCanns. And I was only not with them at night time,
for obvious reasons. But the story about the car is not the only one that makes no sense: it was suggested in the press that
Kate and Gerry went to Fátima to bury Maddie's body. I went with them in this trip and I guarantee that we did not bury
Q: You spent a month in the Algarve with the couple. Who sent
you and what is it about the McCanns that makes them so special?
are not Mourinho (laughs). This is one of the points that Gerry stressed over the phone that he wished me to tell you: they
are a normal family, the same as so many other middle class families. They are people with a higher academic education, but
that above all love their children. They are not influential people. They have not had any special treatment.
Q: You were sent by the Foreign Office. Are all British people that find themselves in trouble
awarded the same treatment?
A: Every time that a British subject has problems
abroad Consular assistance is offered. As it was regarding a missing child and not the theft of documents, the help provided
by the Consul of Portimão was greater. Since the case dominated the media, The Foreign Office, in London, thought of me because I
had experience as a reporter and I knew key English people. It wasn't Tony Blair nor the present Prime minister, Gordon Brown,
that sent me. I am not their spokesperson nor do I call them asking for advice.
But you were responsible for the projection of the McCanns in the media at a world scale. The fact that you worked for the
British Government facilitated this...
A: In Portugal there has been a
wrong image created about me. I was the Director of the Government's Media Monitoring Unit. Their work, about 40 people, and
their function is to control what gets printed in the press. Every morning I had a meeting with the Prime Minister's spokesperson
at 10 Downing Street and we discussed any developments. I didn't get to speak to Gordon Brown directly. Everything that I
have been able to do for the McCanns has been through my computer and my mobile.
It was enough that you called certain people so that Kate and Gerry were granted an audience with the Pope.
A: And I am a Protestant! When I was in the Algarve on behalf of the Foreign Office I kept in
touch with the British Embassies, the Vatican's inclusive. Through Cormac Murphy O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster,
I knew that Maddie's disappearance had not gone un-noticed by the Vatican. He suggested that we asked for an audience with
the Pope. It was I that wrote that email, since Gerry and Kate did not want any special treatment.
Was it your decision to use the media so that the case may not be forgotten? Some specialists argue that this exposure might
A: The parents trusted my instincts. They only told me that
they wanted to do everything to find her. It was them that decided on a tour around Europe, that started in Amsterdam. After
they had been to Germany, Kate was inclined to go to the North of Africa. Actually it is in that area that Kate suspects that
Maddie might be.
Q: With the change of direction of the investigation,
Kate's attitude (the fact that she does not/has not cried in public) has been the subject of criticism. In private what has
been her reaction?
A: Kate is very strong. She seems like a reseved and
contained woman in her emotions but she is suffering a lot. I have seen her crying in private. I can also tell you that the
parents were advised by specialists not to reveal their emotions in public. The kidnapper may enjoy watching their suffering.
Q: There is a lot of speculation about the events of the 3rd May. What
did kate say when she did not find her daughter in the bedroom?
The witness statements say that Kate shouted "they've taken her". They are incorrect, I will say no more.
Q: Whilst you were a journalist following the case of Jessica and Holly in Soham. The children
were found dead 2 weeks later. Did you predict the same ending to this case?
I thought that by this time she would have been found dead or alive, but an ending similar to the case of Jessica and Holly
is possible, I don't want to and can't speak about Robert Murat but some of the journalists that worked with me in Soham,
and that were recently in Portugal, saw similarities between the case and Robert Murat, more than this I will not say.
Q: Before accepting Kate and Gerry's proposal you admited that you needed some guarantees. Were
you refering to Brian Kennedy, the businessman that pays your wages?
I could not resign from my job with the Government before this issue was resolved. It was unacceptable that Maddie's Fund
would pay my wages. The solution found was the best: I work for the McCanns but who pays my wages is Brian Kennedy, who
made himself available to help them financially. My objective is to help them overcome this phase but I also want to be paid
for it, which has not happened yet.
Q: Some celebrities generosity, such
as Richard Branson, allowed the McCann's to hire the best lawyers that money can buy. Did you advise them in their choice?
A: Absolutely not. But I do recognise the need for them to be surrounded
by the best Portuguese and British professionals. They are suspected of having killed their daughter and having got rid of
the body. That is a very serious accusation. People want them charged and tried. Or at least that Maddie appears next week,
and that is not going to happen. this investigation might take a year.
Do they still trust the Portuguese Police? Or do they want to follow other clues using private detectives?
A: I have to be careful with what I say. This is a sensitive subject. The McCanns want to continue
to co-operate with the police, and they have to do so. Even if Maddie is no longer in Portugal, the PJ continue to be a main
say. However, any parent in the same situation has the right to use any means to find their child. I am not confirming the
hiring of private detectives.
Q: You started the interview by saying that
you were not sentimental but during the trip through Europe with the McCanns you were photographed crying. In that day the
ex-journalist became the news...
It wasn't intentional. But when I found out that my wife had lost the baby, I felt lost and angry for being there and not
beside her. It is at least ironic that during this search for Maddie, I had also lost a son. Very young yes, but it was my
son. I believe that that united us."
PROFILE: Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for the McCann family, 28 November 2007
PROFILE: Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for the McCann family BrandRepublic
Clarence Mitchell has only been in PR for a few months. But at the CIPR's presidential reception
three weeks ago, he was certainly the star turn.
Once word got around that the spokesman for the McCann family was in attendance, the great and the good of the PR industry
were almost queuing up to talk to him, all eager to find out a little more about the mystery of Madeleine’s disappearance.
Mitchell is a seasoned hard news reporter, who worked for the BBC for nearly 20 years, and then for the Government's
Media Monitoring Unit (MMU) for two years, before being seconded out to handle the media in Portugal for the McCanns towards
the end of May.
As a reporter, Mitchell says he was 'always seen as a fireman', and would be flown in 'when there was trouble kicking
off in Northern Ireland', or in other dangerous locations such as Iran and Iraq. He also covered the death of Princess Diana,
the murder of Milly Dowler and the Fred and Rosemary West mass-murders.
Like any reporter, Mitchell became used to being dispassionate. He describes one of his 'lucky breaks' as being on the
motorway behind the Kegworth air crash on the M1 in 1989: 'It sounds dreadful, but that's journalism – you need to be
in the right place at the right time.'
In his current role, of course, Mitchell is far from neutral – indeed, he is vehemently convinced of the McCanns'
innocence, a fact that has not been lost on the press covering the story. One national newspaper journalist describes Mitchell's
work with the McCanns as a 'crusade to right what he perceives as a real injustice'.
Mitchell wears his commitment to the family almost literally on his sleeve, sporting a pair of bright yellow and green
campaign wristbands. He also has a yellow and green ribbon pinned to his lapel, signifying the search for a missing person
Mitchell was first sent to meet Gerry McCann at East Midlands airport two weeks after Madeleine's disappearance. The
pair flew back together to Portugal. Mitchell then spent an intense month of 15-hour days with the family.
He had to return to his government role, and others handled the McCanns' PR. But even then, he says, the family still
called him for advice in his own time. 'We had become friends,' he says. 'But I couldn't help them beyond the odd phone
call, because officially the Government couldn't be seen to be involved.' In September, he quit his government role in
order to work for the family, at a time when much of the media seemed to be turning against the McCanns.
Mitchell is clear about the reasons for this change of feeling: 'I have to be careful what I say, but somebody who has
good connections with the police decided early on, it appears, that they were somehow involved, and decided to plant stories.'
The Portuguese press ran these stories – 'they have a very lurid end to the tabloid market, just as we do,' he
says – and then the British press picked them up.
Mitchell is obviously angry with the press, many of whom he believes were simply 'recycling rubbish': 'As a former journalist
myself, some of the behaviour of the British press has been shameful.'
Mitchell played a great part in quashing the most negative of these stories. He explains that he had a very simple
strategy: 'When I came aboard Gerry and Kate were being accused left, right and centre. What people don't always understand
is that the papers aren't running these stories necessarily because they believe them – they are good angles. They will
also run an equally good angle from the other side.'
Mitchell also gets fired up at accusations from some sections of the press that the McCanns have been too concerned with
PR. He says that the majority of the time he is turning down requests for interviews.
And at the beginning of the campaign, when then McCanns were raising awareness, the strategy was different. As someone
with three young children, Mitchell says: 'I would say that any family in this situation – myself included – would
hit the phones and do what they could.'
Mitchell admits that he does get angry. But one journalist covering the case says that the fact that Mitchell 'is not
afraid to say what he thinks' can only be a good thing for the McCanns.
When Mitchell left the BBC in 2005 it was because he had reached a plateau, having being passed over for the role of
royal correspondent and realising he would never present the Ten O'Clock News.
He describes his post at the Government’s MMU as an 'inward-facing, administration role', adding: 'Sometimes when
there was a big story I'd be thinking, I know where I'd be today.'
Now, he's back at the heart of the story. Indeed, Steve Anderson, the Mentorn Media creative director, who was the executive
producer on this month’s Panorama Special: The Mystery of Madeleine McCann, goes as far as to stay that this
was the job Mitchell was 'meant to do'.
Mitchell seems completely driven by personal conviction and adrenaline, and it is understandably difficult for him to
predict what he will be doing next. Officially, he says, he is now communications director for multi-millionaire Brian Kennedy
– the McCanns' main benefactor – so he will still be employed when the situation is resolved. After that
he will look into opportunities, either with Kennedy or elsewhere.
At the end of the interview, Mitchell cannot help but bring the message home: 'Don't forget that in the middle of all
this there is a little girl out there, alive, and she needs to be found and brought home.'
What was your biggest career break? There have been a few at different times.
Getting into papers in the first place, after a couple of years in a boring job I didn't like, in a bank. And being on a motorway
when an aircrash happens in front of you, from a reporter's point of view, is a big break. Having the Prime Minister as your
local MP is a big break. I've been in the right place at the right time many times. And without the government role I would
never have been in touch with Gerry and Kate, so you could say that was a break as well.
What advice would you give someone climbing the career ladder? Know what
you want to do, absolutely focus on it and keep ploughing away. Eventually people will start taking your seriously. That applies
to journalism, to PR, to any walk of life.
Who was your most notable mentor? I haven't had a mentor as such. I'm pretty
much self-driven, although there have been people I have respected. My very first newspaper editor, Dennis Signy, was very
influential and I'm very grateful to him. A number of BBC editors have also been very kind. That said, you make your own luck.
What do you prize most in new recruits? Drive, a degree of ambition, but
properly focused. Passion underscored with scepticism.
2007 Spokesman, the McCann family
2005 Director, Media Monitoring Unit
2001 Correspondent for BBC News
1999 Presenter, News 24
1988 BBC TV news reporter
1986 Reporter, BBC Radio Sheffield
1985 Reporter, The Sunday Express
1982 Reporter, Hendon and Finchley Times
Clarence Mitchell, the inside man?, 06 January 2008
Clarence Mitchell is the public face for Kate and Gerry
McCann, the parents of missing four-year-old Madeleine. But what really drives him?
Mitchell joined the BBC as a regional reporter in Leeds and then moved to London and worked on Breakfast News. Some of
his more notable news reporting included, the Fred and Rosemary West case, where the couple had killed a number of young girls
and buried their bodies under the patio. He reported on the story when BBC TV presenter Jill Dando was shot dead and the murder
of Millie Dowler in 2002.
Mitchell left the BBC, to join the Labour government as director of its Media Monitoring Unit. He was reported to be
on a salary of £70,000 a year. The Madeleine McCann story became the must watch story in 2007 and mysteriously, Mitchell was
sent by his bosses to handle the media, on what was becoming a massive crime story. He left his government job shortly after
and joined the McCann's full-time when he said, "I feel so strongly that they are innocent
victims of a heinous crime that I am prepared to forego my career in government service to assist them."
Clarence Mitchell is a highly experienced news reporter both in front and behind
the TV camera, so why has he nailed his colours to the very shaky McCann mast? All his journalistic instincts should have
informed him this was as professionally suicidal as when Piers Morgan published his book, The Insider. I think we can guess
what drive Clarence Mitchell?
Mitchell craves the big story, the one every one missed, a scoop of such proportions - a story which will catapult his
reputation, globally. Clarence wants fame and fortune as a real insider like Piers Morgan, but not on a story of general media
gossip but on a real life murder mystery where he has unbridled access posing as the family McCann friend. Perfect for a book,
film and of course, international celebrity.
I'll make a prediction, Mitchell will stay with team McCann until the fund can no longer pay his salary, I guess later
this year and then he will look round for the lucrative book deal. This is when he faces his first big personal dilemma. Does
he continue his very public defense of McCann's in his book or does he offer the reader a much darker version of the McCann's
behaviour and motives, which he will have seen at first hand?
Mitchell is not stupid, he can do the maths, he knows only too well, what sells and what doesn't. If I where in the McCann
team, who incidentally, will be planning their own books and journey into a form of Heather Mills-McCartney, global self pity
celebrity, I would suggest getting rid of Clarence before he gets too big for his boots and brings down the house of cards.
Wouldn't it be nice to see Clarence Mitchell and Piers Morgan, flanking Simon
Cowell in the next series of "Britain's Got Talent"? I think it will work, don't you?
Hey Clarence, if you need an agent, I'll do it for 5%, if there's going to be a bandwagon lets all get on it.
Clarence Mitchell backtracks on previous statement about watches
Mitchell said he was not surprised by the inconsistencies in the initial accounts. 'You had nine people in a bar without
watches on, without mobile phones, and absolute panic set in when they realised what had happened.
The Guardian 06 April 2008
"It was made out to be the biggest 'conspiracy' since the Diana 'conspiracy,'" says Mitchell.
"Some of the group (of friends in the tapas restaurant) had their watches on that night, and others didn't...
Yorkshire Post 29 May 2008
Mitchell, master of the Madeleine McCann media circus, 25
Clarence Mitchell, master of the Madeleine McCann media circusTelegraph
Updated: 2:35am BST 25/04/2008
The first anniversary
of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann will be marked next week with a two-hour television documentary which is the highlight
of a carefully stage-managed publicity offensive.
The fly-on-the wall documentary on ITV1 of Gerry and Kate McCann has been organised by Clarence
Mitchell, their official spokesman. The Portuguese press first referred to him as the "man in the shadows" when he took the
job full-time in Praia da Luz in September.
The newspapers were reporting the (as usual) private views of the Portuguese
police that Mitchell, 47, had been sent in by Gordon Brown, no less - when he was Chancellor - to spy on the investigation,
which had been portrayed in Britain as amateur and cack-handed.
But the Portuguese media were wrong on both counts.
Mitchell would have had at best only a nodding acquaintance with junior ministers, let alone Mr Brown. As director of media
monitoring at the Central Office of Information, he was a back room boy but has never been in the shadows of the police operation.
The former BBC television reporter has loved being centre stage before the cameras in an investigation that has transfixed
the world's media. "He is on the TV much more than he ever was when he worked for the BBC," said one former colleague.
much so that photographers regularly have to shout at Mitchell to get out of the way when they are taking pictures of the
McCanns. He remains at his fixed point by their shoulder even during photo-shoots, bucking the trend of media minders who
avoid being photographed at all costs.
Mitchell has become such a familiar figure in his open-necked pink shirts that
he is recognised in the street and is stopped so often on the forecourts of petrol stations that he now jokes it is because
he has forgotten to pay his bill.
After almost 30 years as a journalist, he knows what makes a story and has been extraordinarily
successful in maintaining a strong interest in Madeleine.
When interest has faltered he has invariably constructed a story or recruited a big name - even
the American First Lady, Laura Bush, is on-side - to a campaign driven by parents who accepted early on that the media was
a necessary partner.
Nevertheless, the documentary next Wednesday has provoked controversy because ITV1 has scheduled
it against the BBC's The Apprentice as part of its ratings war.
The move has led to the accusation that Mitchell has
allowed the parents to be exploited by a commercial broadcaster.
The fact that Mentorn, the production company making
the programme, has given £10,000 to the Find Madeleine fund has not diminished the fuss: the money will be more than recouped
ITV1, with the help of Mitchell, has kept other media organisations from the McCanns during the five
weeks of the access deal with Mentorn.
The company has secured unseen footage of Mrs McCann, 40, her husband, 39,
and their three-year-old twins behind the door of their home in Rothley, Leics.
It includes Mrs McCann breaking down
in tears as she recalls the night Madeleine went missing. But Mitchell will be undeterred by the barbs, believing the two-hour
documentary the best way to ensure that the search for Madeleine goes global again. This is what he is paid to do.
always wanted to be a journalist and after O-levels at Friern Barnet School, Finchley, where he was head boy, he joined the
Barnet & Potters Bar Times and then a BBC training scheme.
In a varied career he covered the Soham murders and,
for two years from 2003, the Iraq war.
He was also on the royal beat when he was known - not very imaginatively - as
But it was as a presenter on various BBC news programmes that he hoped to make his career after
years on the road. His spell doing hourly bulletins on News 24 is best remembered for him sleeping through a 3am slot, which
had to be filled by a somewhat dishevelled producer.
He became close to the McCanns after being sent twice by the
Foreign Office to look after them when there were 40 camera crews outside their Portuguese apartment.
As a father of
three children, aged two to 11, he has gone through the same agonies as many other parents who feared it could have happened
His £70,000 salary, equivalent to what he earned in the Civil Service, is being paid by the double-glazing
magnate Brian Kennedy, who has bankrolled much of the McCann campaign.
Surrendering his Civil Service pension will
be compensated by the future benefits of his role in helping to make Madeleine's the most heavily reported missing-person
case in modern history.
Offers are coming in for book, broadcast, and lecture circuit opportunities when he returns
to "ordinary life" - and even Mohamed Fayed is rumoured to be interested in hiring him.
Mitchell divides his time between
his home in Bath, London, and Rothley and speaks to the McCanns every day. They are grateful to him for raising the profile
of the search across Europe and North Africa, through visits to Morocco, Italy, Spain and Germany.
But the revelation
that they were flying in a private jet was a bear trap that Mitchell should have spotted, and the couple flew home from a
trip to Portugal on easyJet.
Mitchell was, as usual, only a few feet away from the couple when they met the Pope in
St Peter's Square.
He was so overcome he reached out to grasp the papal hand and was rewarded with a blessing and a
set of rosary beads from one of the priests in the Pontiff's retinue.
While calm in public, he has often blown up behind
the scenes at reporters and is occasionally guilty of overdoing briefings.
In the last few weeks his public approach
has changed, bluntly blaming the Portugese police for leaking statements from Mr and Mrs McCann that revealed Madeleine was
left crying the night before she vanished.
Mitchell moved from the shadows to being branded a "manipulative liar" by
the police and the row ensured once more that the McCanns returned to front pages across Europe. It was a job well done by
the man at the centre of the story in his own right.
Clarence Mitchell on The Late Late Show, 09 May 2008
The Late Late Show RTE ONE
09 May 2008
(Thanks to MsMarbles from the3arguidos forum for transcription)
The face of missing Madeleine McCann has to be one of the most recognisable of the 21st century. Maintaining
the public interest is the job of Clarence Mitchell, official spokesman of Kate and Gerry McCann.
Link to video of interview (Note: Scroll down on right hand side of page to locate video. This clip may not work in
the UK and some other countries)
Pat Kenny: Welcome back.
Just over a year ago my next guest was working for the British Government. But what happened in a Portuguese resort
called Praia da Luz on the 3rd May last year changed his life, he is now the fulltime spokesman for Gerry and Kate McCann,
whose daughter Madeleine, or Maddy, disappeared from their holiday apartment on that fateful night.
Will you welcome
please Clarence Mitchell.
Applause from audience
Clarence you're really welcome.
Umm, we just had the first
anniversary of the disappearance of err Maddy McCann, how did Gerry and Kate mark the first anniversary?
Clarence Mitchell: Well Pat, thank you very much for inviting me here tonight,before
I answer that, let me say a message from Kate & Gerry. They want to say thank you to the Irish people for the fantastic
support they've had throughout this. It has been immense, the cards, the letters of support,the
mass cards from Knock, rosaries, everything. It's been absolutely wonderful and it has given them such strength, and they
hope to come to Ireland very soon to say thank you personally.
Pat Kenny: Well,
eeeeer, how did they actually, I mean the anniversary, every day I am sure since it's happened has been a difficult day,but the anniversary particularly.
It has, it was particularly poignant obviously, erm, and Kate and Gerry chose to spend it very quietly at home in Rothley,
in Leicstershire. They went to Church in the morning, err, locally, and then they went up to see relatives in Liverpool, and
went to Church there as well.
That's what they chose to do on the day. Of course, before that, we'd done various media
work in the run up to the anniversary. Because of the media desire for information we did a big documentary for ITV in Britain,
and a number of interviews off the back of that. But the actual anniversary was entirely private and quiet for them.
Pat Kenny: Now, how are they actually coping. I mean has Gerry gone back to work, is Kate
even thinking of going back to work?
Clarence Mitchell: Gerry is back now at
work fulltime, he's in fact on call, err, with all the pressure that causes a a cardiologist.And
that's given him real focus to his life now. He is also doing all the campaigning work, around his working commitments. Er,
kate, no, no, has no intention to go back to work as a GP for the moment. Erm, she sees her priority in bringing up Sean and
Amelie, Madeleine's brother and sister, and campaigning herself, so her time is pretty much taken up on all of those things.
Pat Kenny: Let's go back a a year to that er terrible night of May the 3rd. Err, what do
Kate and Gerry now believe, knowing everything that you've managed to accumulate in terms of detail. What do they believe
Clarence Mitchell: They still believe, firmly, that Madeleine was
taken, she was abducted from the apartment on the night of May the 3rd,Um, and as a result,
all of their efforts and those of our investigators are continuing on that assumption, err, that she is still out there, there
is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that she's been harmed, let alone killed, as many people we believe wrongly assume, and
as a result they still believe she's quite possibly alive and that's what's giving them the strength to keep going.
Pat Kenny: Emm, so they believe that she was abducted err, that night. Do the... do they
have any idea of the motiviation, err, do they suspect anything, do they believe she was taken away to a trhird Country? Morocco's
Clarence Mitchell: It's difficult to say, I mean we don't know....
Pat Kenny: I mean they don't
Clarence Mitchell: What...
Pat Kennt: But what do they
believe in thatinaudible...
Clarence Mitchell: They,
they believe that they were probably being watched, erm, Madeleine may well have been selected for whatever reason, and was
was taken.Umm, where she is now, she could be, a year on, literally anywhere in the World.
still are working on the basis that it's likely that she's probably still in the Portuguese, Spanish, or North African region,
simply because of the proximity. Ermm, but we don't know that, we've had sightings around the World, and each and every one
of those is checked out thoroughly, and of course sadly, none of them have proven to be her yet.
Pat Kenny: Now, besides the finger of suspicion that was pointed at them by the Portuguese Police, and we'll
come to that maybe later on, it... the early critisisms of Gerry and Kate McCann from Portuguese parents, and indeed
from other parents, be they English, or Irish, was that they left their Children alone that night.
I mean, it's an
unthinkable thing to do, maybe with 50/50 hindsight, but most peoplesay 'we would never
Clarence Mitchell: Well, without going into the detail of it, it's
been well reported, but suffice to say, they felt that they were operating a perfectly acceptable checking system on the children,
a checking system every half an hour or so, which was actually more thorough than if they had... they had used a baby listening
service that in actual fact wasn't available at that particular resort. And so they felt that they were doing more than that,
they were actually going into the apartment to check. Erm, but they accept, they got it wrong. You know, th... that it was
the chance in a million and it, they got it wrongand nobody regrets more that fateful
decision that they took, and they erm, you know, God forbid, it's a decision that they may have to live with for the rest
of their lifes.
Pat Kenny: Oh, because it's just that anyone with young kids
and bearing in mind the twins were younger. Again, erm, a child can choke, a child can vomit, you know, a child can be face
down in a pillow in a half an hour. So even the, the regular checks simply to many people...
Clarence Mitchell: Well...
Pat Kenny: I mean, you yourself have
children. Would you do it?
Clarence Mitchell: I, I...
Pat Kenny: Would you?
Clarence Mitchell: I have three, and of
course, I would assess the circumstances at the time before making that decision with my wife.
Erm, they felt it was
entirely safe and proper, they know their children, they know their sleep patterns, they felt it was entirely proper that
the checks were being done thoroughly.And as a result, they had as well absolutely no inkling
of any risk, at all. And of course, as Kate has said recently, if they'd had any smidg... smidgeon of doubt, of course they
wouldn't have done that, as as I wouldn't, but...
Pat Kenny: Do.. do you believe
that that it happens all the time. That loads of parents will...
Pat Kenny: ..actually leave their children?
Clarence Mitchell: I... I... I've never said that. But, erm...
No, but, is it realistic...
Clarence Mitchell: ...nor would I... inaudible
...to think that it's... inaudible
Clarence Mitchell: I would.. I would.. I would.. suggest that every parent has probably had
a moment at some point in their childrens upbringing when they've thought, 'Umm, maybe I didn't see them at that stage, you
know, in the supermarket, you walk down a different aisle, who's to say. It's not for me to make judgements or... to say if
that's common or not.
It can happen, it does happen. And in this case, they felt they were taking every proper precaution,
Pat Kenny: I'm sure..
Mitchell: ...it went wrong.
Pat Kenny: As you say, every parentinaudiblethat has that moment when they look
around and their toddler...
Clarence Mitchell: Indeed.
Pat Kenny: ...is not to be seen. In the toy shop, the supermarket or whatever.
Clarence Mitchell: Whatever, exactly.
Pat Kenny: And they do, of
course, turn up in nine hudred and ninety nine..
Clarence Mitchell: Nin..
Pat Kenny: ...out of a thousand.
Exact.. exactly. And of course, this one, er, it's an exceptionally rare case. But, this... this case is as the Police call
it, of stranger abduction, can happen, and does happen.
Pat Kenny: Now you started
the the TV campaign, err, Find Madeleine. Di.. do.. do you think you ever came even remotely close, were there ever any leads
that just had become cold when you got to them and you really believed that maybe there was something there?
Clarence Mitchell: Well this is one of the problems that our investigators are having in
that we don't know fully what the Portuguese Police have done? They don't tell us? It's a wall of silence. Erm, that we don't
know what leads they've followed up. What they've ruled out. Who they've ruled out. Or... an... and that's a real frustration,
not just for Gerry and Kate, but for the... the wider investigation.
Erm, all of the... the leads that have been publicly
reported, and there have been many others that haven't been reported, erm, have as I say, come to nothing. But at times, some
of them have seemed very promising. Now Kate and Gerry wait to hear, either from the Police or from the investigators, before
they get their hopes up. Ther... wo... would be too much of an emotional rollercoaster to invest hope in every single inaudible.
Ho... how many investigators do... do you have as a campaign out there? Besides what the Portuguese Police are doing.
Clarence Mitchell: Well I.. I'm not going to go into precise numbers, because erm...
Pat Kenny: There are a number of people out th...
Mitchell: There are a number, it... it runs into the dozens in... in different Countries who are working on this constantly.
And our investigators in the Iberian region liase with other private investigators around the World if necessary. For instance,
we had a... a sighting in Mexico City some months ago, and within three hours we had people at that place checking out to
see if it was Madeleine. If we'd waited for intopol it would have taken weeks, and we knew it wasn't Madeleine and that helped
move the investigation on because we could rule that one out with confidence.
Kenny: Are Kate and Gerry still offically, erm, suspects? In.. in.. in the kind of rather different way the Portuguese
run their legal system.
Clarence Mitchell: Er, you're right, it is different.
They remain Arguido, which is this official suspects status. In effect it means they are a person of interest to the enquiry
in the same that in Britain, err, you... you... you help the Police with your enquiries. It doesn't mean you are accused of
a crime. They have not been formally charged with anything. Nor has Mr Murat for that matter, erm, the other Arguido.Err, and it means that the Police ga... ga... can er... er... they... they... they can have certain
rights in the interview process that they wouldn't have if they didn't... if they weren't given their status. Ie: They could
have a lawyer present or choose not to answer questions.
Kate and Gerry remain absolu... absolutely commited to helping
the police enquiry and will do so at any stage they're required to do.
Now, when you were speaking at the Public Relations Institute in Ireland Annual Conference, this afternoon. You said, erm,
that the whole thing had become a bit of a soap opera. Why... why did you say that? Wh... what did you mean by that?
Clarence Mitchell: Well it feels like that. And it certainly feels like that to Gerry and
Kate at times. I mean th... the massive media interest from around the world has been very, very welcome when it's positively
focused towards trying to help find Madeleine. At times it's easy to forget there's a little girl missing at the centre of
this if... if you believe th... the sort of white noise in the media, surrounding the whole case. Erm, and Gerry and Kate,
sometimes feel that a... as if they're being treated as a fodder in the latest episode of some awful soap opera. It's not
a soap opera. This is a real life situation, and they are real people, they are not characters.
Pat Kenny: Er, because they're... they're err people who are educated and would have the ability to, errr, analyse
media and the way media have reported previous tragedies, wher... prior to... to Maddie's disappearance. Do they decide to...
to appear in a certain way when they appeared on television and made their appeals? Because they were kind of criticised initially
for being somewhat cold and unemotional.
Mitchell: Kate can't win, nor can Gerry. She's err, critisised for being as you say
cold, rerr, and unemotional, and then if she cries, sh... these are crocodile tears designed for the cameras, she can't win.
reason that they perhaps appeared a little bit cold in the early stages was very simple and very understandable when you know
the facts. The police the British police, had advised them not to show overt emotion in interviews because it's sadly a common
factor that abductors can get some sort of kick out of seeing the distress they're causing their victims, and as a result
Pat Kenny: So that was a strategy infact...
Clarence Mitchell: It was a strategy, and they were told not to show it. Err... err... you know, at... at times,
er, Ka... I was with Gerry in Ro... in Rothley, err, when he came back to Britain briefly just a couple of weeks after she
was taken and we went to see the... the War Memorial there, which was covered in candles,
and flowers, yellow ribbons. And, err, he was near to tears, and he said I cannot watch because that 'expletive' is gonna
see me. And I said, you're her father, if you need to cry, you cry, forget that. But that's, and he had to hold it in. And
that was the sort of conflicting emotion they were feeling all the time. And Kate said last week in... in the documentary
we just did, she doesn't recognise herself from some of the earlier appearances and that's why. I mean yet... the... they
are then suffering all of this critisism for weeks on err... because of it, through it's sheer ignorance on peoples parts.
Pat Kenny: Why... why do you think thoughout the media, err, the print media particularly,
has swung so, err, extremely in one direction initially of support and then some really nasty stuff. I mean it did get pretty
Clarence Mitchell: It... it got more than nasty, it was grossly defamatory
in certain cases and frankly some... some comment online, is tantamount to, err, criminal incitement against them. Err, totally
wrong, and our lawyers have acted appropriately where necessary and will continue to do so.
Th... the papers, err,
treated it unfortunately as, err, a huge story of one side versus the other. Err, smears were leaked into the Portuguese press,
erm, from directions I'm not going to discuss now, but they were leaked a... and as a result that was picked up and then not
checked by the British papers it was just run because it was a good story and it was putting on sales on newspapers. 70,000
copies a day for some tabloids in Britain. That's big money. And then it was picked up back in Portugal to say 'Arr, the respected
British press have reported this and checked it out'. But course they hadn't, it's just ping pong and it was utter rubbish.
And ninety nine percent of the stories that we complained about were either com... total fabrication, or a complete misunderstanding
of some of the facts. And that's why we chose to act, we didn't want to take action against the papers because they'd been
helpful, but we... we had to in certain cases.
Pat Kenny: Now we know that,
err, tragically children are abducted all over the World. Arr, don't know what the Worldwide numbers are? Some are parental
abductions because there's a...
Clarence Mitchell: Yup.
Pat Kenny: ...a divorce, and an...
Clarence Mitchell: Indeed.
Pat Kenny: ...unhappy divorce, and there is, err, cross border abductions and all that sort
Why d'you think this particular story caught, the world imagination in a way that a child of a similar age
in a different country did not catch the public imagination?
Err, a number of reasons, umm, not only is it a... a... a dramatic story concerning the loss of a child, a very young child,
and that's heart rending in itself. Err, it happened whilst on holiday, it plays into perhaps the concerns and fears of parents
around the world, err, it raised other questions about parenting, yes, let's face it, it raised that debate. And... and the
papers wanted to push that. On top of that it would about... it raises questions of police competence in certain countries,
police liason, and in fact that there was a diplomatic aspect to it, so, i... in the medias eyes this was a major story on
all sorts of levels. And I think that's why it's sustained. What we want to do is not just use that momentum to find Madeleine
of course as the primary goal, but if it helps through Kate and Gerry's campaigning work that they're doing to try and bring
in a Amber Alert system in Europe for instance along the lines in the American structure, we hope that that will the attention
they're recieving can help other cases and stop a...
Pat Kenny: Just... Just
explain how an Amber Alert works.
Clarence Mitchell: Very briefly, in America,
err, if a child goes missing, erm, err, the authorities, the Law Enforcement authorities have the power to commandeer airtime
on local media, they can put out text alerts, email alerts, and they can put out most dramatically, freeway signs. And there
have been cases in America where children have been spotted by drivers, who've seen the Amber Alert on the freeway sign and
have seen the vehicle in front of them on the road, called the Police, and in one case there was a shootout with an abductor
who was killed whilst he was trying to kill the child he had in the boot of his... in the trunk of his vehicle.
Now that Amber Alert system works, it... it's demonstrably proven to work in America in many cases. Err...
and... but there's nothing like that co-ordination in Europe. There are individual structures. Some countries, four countries,
have a system similar to that. France has it, they've alerted five times and they've found the child in each case. It works,
we want, Kate and Gerry want, better co-ordination across Europe a sys... a Europeon system similar to that. That's what we
did the documentary about, they've got a... I think it's nearl... more than a hundred and fifty MEPs have now signed up to
their declaration for that. We're hoping many more will sign up to that.
Erm, I... some people in our audience might want to get involved. Yes, we've got some questions, yes! The gentleman in the
blue shirt, what do you want to say
Man in audience in blue shirt: Erm, Pat,
I'm the father of err, three kids a... a girl similar situation to erm, the McCann's. A little daughter and two sons. We go
on holidays regularly but you don't take your eyes off them for one second. Like won't even give them no attention for the
day, leave them in a room for more than five minutes like, so far away from the apartment I just, I couldn't understand it
to be quite honest with yer, you know.
Clarence Mitchell: Yo... You're absolutely
entitled to your point of view, and I accept that, and I am not going to defend what was done or... or... or take it on in
any other way. Kate and Gerry regret what happened. They got it wrong, and they accept that. I would make the point though,
you say so far away, it wasn't that far away. Fifty, sixty, yards. And the reason they were eating in that Tapas bar every
night, was because they didn't want to go further into town or anywhere else where there would be a further distance. They
actually were eating there because it was the closest available point.
Another comment. Yes there
Woman in audience: I mean no disrespect to the family,
but, would there have been the same response if Madeleine had come from a family struggling to make ends meet, as opposed
to a family that were so well to do?
Clarence Mitchell: This is a question we...
we get asked a lot. Err, it's not our call in a way, it's the media who need to answer that, the media have decided for right
or wrong that this is a major story, and they have focused on it in the way they have, and the momentum it's carried it through
the year, has, yes, been in part down to what we've done in terms of trying...
Pat Kenny: Look, these are people who should know better. they're educated people, they're
doctors. Err, and, it... I know it's a sort of a snobbery thing, but people who were uneducated you know, welll what can you
Clarence Mitchell: Yeah, but...
Kenny: They were probably drinking. They were prob... You know that kind of attitude that, I mean that's real isn't
Clarence Mitchell: Well, err, Kate and Gerry, err, err, and their friends
had only had a very small number of bottles of wine, I think about four between nine people, there wasn't like as has been
Pat Kenny: But what I'm saying is tha... that...
Clarence Mitchell: But... but... but... but...
Pat Kenny: ...they
would assume other people who were not educated..
Pat Kenny: ...people, might be..
Clarence Mitchell: Point..
Pat Kenny: ...drunk and disorderly.
Clarence Mitchell: Point in you would somehow perhaps expect that, is essentially what you
are trying to say..
Pat Kenny: Yes, but, I think that's a very snobbish attitude
Clarence Mitchell: Well, in... indeed an... and not one that we take.
No, a... as I say, this question needs to be addressed to the media. Would the media cover a disadvantaged family in this
situation to the same extent? Perhaps they wouldn't, but that's a media judgement call, not us.
Pat Kenny: Alright, another question up there, at the back.
Man in audience:
Yeah, similar as well too, just as well disrespect, to the poor family is an awful thing to happen, but, err, like d'you
really the amount of coverage it did get in the media, all the page one, err, editorials, everything on it was justified when
at the same time, particularly in Ireland, there were so many in my opinion, more, err, erm, important stories happening and
breaking all the time, but in all... all the page ones were going to the McCann's family.
Clarence Mitchell: Well, again, we weren't demanding page ones, it was the media that were deciding to put it
on page one, and we were grateful for that. If this attention in the over all, in the round, can be focused back onto the
whole issue of missing children and getting some improvement in Europe whilst we continue to look for Madeleine privately,
then surely that's some good coming out of it.
Pat Kenny: Ok. Anyone else? Yes,
down here, erm, mid, err, one, two, three, fourth row. Yep, we're get a microphone to you.
Man in audience: With the wisdom of hindsight now, D'you think would Gerry and Kate do anything differently now
regarding that infamous night and what has happened since?
Well of course, the wisdom of hindsight, as you say, they had no inkling that there was anything amiss, or any potential risk.
They wonder now, if somebody had been around the apartment or had even attempted possibly to get in the previous night. Who
knows? And of course with that hindsight, of course they wouldn't have left them the way they did, and they fully accept that.
But that's 20/20 hindsight, it's a wonderful thing, and I wish we could all have it. In
the rea... in the real world they made a judgement call, and it went tragedically wrong.
Pat Kenny: Alright, another question over here, white shirt. get a microphone to you, yes.
Man in audience: What effect if any had the adverse publicity in England had on the McCann family? Ther.. there
was tremendously bad publicity against the family, and I was wondering what effect if any, it had?
Pat Kenny: Clarence?
Clarence Mitchell: It has been appallingly
stressful for not just Kate and Gerry, but for their wider family who've seen their loved ones so grieviously wronged. Th...
the people that th... they've seen described and what they've done, are not th... the real people that they know and love.
And it's caused immense stress err, to... to Kate's parents, erm, Gerry's mother. The, err, the wider family have been utterly
appalled by it, and they know the truth..
Pat Kenny: Alright, Clarence, finally
I should ask you, how long will you be involved with this? I mean you gave up your Government job, err, to work with the McCann's.
I mean is this open ended?
Clarence Mitchell: At... at the moment it is. I'm,
err, whilst Madeleine remains missing, I'm very happy to continue working with Kate and Gerry, and for Brian kennedy, the
backer, who is paying my salary, for as long as all of them wish me to. Erm, happily, they... they want me to and I'm very
happy and proud to do so. Err, whether I... I go into other PR work in the future is something that I... I will obviously
with will discuss with them at some stage. But for the moment err, tragically we've gone into the second year of looking for
her. And let's hope this... this could all end tomorrow with one phone call, that's always been the case. Err, and I'm more
than happy to, err, stick with it and help them deal with the media.
If it wasn't fo... not me, but for somebody in
my position acting as a buffer, a firewall if you like. The, th... th... the demands of the modern media in the 24/7 era would
be beyond them, they've got enough on their plate trying to find their daughter, and deal with the situation they find themselves
in. I'm happy to help them.
Pat Kenny: Clarence Mitchell. Thank you very much
for being with us tonight.
Clarence Mitchell on RTE Radio 1, 04 June 2008
RTE Radio 1 Link (Note: This recording may not work in the UK and some other countries)
Wednesday 04 June 2008
Thanks to 'MsMarbles' for transcription
Pat Kenny Alright,
err, I want to, erm, move on to someone I spoke to recently, on the, err, the Late Late Show. Err, Clarence Mitchell, good
Clarence Mitchell: Pat, good morning, good morning.
Pat Kenny: It's nice to talk to you again. Now Clarence, you and I, err, were speaking, err, about the McCann
situation, erm, Kate and Gerry McCann. And the ongoing search for Madeleine McCann.
Erm, first of all I should ask
you for any update on that? I presume it's as bleak as ever?
Er, I'm afraid it.. it's bleak in the sense that we haven't found Madeleine yet of course. Erm, but there is a lot of work
still going on behind the scenes. Our private investigation is pushing forward in many different directions after err, the
big documentary that err, Kate and Gerry did for ITV in Britain, err, for the anniversary, and all the interviews they did
around that. Err, we recieved thousands of emails and hundreds of very supportive calls with a lot of information in them,
and all of those where we can check anything specific. Anything that can be verified, it is being followed up, erm, and of
course our Lawyers are also err, working extremely hard, both in Britain and in Portugal, erm to keep pressure on the authorities
Pat Kenny Now, there are a couple of things if you like, of more
recent breaking news in terms of the McCann's. One was this story that, err, Gerry mcCann had received a string of texts,
err, prior to Maddie's disappearance. Was that true or otherwise?
Err, no it's not. Erm, Gerry had his mobile with him on holiday, I can't go into the details of this, because this is details
which is contained within the Police file. But err, some elements of it emerged in a cour.. an old Court ruling that was reported
last week, that's what you're referring to. Erm, Gerrry is as baffled as anybody about these alleged calls to his mobile,
er, he only had a few calls when he was on holiday, mainly from people at work who weren't even aware he was abroad. And,
erm, you know, the phones were used as they would be on holiday, the occasional phone call but nothing major. The only time
time they used them in earnest was of course emm, on the night that Madeleine went missing and they were alerting people back
in Britain about what had happened.
Pat Kenny So nothing to that at all.
Clarence Mitchell: There's nothing untoward. Kate and Gerry, and their friends have got absolutely
nothing to hide. Err, they've made their mobile phone records available to the police from Day 1, Erm, they have those records,
and, err, you may find it hard to believe, the police never actually asked them for them. Err, they made a formal attempt
through the courts and that was actually rejected because it was a potential breach of Portugal's privacy laws, and that was
what that particular Court ruling was about. But Kate and Gerry and their friends have had their records ready and waiting
themselves and they've never been asked.
Pat Kenny: Never been asked for them.
Clarence Mitchell: No.
Pat Kenny Emm, the,
err, second thing is th... whether or not the erm, McCann's might be prosecuted for child neglect.
Clarence Mitchell: Well again this was an assumption based on this particular Court ruling. The Court ruling
simply said that it's... it's... it's ruling was relevant to the Madeleine McCann case, err, which was looking, was investigating
the following potential areas: Abduction - which we welcome because that is what happened; Err, Homicide - which we obviously... we hope has not happened; Err, the possible concealment of any body; And fourthly
this question of child abandonment as it's called in Portugal. Now, all it was saying, was they were looking at these areas,
and frankly we would hope the police would investigate all these areas as potential. And nothing was said to indicate that
charges along these lines are likely. And equally the lawyers for Kate and Gerry have not heard anything to that effect from
the authorities in Portugal.
I'm afraid a lot of the press made the assumption that this might mean charges are likely.
There is no suggestion of that at this stage, and even if they were to come, they would be vigourously defended, because Kate
and Gerry, and their friends, were checking the children regularly. Err, and in law, that is within the bounds of responsible
Pat Kenny Now,
the.. the last err, thing is quite amazing. It's an astonishing developement in the sense that it's about a cancellation of
a reconstruction of what happened on that night. Wh... the reconstruction wasn't going to be televised, so what was the point
Clarence Mitchell: Well, that's exactly the question thatGerry, Kate and their friendswere asking.
Err, there were a whole host of reasons that they had very strong concerns about what this would actually achieve, what they've
all said consistantly and continue to do so, will do anything to help find Madeleine.
This particular proposal, the
way it was phrased and the way it was being put forward, then felt not in any shape or form help to find her. As you say,
it wouldn't have been televised, there would be no new leads coming in... Err, why, what good would it have done well over
a year after the event. Erm, nobody seemed to have given any consideration to Kate's mental well being. You know, was she
expected to see a child playing Madeleine in front of her? All sorts of other questions.
Pat Kenny: Now, they, they were going to use erm, the McCann's and the people who were there actually that night
rather than actors.
Clarence Mitchell: Well exactly, and how many reconstructions
have you heard of, erm, in Ireland, Britain, or anywhere else, where the original people involved in a case, actually take
part. It is virtually unheard of.
And so again, that made us, made our Lawyers wonder what, you know, what is going
on here? And on top of that the Portuguese as a norm, do not do reconstructions.
Last year, just after Madeleine was
taken, BBC crimewatch proposed just such a reconstruction with actors, and the Police said no, no, we don't do that here,
we don't do reconstructions. And yet suddenly they turn round over a year later to say we will do one on our terms. And, erm,
you know, there was some debate within the group. Now Gerry and Kate, as Arguido's, as... as suspects, err, I... would have
had to go back if they were forced back, legally to go. There was no question of them saying 'no we couldn't go'. But the
friends are not, erm, suspected of anything, or not involved directly in that sense, err, that degree. And as a result they
have freedom of choice. And they discussed it themselves at length, and decided to let the police know that no, thank you
for this offer on this occasion, but we don't feel it would be helpful.
An... and that's what happened and the Police
made it clear as well, they wanted everybody or it wouldn't happen. And as soon as one or two of the friends said no, then
it simply, erm, fell away. And...
Pat Kenny There must be (inaudible) some
suspicion they were trying to kind of trip people up, You've given a statement, now let's see you walk through the statement
that you gave and let's see if we can find any holes in it.
E... I have to be very careful what I say Pat, because the Police are still investigating this and our lawyers are still looking
at it, but, um, the... you can draw that assumption if you wish, err, I... I... would not wish to comment on that.
Pat Kenny Alright, let's move
on to Amy Fitzpatrick. Erm, you... you have become involved in this.
Well, to the extent that, ermm, when I came over to speak to you on the Late Late Show, and to talk to the... my colleagues
from the Public Relations Institute of Ireland, who invited me over to speak a couple of weeks ago. Err, a number of reporters
who interviewed me, erm, said... asked me was I aware of Amy's situation and the fact that whilst her case had had quite a
lot of publicity in Ireland, it hadn't really taken off anywhere else in the same way obviously that Madeleine has. And I
said I... I... I was broadly aware of what had happened to Amy, but not that asha... I was ashamed to say I didn't know the
detail. And that was part of the problem, that their media campaign hadn't quite got that, err, winds behind it if you like.
Erm, and I said I was more than happy to help the family or advise them if they wanted to. Give them my... my contacts across
Erm, err, and, as a result of that, some family members made contact and I've since spoken to Amy's mother
Audrey, out in Spain. Erm, we've had an initial conversation an... and we've agreed that I will meet the family when they're
next in Ireland, probably in a couple of weeks time. Err, and we will sit down and go through things in some detail. And if
I can basically use my... my contacts, Ermmm, and some of what I've been doing for Madeleine, erm, to help try and find Amy,
then I'm very happy to do that. But, at this stage it's.. it's really, early days, err, and we're just getting together what
we need to do and how we move forward.
Pat Kenny: There were some parallels,
because the kind of err, rumours and untruths, that were demonstrable untruths, that were printed and circulated about, err,
Amy's mother and st... stepfather, erm, are similar to the kind of, err, untruths that were printed about the McCann's.
Clarence Mitchell: Yes, I, err, I'm afraid to say that any high profile case these days,
erm, along these lines where there is always a question mark perhaps surrounding what may or may not have happened. I'm afraid
with the power of the internet which on the one hand can be incredibley erm, good and incredibly useful in the search, can
also give voice and that platform to people who frankly have absolutely no idea what has happened, are full of perhaps prejudice
and bile, an... and can air this. And I'm afraid you see things on forums and blogs, and they... they take on a superiors
air of credibility simply because they're sitting there on a screen in front of you.
Ermm, so, this is a problem we
had from... from almost day one with Madeleine. Err, yes, I'm very sad to say in Amy's case there has been occasion of some
derogatory comments there, as in all of these cases. It doesn't mean it's right. people make assumptions, based on what they
read, and in many cases those reports are innaccurate, or just plain wrong, or have been (inaudible) contained lies for
whatever reason. And people then go off on a tangent and decide in their minds that this, this and this happened, with absolutely
no evidence whatsoever. And it really is a problem, because these things get repeated and repeated and repeated, and then
people generally do start to believe them.
Err, so this is one of the situations that needs to be tackled, you know,
incorrect statements need to be corrected and moved away from the mainstream media as quickly as possible. Erm, that's not
to say, you know, that the families involved in these cases aren't happy to take dir... proper critisism where and if it is
valid. But where there is, you know, mis... mischief, or just, err, downright libel going on, and I'm not necessarily suggesting
that's happened in Amy's case, but ii... in general erm, it needs to be hit very hard from the (inaudible)...
Pat Kenny I... I... I'll give you an example. Straight away, on my text screen, 'Amy Fitzpatrick
ran away. The McCann's know what happened to Maddy...
Clarence Mitchell: What...
Pat Kenny ...why are you covering these 'sham stories'.
Clarence Mitchell: Well, exactly, who...
Pat Kenny Well, so, in
spite of what you've been saying, in spite of the interview that I did with you on the Late Late Show, the interview I did
with Amy's family, you know, people persist
Clarence Mitchell: I... I... Well
exactly, Pat. And I would challenge that person that wrote that there to prove it. How do they know Amy ran away. They don't.
Nobody knows. That's the whole point. How do... how do they know that Gerry and Kate know what happened. They most certainly
don't. But even if they did, how does that person know that, and what gives them the right to put... air that view in... in
electronic form, in the same way that you and I are discussing it from the other perspective now.
Pat Kenny I... I would not... not normally have read that out, except to demonstrate, err, to you, and to our
Pat Kenny ... that in spite of what we say, tha... that no matter
how many interviews you do, how... how many ways you protest the credibility of... of... a... the... the McCann's or Amy's
family, that, you know, there are still people who refuse...
Pat Kenny ...
to believe it.
Clarence Mitchell: Absolutely right, they have a view, they take
it and th... they are as blinkered in their own way aa... as people who perhaps think the opposite. It... it... it, you know,
ii... ii... it is the... the internet and th... th... electronic media these days and the (inaudible) capacity to communicate
so widely in the way that we all have now, which of course is a blessing in... in the over all, but it... it gives also a
very divisive and dangerous platform to people, to air, gossip, rumour, innuendo, a... lies, and slander, an... and ah...
ah... you know, this is something that is very hard to combat. But, wh... we do our best, I do my best, by trying to deflect
things and tell the truth throughout. And in the main, I hope that people who are reasonable and of independent mind, will
access the facts as they know them and as they are accurately reported, and then make up their own mind, erm, given those.
But I'm afraid some of the, erm, prejudices that are out there do filter through, and they are very hard to deal with at times.
Pat Kenny Well, Clarence I hope, err, that the quest for Maddie is ultimately successful
and I hope that you can prove useful to Amy's family in finding her.
Pat, thank you very much. I will do my best for them, erm, you know, it... it's a question that media needs to look at why
are they interested in one story about one particular child, and not so interested in another. There are lots of factors at
play here, and if I can help influence that positively to get Amy's name out there, and highlight the fact that she is still
missing more five months on, erm, then I'll do what I can.
Pat Kenny Clarence
Mitchell. Thank you very much. It's twenty three minutes past ten.
The McCanns and the Media (recorded 11 June 2008) + transcript
Recorded at the Churches' Media Conference, 11 June 2008
Clarence Mitchell was a BBC reporter and royal correspondent. He went on to become director of the media monitoring unit
at the government's Central Office of Information, before being hired by the parents of Madeleine McCann, Gerry and Kate,
to be their spokesperson.
Andrew Graystone talks to Janet Kennedy and Clarence Mitchell about The McCanns and the Media.
AG: I want to issue a
very, very warm welcome this morning, to two guests -- to Clarence Mitchell and Janet Kennedy. Clarence -- lots of you will
know -- those of you who watch the BBC
over the past years will know -- Clarence started his work, I think, as a reporter in Leeds, not so
far from here...
first, then BBC and Radio Sheffield - and then Leeds.
and then Leeds -- and then moved to London to work on Breakfast
television and general reporting including some really significant cases -- Fred and Rose West…
CM: …Millie Dowler
-- I was also one of the deputy royal correspondents that did Diana’s death.
AG: And then Clarence
you moved from there to work in the government Media Monitoring Unit. Is that correct?
CM: Yes, I -- I joined
the Cabinet Office in 2005 and I became Director of The Media Monitoring Unit which is a very small team based within the
Cabinet Office - as it was then. It’s now part of COI. And it exists to brief ministers on the day’s media agenda
and, you know, how -- how the various story strands of the day are moving through the media and then the special advisors
at Number 10 decide - on that - how they deal with it and which ministers are put out to speak.
AG: And then as we know,
in September last year Clarence moved from that work to being spokesman for the McCann family. Which brings us to Janet Kennedy
-- and really delighted that you’re with us this morning. Thank you so much for coming. Janet, you’re Kate McCann’s
aunt - is that right?
JK: Yes, my husband Brian
is Kate’s mother’s brother -- is that right? [Laughs]
AG: That’s right.
And you live in Rothley?
JK: And we live -- we’ve
lived in Rothley for 25 -- 26 years now -- and Kate and Gerry came to live there, I suppose, about2 years ago -- they’d lived in another village called Queniborough which isn’t too far away
--when Gerry got his job at Glenfield as a cardiologist. So we’ve really
been in the thick of it, I suppose you could say, living -- living in Rothley. And it’s been hard - very hard.
AG: What we’d like
to do together over the 45 minutes or so that we have, is to look back over what’s happened in the last 13 months. But
our theme for the last two days has been questions of values in the new media environment. And so I’m interested to
explore with you, what you and the family have done with the media and what the media have done with you - and what your reflections
on that are. We come to this as - many of us - professional communicators and we have everything to learn about the impact
that the media is making. The first thing I’d want to ask you though - just to begin with is - could you tell us how
Kate and Gerry are?
JK: Erm -- Well -- Each
day is different I think.They’re sort of buffeted by -- partly you know,
what the media has to say, although I think it is quite quiet at the moment and I think those people who’ve seen the
documentary, know that erm --
I think they’ve just gathered
all their strength together to devote themselves to the twins and to actually be very focussed on the search for Madeleine
and anything that will bring about a resolution. And they’re both highly intelligent, articulate, strong people with
great love for their children and I think they’re able to channel that, you know, into what they have to do each day.
It doesn’t make it easy but I think they’ve got the psychological wherewithal, you know, to give themselves
up and just cope with each day as it comes. That’s how I would express it.
AG: Can I take you back
to the time when Madeleine disappeared? We know that many children disappear in all sorts of circumstances and it’s
of relevance to us, I think, how that particular event became the media story that it did. I mean, my understanding is that,
it was somebody in the UK who first approached the media on
behalf of the family. Have I got that right?
CM: The -- the story,
if you like, began rolling back here, across news desks, in the early hours of the night of the 3rd into the 4th when a number
of relatives and friends began sending in pictures of Madeleine - primarily to BBC’s
National News Desk. At one point there was so many pictures of her coming in the BBC actually
queried this and said, ‘Well who is this girl? We don’t know.’ And a lot of -- a lot of checking, quite
rightly, went on in the early hours. This was entirely nothing to do with Gerry and Kate or any of their friends who were
actively searching and helping the police to look for Madeleine.
And that’s why the allegation
that’s made often and has been repeated so frequently seems like a fact - that somehow Kate and Gerry were manipulating
the media from the outset - it’s just totally untrue. In the modern 24/7 online connected era, I would defy any family
with friends or relatives, who have images of a missing child, not to get online and use that capacity - and that’s
exactly what happened.
AG: We’ve been talking
in the last couple of days about just the way that happened. When stories of the -- if you’d like to call them stories
-- I mean it’s not a story at one level is it...
AG: …in your life?
But when stories begin to happen – now - we’re all reporters, you know.Every – every [one] in the street has a video phone and is sending material out.
CM: Well that has fantastic
advantages; the power of the good the net can achieve is wonderful - equally it has its downsides which I’m sure we’ll
AG: So this story
as it were -- the media story -- began to roll without any initiative, at first, from Kate and Gerry and their friends in
Portugal. Is that – is that how you recall it?
JK: That’s how I
recall it. I mean we had a phone call from Gerry in the early hours of the morning after, you know, the whole thing was discovered
- and I would have said that they would have been just too distraught to have had any thought at all about, you know, ‘how
we’re going to approach the media?’ -- It would’ve been the last…
JK: …last thing
in their minds…
CM: [interjects] But,
in fact, two of the detectives on the night -- when they were leaving that night, Gerry said, “Well what about the media?”
And they said, “No. No media. No media. We don’t do that.” [Laughs] So, you know, it was just a completely
different mindset from the start.
They [K&G] had enough --
more than enough on their plate. They were out searching. They were helping the police. And when they came back from one of
their first visits to the police station Gerry was amazed to see the number of journalists that were already outside the apartment.
None of that had come from calls from their [beck]. It had come because the wire services were reporting it. Material was
coming in from friends and relatives and ‘the machine,’- if you like - had latched unto this as a major story
from the -- from the word go.
AG: Now Janet, you must’ve
been closely involved with them, at that stage, although you were in England
at the time. Was there a point where Kate and Gerry decided that they needed to be proactive with the media - to positively
engage with the media?
JK: I -- I’m not
really sure myself about that, you know -- at the time -- It’s not something I’ve discussed with them.My own feeling of the first few days was, you know, just try to get in touch with the Foreign Office, you
know, to try and get some kind of help in terms of it being a foreign country.
I mean I know that the morning
after it happened I -- Kate, you know, had phoned me because -- this sounds terribly trivial -- but they were due home the
next day and she’d booked an online shop. I won’t give the name of the -- of the company -- of the supermarket
-- and, you know, she sort of wanted something to be done about it. So I just went up to the house, you know, and erm -- to
sort that out. And, you know, I just wasn’t prepared for the media interest at the house itself.
AG: What -- What happened?
JK: Well, there were just
over a hundred people with cameras and reporters -- And they’ve got a sort of gate and then a little driveway and I
mean I was -- I suppose I was really daunted, you know, by this sort of complete media intrusion, as I thought, at the time.
AG: What does it feel
JK: Well, if I tell you
that I sort of knelt on the playroom floor so that I wouldn’t be seen because there was -- I was aware there were long
range cameras focussing on the house and there were just flashing lights, flashing cameras, people continually coming up and
knocking on the door and I just wouldn’t answer the door. You know, I felt totally imprisoned really and very threatened
and, you know, I would think I am quite a mature person who can deal with all kinds of crises. But it was quite overwhelming
I have to say -- just this complete takeover of my life, you know, at that time -- and poor Kate and Gerry there, you
know, with no Madeleine.
Eventually the police called
and they sort of said, you know, that they would liaise with the press. But I think, at that point, I didn’t
really just want it to be the police. I felt that we should also have a say in it, you know, sort of over the course of that
first day;I thought well perhaps we ought to represent our own point of view
and not just have the police, as it were, issuing standard replies, you know, which I assumed perhaps they would do. I don’t
think I was very sensible about it at all, you know [Laughs].
AG: …I can’t
imagine I’d have been very sensible either…
CM: [interjects] Brian
and Janet had to basically run their own media operation from scratch -- out of the blue -- particularly given the fact that
Kate, Gerry and the rest of the group were in Portugal. It was -- there was a natural focus of interest at this end but in
Portugal we had 40 crews -- TV crews alone on the ground -- up to 300 reporters, if you include all the prints and online
and radio as well.
AG: And who was -- Was
anybody managing that?
CM: Initially -- Initially
-- and this is how I came to be involved -- Initially, Mark Warner, the holiday company concerned, brought in one
of their PR people - Alex Woolfall, who’s the crisis manager expert from Bell Pottinger - who works with the company
anyway.He came out and the embassy sent a press officer down from Lisbon. As
British nationals, in trouble abroad, Kate and Gerry were offered full consular assistance. In this exceptional level of media
interest it meant that there had to be an unusual aspect of media handling because there were so many on the ground; they
wouldn’t normally send a press officer down but in this case they did. And it became clear, very quickly, that the numbers
were so great that extra help was needed from London. And the FCO, through the embassy, was then asked for another press officer
to go out and they initially sent out Sheree Dodd - who had to move house that week - and she came back. And because of my
active media connections -- and I was working within government at the point -- at that point -- I was asked to basically
go out to replace her. So I…
AG: So you were doing
that on behalf of the Foreign Office?
CM: …I went out
initially for a month - I was told, ‘Oh, this’ll all be over in a fortnight’ and I went out for a month
and -- and that was -- that was why I got involved. Now, again, it’s often been said, ‘Oh, why are the McCann’s
so special? Why do they need a spokesman?’ I existbecause of the media interest. That is the only reason
why I did this initially, and it continued the way through the year, as we’ve seen and -- and that’s why I’m
still doing it today because the media continue to be interested. It’s not because Kate and Gerry are in any way special,
or their case is any more deserving than any other missing child.
AG: So you started Clarence
as a representative of the Foreign Office. But Kate and Gerry did actually employ their own media spokesperson at the -- at
an early stage didn’t they - Justine McGuiness?
CM: After me --when
the British government element ended and I organised the trip around Europe that we did and we went to visit the Pope - again,
largely at the Vatican’s […] behest, although we had to formally apply for that audience. After we had organised
that - via the embassies - the government felt it was right that the public aspect of this should come to a close because
it had been -- they had been assisted for so long at taxpayer’s expense.
And also, by that stage, a lot
of money had come in from the very generous donations from the public. And Gerry, Kate and the wider family felt it was appropriate
to bring a campaign manager on board to look at more long term strategic campaign ideas. In my role it’s just fire fighting
-- hour – for -- hour by hour -- the media handling-- and so she [Justine McGuiness] came on for that and then
I came on to take over from her later.
AG: And Janet, were you
involved in discussions with the family about starting a campaign as it were?
JK: No, I wasn’t
personally, my husband Brian was, there was a erm -- The fund was started at the Walker Stadium in Leicester -the football
club. And my husband Brian was one of the people appointed to the board. Not so much as a family member but a sort of safe
pair of hands because he was a retired headmaster and it was thought perhaps somebody like that, you know, would be quite
measured -- erm I’m not sure that that’s true. [Laughs]
AG: I don’t know
why that got a laugh. [Audience laughs]
JK: But, you know, he
was -- There were about -- It was actually set up by Glenfield Hospital by colleagues of Gerry’s who, you know, were
utterly helpless and wanted to do something to forward the search for Madeleine. And also there was the whole fact that they
were stuck out in Portugal and, you know, weren’t able to come back home.
So certain colleagues all contributed
a certain amount of money and obviously once people start donating, you know -- I think it was a thousand pounds each -- some
of these people, you know, that, you know -- And also the donations were pouring in and I was going to the house and opening
mail and cheques were coming in and people writing supportive letters.
And the whole thing, you know,
was just sort of overwhelming and I think it was felt that to --to sort of be accountable and for the money to be channelled
in a sort of rational way it was important to set up a trust fund - a Madeleine fund. It couldn’t be a charity because
it was for one missing child and of course charities status has got to be, you know, that it’s for a group ,to be say,
missing children --
CM: The public good
JK: For the public good
-- And this [fund] was just generated because Madeleine’s disappearance generated so much public concern and
AG: In those first days
and even weeks, the media attention - although it was absolutely intense - was substantially very supportive, as I recall?
JK: It was. It was. Without
a doubt. It was -- it was tremendously supportive. There were one or two people who approached me, who sort of suggested that
it would be a really good story if perhaps, you know, they could have access to the house and see Madeleine’s room and
what was inside it.
AG: But tell me what actually
happens when somebody approaches you like that?
done some dodgy things as a broadcaster but I’m not sure that I’ve done…
JK: Well I mean I had…
AG: … what happens?
JK: …I had made
a decision from the word go that the inside of the house was totally off limits because I was just so scared of this whole
thing becoming sentimentally slushy and pandering to -- to the worst kind of intrusion.
AG: But did – did
somebody ring you at home and say, ‘I’m from The Sun, can I come round your house?’ How does it work?
JK: Yes --Yes they did
CM: Letters are put through
letterboxes or offers…
JK: And people knock at
the door and if I was in the house, you know, people would come to the house and, you know -- and they asked about going inside.
And I just said that I thought it was totally inappropriate and that I -- I was absolutely aghast that anybody could
even think of -- of doing that, you know.
CM: And that was absolutely
the proper response from the family’s point of view. But of course that doesn’t play the media game. There is
a stereotypical, kneejerk, news desk reaction - certainly in the tabloid side of things is, ‘We’ve gotta see
the grieving. We’ve gotta see the tears. We’ve gotta see the emotion.’ And in -- Sadly in many cases
some families go along with that and because McCann’s very firmly said, ‘No this is a private thing and we’ll
not -- And that’s a line we will not cross.’ I’m still getting requests to this day and the amount of money
they’ve been offering -- I mean, is just ridiculous.They -- they want
pictures of Kate in her bedroom crying. It’s just gratuitous, emotive, sentimental rubbish….
AG: …But Clarence
you’ve been on both sides of this.
AG: You’ve been
CM: But even as a reporter
I would’ve felt uncomfortable
AG: … are you saying
that you haven’t done that sort of stuff?
CM: Even as a reporter
I would’ve felt uncomfortable asking for that sort of thing.
AG: So were you shocked
at what your own trade was doing?
CM: I -- I -- I wasn’t
shocked by that sort of thing - that unfortunately is all entirely predictable and it’ll continue for as long as this
sort of tragic situation continues. What I was shocked about was the -- the lack of standard of reporting that took place
in Portugal -- in that the reporters on the ground did absolutely no investigative work whatsoever. When the police said,
‘Sorry we’re not talking.’ That was it - they accepted that and they just sat in the bar which was offering
free white wine -- alcohol. That became the newsroom and every day they would then just translate the Portuguese papers which
began to be full of smears - lies in many cases - downright inaccuracies -- they would just lift that.
They’d phone me -- I’d
say, ‘this is wrong -- its rubbish -- that’s not true.’ That was it -- ‘Mitchell balances it’
-- piece runs -- ‘thank you.’ It runs the next day in Britain. And then the next day the Portuguese press would
run it again - saying the respected British press had confirmed our story - they hadn’t. It was just utter nonsense.
The whole thing was just a ridiculous spin cycle… of insanity.
AG: Janet, can you remember
when the first negative or questioning stories started to emerge?
JK: Yes, I suppose --
I went out to Portugal a couple of times, before Kate and Gerry came home, just to help look after the children and it was
-- it was that end of July, early August, when I think things began to change.I
would pinpoint it as that.
Well for one thing they -- they’d
moved, you know, out of the Warner apartment, to a small villa which the Portuguese press said, you know, was the height of
luxury. You know all these sort of inaccurate descriptions.
And the police attitude changed
at that time, as well. And the scenic car was seized and […] at the villa -- the police, who had been very cooperative,
you know -- Kate and Gerry had worked with them - they thought really well. And Kate and Gerry tried to be proactive
in the investigation and to give as much assistance as possible. And in those few days, August 8th - August 9th, I know that
they -- they just suddenly descended without warning and took absolutely every stitch of clothing from the house.
And it was as though it was orchestrated
really because the press - at that time - also were, you know, really beginning to be very, very negative and anti the McCann’s
and there was suspicion that, you know, that they’d had something to do with Madeleine’s abduction stroke death.
And there was a complete sea change that week. And my own impression of being there was that it was also -- almost as though
it was a conspiracy - perhaps that’s an over emotional reaction to something. But Kate and Gerry were really at the
end of their tether in that week because their search for Madeleine, you know, was totally obstructed.
AG: What happens to you
as a person, or you as a family, when you --- you open that newspaper and it’s saying really deeply negative or shocking
things about you?
JK: Well I think you sort
of -- you’re being destroyed from within if you’re not strong enough to hold on to your own sense of who you are
and the fact, youknow, that in their case they knew they had absolutely nothing
to do, at all, with Madeleine’s disappearance. And I mean I’ve -- I’ve -- you know Kate was my bridesmaid
when she was five, when Brian and I were married, and I’ve known her since she was tiny. So I mean I knew myself, you
know, that this was all fabricated nonsense. But it was more than nonsense - it was actually evil, you know - I felt a tremendous
sense of evil about the place.
AG: Evil is a very strong
word to use. What makes you choose a word like that?
JK: Because there were
no values, you know. People were acting out lies. There was no integrity. Kate was treated in a really threatening erm --
an absolutely destructive way. But there was also the portrayal -- and it was very much, I felt over the weeks that
there was an attempt to demonise Kate. Which interestingly -- I mean, from the sort of distanced point of view -- it’s
an interesting thing I’ve observed in the media that often its women who are demonised and are portrayed, you know,
as being deeply, deeply devious and, you know…and wicked.
Somehow, that isn’t done
in the same way to men. And the fact that Kate’s picture was on the front of so many papers, so many times and they
sort of went on about, you know, the fact that she was very, very thin or that, you know, she’d had her hair done, you
know -- all those sort of personal comments about her….
CM: I mean again and erm
CM: … I need to
be careful because there’s still an active police investigation. We have our own private investigation which is firmly
running behind the scenes. And elements of what actually happened on the night we can’t -- simply can’t discuss
because that would be a breach of Portuguese law.
However-- However-- Janet’s
absolutely right. Again, the media has stereotypical expectations in a story of this nature and that one is - that the mother
must cry - she must grieve. Kate and Gerry were advised from early on -- we’ve said this on several occasions [to date]
-- in the documentary as well -- by the police -- that to show overt emotion plays into the hands of the abductor for
all sorts of reasons I won’t go into but fairly obvious at this end. And as a result they were told to try and restrain
their emotions in public in the early stages.
And I mean Gerry -- When I first
met Gerry when he came over to Rothley a couple of weeks after Madeleine was taken. And as we were going to look at the war
memorial with all of the ribbons -- a whole sea of yellow and green, for Madeleine -- he was on the verge of tears and said;
‘[inaudible] is going to see me’ and I said ‘It doesn’t matter you’re her father, if
you need to cry, cry.’ As it was, he didn’t.
But Kate has been [inaudible]
and she doesn’t recognise herself in some of the early video clips now because she knew what she was going through at
the time. She was lambasted and vilified for not showing enough emotion - therefore this must be somehow suspicious. And then
when she finally did cry in a Spanish television interview a few weeks later, that was all ‘crocodile tears’ and
she was torn apart in discussions over there. So she can’t win. She cannot win, you know. The fundamental fact, as Janet
said, is that they are not involved in the disappearance of their daughter. That is the truth.
All of the smears and innuendos
started to come out -- appeared they were un-sourced, unnamed; some appeared to be coming from the police direction, some
from other directions -- other areas of the system over there. We are not blaming any one individual or any particular officer,
other than to say, that some of these smears made their way into print in such a way that they got repeated and repeated and
repeated and have now almost become established fact. And that’s one of the hardest things that we have to fight on
this. But, you know, we all know the truth of the situation and continue to -- and I continue to represent them on that basis.
I mean I’ve got some of
the headlines that I can show you that caused us…
CM: ….because it
was then repeated in the British press and this is why we felt the need to take action as we did against one particular group.
I don’t know if we can go to my first slide?
CM: This was one of the
first negative stories that came out. This was a supermarket paper Tal & Qual which basically says - my Portuguese is
very thin - but basically it says the police suspect the McCann’s of being involved, in that stage, accidental death
of Madeleine. Kate, Gerry, everybody associated with it knew this was absolutely untrue. So we moved initially to take action
against that paper it -- it funnily enough, has since folded - but that’s one example.
WITH SLIDES] Then the more lurid end of the, of the -- sorry of the Portu -- oh no what’ve I done -- excuse me
a second -- this’ll come back -- when it wants to play ball. There is a -- there is a healthy tabloid market in erm
-- in Portugal as well -- and if I just go to this -- don’t know why its gone like -- bear with me a second --lets go to … Here we go -- there.
24 Horas - one of their finer newspapers - makes the Sun look like The Times, [Audience Laughs]
‘Gerry is Not the Biological Father of Madeleine.’ This was another one of the canards that were circulating.
Absolutely no basis in reality whatsoever and can be demonstrably proven as such. But no, this was run, front page, colour
pictures, all the works, ‘Police are certain this is the case, da da da da,’Nobody -- Nobody on the record backing it up and when challenged the story just fades away like ice on a summer’s
day but nevertheless it enters the mythology around it. We came out and threatened legal action over that one and will continue
to do so if it is repeated. But that’s another example of the sort of thing -- and this was happening on a daily basis
-- 24 Horas still run this sort of rubbish at the moment. But thankfully, because of what we did with the Daily Express --
the wonderful Express, its -- its moderated some of the behaviour -- some of the attitude at this end, which helps.
Again this is another one - absolutely
no truth whatsoever, ‘Syringe Found in Madeleine’s Apartment.’ The sedation just didn’t happen.
We’ve done -- or Kate and Gerry have had -- have had independent tests done on Sean, Amelie and Kate to prove beyond
categoric doubt -- because of the hair that’s involved -- the length of time your hair takes to grow -- that there were
no sedatives administered whatsoever; but this, again, an un-sourced, unsubstantiated claim made in the Portuguese
papers becomes almost fact. If you notice there are two little parenthesis around that. Does the reader actually notice those?
No, it doesn’t. And in many cases they didn’t even bother to put parentheses on some of these headlines.
And in fact, whenever they talked
about blood – which they like to talk about a lot -- there wasn’t any - of any substance, that erm -- that erm,
in anyway implicates Kate and Gerry, but nevertheless they like to print that in red at the time - just to make the point.
The Standard then, at different
stages -- I’m jumping around slightly chronologically here,but to give
you an example of some of the things we’re up against on an almost hourly basis, ‘Police Name McCann’s as
Top Suspects.’ Well they haven’t. What is a top suspect? What’s a medium or bottom suspect? It’s just
– it’s nonsense but it creates this invidious, insidious feeling of somehow there is guilt by association.
Kate and Gerry are arguido. Now
in Portuguese law that simply means, effectively, a person of interest to the inquiry - in the same way that if an officer
stops you for a possible traffic offence, and talks to you, you’re a person of interest to him, at that stage. They
haven’t been formally accused of any crime; that’s still the case to this day and there is nothing to suggest
that they are primary suspects over the other individual in this case who, equally, is in exactly the same status as them.
They are, all three of them, of interest to the inquiry and will continue to help the inquiry as-- as and when they need to.
But that again, as I say, is the sort of thing that filters into the public consciousness through --
Now this is another winner; on
the Tuesday, ‘Madeleine; Parents in the Clear.’ On the Wednesday; ‘DNA Puts Parents in the Frame.’
That was -- that was one particular week. They not only are contradictory on a daily basis - at times they’re contradictory
even within the same paper; we had stories that were diametrically opposed on -- in different pages. I highlight the Express
because they were the worst offenders but all of the tabloids particularly - and sometimes the broadsheets - were guilty of
this as well.
And these were based on un-sourced
rumours that were just dropped into the Portuguese press, for whatever reason; whatever the person’s agenda is at the
other end - we know that they’re wrong - but, nevertheless, then filtered out into this sort of mainstream coverage
here - which then got repeated back in Portugal.
Not just the mainstream papers.
Some of the satirical magazines across Europe also felt that they had a chance to have a go at this. This is ‘Find Madeleine’
being used as an advertising brand. Here she is on Kinder chocolate, on nappies, on washing up liquid. This was a German magazine
called Titanic - this was their idea of humour. I know there’s a bit of a disconnect between English and German humour
at times but this went beyond the pail - and again, we threatened them with legal action. And to their credit the mainstream
German press tore into them as well and the magazine, effectively apologised - but in a rather sheepish way.
CM: Talking of apologies
-- this is essentially what led us to get to this stage with the Express group. We cited over 100 -- 108 specimen articles
that were, in the eyes of our lawyers, Carter-Ruck, who are specialists in this field, grossly defamatory. This is quite apart
from things that are just defamatory - these are the really nasty ones. And after a lot of discussion with them -the Express
- we basically said these -- we have identified this number of articles across your four titles The Daily & Sunday Express,
The Star on Sunday & The Daily Star over the last few months. We have said that they [K&G] would take legal action
at a time of their choosing. Well we felt the line had to be drawn -- it was continuing on a daily basis. We were being told
by the reporters from the Express group that they were under pressure to put Madeleine on the front page every day, regardless
of whether they had a real story or not. It was putting upwards of 50 to 60.0000 copies a day onto their sales. So the whole
thing had become a commercially driven imperative for them regardless of the facts, or any fairness or sense of decency, or
indeed adhering to British libel law. Carter-Ruck advised us that we had a definite case. The Express -- We sought apologies
– damages - for the fund. None of this was done for money. It was done entirely to help the search for Madeleine --
not for Kate and Gerry’s personal benefit -- and front page apologies.
They [The Express] came
back initially to say, “Well, that’s all very well, but we’ll give you an exclusive interview with OK magazine
in which you can outline all of your concerns.” So we said, “If you think Richard Desmond is going to get an exclusive
out of running all this rubbish over the last few months, you’ve got another thought coming,” I wasn’t quite
as polite -- our response -- as that. But you -- [Audience laugh] but you get the gist? Their QC then took a look at
it and realised that they could not prove one shred of what they had alleged was the truth - and we knew they couldn’t.And as a result he advised them to come forward with these --it’s an over used
word -- but these unprecedented front page apologies which we had over the four titles. And the payment of just over half
a million went to the fund, as I say.
So, we didn’t want to do
it. The media are a fantastic force for good as I said. The mainstream, you know, external media -- quite apart from the whole
online debate -- and we didn’t want to effectively damage it. All we -- all we-- our relationship with them -- all we
wanted was fair and accurate reporting; responsible reporting, within the parameters of the law that applies to all of us.
Talking about online -- very
briefly -- I’m banging through this quite quickly but essentially ‘online,’ as you’ve been discussing
throughout the whole conference, is of fundamental importance to the public debate now. And of course the Find Madeleine website
is a very, very important vehicle for the family.It acts as our -- a clearing
house, if you like, for information on where the campaign’s at. A resource for media -- they can come into it and take
pictures, posters and video if necessary. It also, most importantly, is a vehicle for people to give information to our investigation
-- we have two new email addresses which is -- it’s recently been revamped and I’ll talk about those briefly in
a minute. Gerry also writes a blog on this -- trouble with a blog -- is a monster of course -- you have to keep writing the
thing to keep it going and he does update it from time to time, around his current commitments. But the campaign to find Madeleine
is as much alive online, through our website -- through the family’s website as it is through some of the external media
coverage. So even if we’re not in the papers for a particular reason -- that’s very much a resource that’s
AG: … one
of the criticisms that’s been levelled has been, precisely, that Kate and Gerry have been playing such a sophisticated
game with the media. Blogging, using the internet…
CM: But who wouldn’t…?
AG… has become a
CM: But who wouldn’t?
What family in this situation which has access and is computer literate - in this day and age….
AG: But many families
CM: Many families do these
days. And I-- I would defy any family to do something different to what they have done. As I say, I exist because of the phenomenal
level of media interest -- they would’ve had to do a lot of that themselves - or Janet and Brian would’ve had
to cope with it and they have. But in the modern era the only way to engage with the media given its tentacles and its overriding
presence -- the way it is now 24/7 is - I would suggest - to actively engage with it. And of course it’s also helped
by the fact, and this is not meant in any derogatory way - but from the Media’s perspective, Madeleine’s situation
is a huge story for them and there is massive interest in it and that continues -- it works for the media on all sorts of
It’s not just the tragedy
of a missing child and her fate and where she is and the search for her, you know. It raises - quite rightly - questions about
parenting responsibilities. It raises questions about police cooperation - governmental interest - diplomatic aspects to it.
There are lots and lots of different aspects and the public have many differing views on this - for good or bad - and the
media is reflecting that. And so they [K&G] find themselves part of a huge monster of a situation. And I would
suggest that any other family in that position; with that particular set of circumstances, should and probably would do the
same - if they had access to computers and an online capacity these days. It’s not a sophisticated game it’s just
dealing with the reality of it.
JK: I mean Kate and I
have discussed this, you know, and her response to the criticism is -- the whole point is -- that every child should be sufficiently
important for this kind of level of interest -- and trying to find a child. You know out of their loss and their grief, they
were spurred on, you know, to actually do research and to find, you know - does this happen? Because in a sense, you know,
they said that they were naive to the point where they didn’t realise that this was a danger. They thought it was perfectly
safe they were doing the right, responsible thing – like checking on the children every half hour, just about 50
yards away, you know. They were actually being more careful about looking after the children had there been a listening
service with Warner’s, you know...
AG: I wonder if they ever
have moments of thinking -- because of the media attention and thinking, ‘Let’s draw a line under the media here
- let’s do nothing’…
CM: …A lot of the
time -- Well a lot of the -- One, that’s impossible, because the media don’t draw a line under it themselves.
They still call. They still ring - About every twist and turn.All it takes is
somebody to write an email somewhere - a viral email - and it becomes hard fact in Portugal - I get calls about that. All
it takes is someone to assume they might be going on holiday soon - I get calls about that.
So even if we sat back and said
nothing and a lot of the time -- and recently we haven’t actually done a lot since the documentary of the anniversary
-- the calls still come in. Now do you ignore them? If you ignore them then it becomes, “Oh, McCann’s given up
- McCann’s not engaging with the media.” And so it -- you have to monitor quite how much you put out there and
what you do - that’s true - because you don’t want it to seem as if its overkill and you’re monopolising
things. But nevertheless, if the media continues to offer you a platform, what family would not use that platform to find
their missing child. There is no evidence – none whatsoever – that Madeleine is dead. And until her fate
is established this will continue. It has to.
AG: That’s a commitment
JK: Absolutely. Yes. You
know, in the kitchen there’s a -- somebody’s sent a card, you know, and it’s there prominently, “Never,
never, never give up.” And we all feel—feel that very strongly, you know. Leave no stone unturned and never give
up. And the evidence seems to, you know -- they’ve been very heartened by the positive support that they got when they
went to Washington, you know, from NCMEC -- The National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children -- from people over there.
And they have thoroughly supported what they’re doing to keep Madeleine’s profile high and that there’s
a greater chance of her being found if there’s no evidence... And one guy -- can’t think of his name at the minute
-- the chap whose daughter came back after about nine or ten months -- can’t think of his name, I’m sorry. But
he said, “Never let people take your hope away from you.”
CM: Ed Smart.
JK: Ed Smart...
CM: Ed Smart -- his daughter
was recovered after…
JK: …And, you know
and we still -- we do hold out hope. We have to. Until there is a resolution as you said earlier.And, you know, the statistics in the States seem to prove, you know, that it is possible for children to
come back, even after quite a length of time. And they are the people who’ve really supported Kate and Gerry.And Gerry himself said that after that trip, you know, he really had more hope that Madeleine is still
AG: But I have to ask
you -- We’ve seen some of those headlines and, I’m, you know, struck by the Daily Express saying thing one thing
one day - and the next thing the next day. I have got to ask you, what does that do to you as person? I mean, never mind if
you can -- I don’t know if you can separate them in any way -- the experience of losing Madeleine but the attention
of the press and the games that they’ve played with you as a family. What does that do to you? And you Clarence, you’ve
also had personal vilification too - personal attacks.
CM: Yeah but I’ll
-- I’ll answer that -- but let Janet answer
JK: Well, you know, it
is terribly, terribly distressing. You know, Brian and I subscribed to a newspaper for 30 odd years that, you know, has very
good journalists. Good sort of challenging reading - all that kind of thing, you know. It purports to have values in terms
of the integrity of the journalists and so on. And then way back, in the summer, last year, there was a picture of Kate on
the front page of this paper and next to it Ann Enright - the Booker prize, you know, ‘Why we all love to hate the McCann’s.’
And then inside an article, that she’d written some time before, but they chose to reprint it. And there was such a
denigration of Gerry, you know, who’s a bereaved father; who’s absolutely distraught because his relationship
with Madeleine, you know, was so fantastic -- and talking about him, you know; that he’s cold, that he’s
controlling, you know, a complete denigration of his character and -- and this...
AG: What does that do
to you to see that in a newspaper?
JK: Well I mean -- If
I say that we have never -- We don’t have that paper anymore and I wrote to the editor and told him –told
him why. Didn’t get a reply I have to say…
CM: That’s the --
That’s the mainstream media if you like. The external online - it’s even worse. Clearly people have views on whether
Kate and Gerry were right or wrong to be checking …
JK: Yes that’s fair
CM: … the children
as they were. That’s legitimate debate. They made a mistake. They fully accept that. They’ve said that often.
And, you know, god forbid, they could pay that price for the rest of their lives - let’s hope not. But where it oversteps
the mark is when that debate -- particularly online -- and this is where we talk about values -- and this is the platform
that is effectively being given to the modern day lynch mob, in many cases, through this now.It -- it -- Where it almost verges on crim -- incitement to criminality -that’s where it oversteps the mark and
our lawyers are looking at that as well. I’m not going to talk about any particular sites or forums because it just
satisfies them to think they’ve got us rattled...
AG: But people, when all’s
said and done, have said terrible things about you because of your association…
CM: I -- I-- I have been
told -- I haven’t read all of it -- but, I have been told, that there have been attempts made to track down my children
- to find out what sort of father I am. It’s been alleged that I have been there on the night Madeleine was taken -
I was in Britain - utter nonsense. It was alleged that I was buying vast amounts of alcohol for the group on my government
credit card - I’ve never had a government credit card - I was not - it’s not true. All total rubbish, lies, rumour,
innuendo. But what -- what I’ve gone through is absolutely nothing compared to the vilification that Kate and Gerry
have suffered online. They don’t even read it -- its pointless -- doesn’t achieve anything.
AG: Do they read the newspapers?
CM: They used to from
time to time it tends to be that I give them an [up…] summary of what’s in it now. But what I’m saying is
online -- while it is the, if you like, the 'blogosphere’ for want of a better description -- is incredibly
valuable and is a legitimate channel for legitimate public debate. It must surely stay within the bounds of the law and at
times some aspects of this haven’t. And as I say, the modern day lynch mob, in effect, have been given voice, and a
very high profile voice - and that is disappointing. But frankly we ignore it and we just get on with what we know to be the
AG: What have we learnt
about the media and media values over the past 13 months?I mean you’ve
come at it from different places. You’ve [CM] played the media game all your life, and for you [JK] it’s been
a -- I guess an entirely new experience. What have we learnt?
JK: Well, I know Brian
my husband - he has been more involved in giving more interviews, I’ve done far less. And on a daily basis he’s
was talking to Sky, to AT-- you know, to everybody, in the early weeks and months. And his own opinion - and I would second
that - is that you must keep the media onside because we firmly believe they’re a force for good and that communication
isn’t just a neutral thing, you know; communication is important to get ones message out there.
But on the other hand, you know,
by dint of bitter experience, we’ve learnt that - as in every profession - there are people who do not possess the kind
of values that you would associate with journalists, you know. The examples I gave you, you know, intrusive things to do with,
you know, sort of going over a story. And people who actually have written lies in the English press, as well, and made up,
you know, that ‘family friend’ says this, or ‘source close to the McCann’s.’ And you sort of
know the phrase and you know that if they’re saying this – that, you know, it’s probably -- it’s going
to be untrue - and it is.
CM: The lack of information
coming from any official source in Portugal because police just do not talk -- The lack of that has led to this vacuum that
they need to fill. The journalists -- the reporters on the ground I have a great deal of sympathy with; they’re under
immense pressure from their desk. The desks are under pressure from proprietors. It’s the biggest story -- human interest
story of the decade, etcetera, etcetera. And therefore there is an imperative for them to get something in and that’s
when things like that happen. It’s easy to make up a quote because it’s un-sourced - they’ve been running
that sort of rubbish from the Portuguese press for weeks anyway - what harm does an extra couple quotes, here or there, make
from their point of view. It’s not right, it shouldn’t happen, but it does.
Essentially the -- the desire
for the story, in this particular case, has overridden the normal rules; the normal conventions of journalism that would normally
take place and I find that depressing. I hope this is a one off case. I hope it doesn’t apply to standards generally
in the future.
But in terms of values -- to
bring it back to the theme of the debate -- some of the values, I feel at times, have been sorely lacking. Not necessarily
through the personal desire of the individual journalist to do the family down or to be nasty or vindictive. It’s more
the commercial imperative and the competition that now exists with so many outlets, across so many places now - online, as
well as extraterrestrial - that has led to this, if you like, weakening of standards. And I hope that the media themselves
can address that in the future and draw some lessons from this.
AG: One last question
that I’d like to ask you. To ask you Janet, in a sense, on behalf of the family - and to ask you Clarence, in your own
personal capacity - is what keeps you going? What do you draw on?
JK: Well, first of all,
just basically, we are a very strong family. There are strong characters in that family and, you know, I think that probably
has kept us together - very much - in that there’s been, you know, not just the immediate nuclear family but an extended
family of people from, you know, cousins and so on, who’ve given tremendous support. And I have to say, you know, as
a catholic, obviously, that I feel you know myself and I think Kate and Gerry feel very strongly that it is really, you know,
our faith, you know, that has kept us going. You know right back in Portugal, you know, the three things that they quoted,
you know - hope, strength and courage.
AG: Has your faith not
been knocked by…
JK: Absolutely -- It certainly
has.It wouldn’t be human, you know, if it hadn’t -- if you
were questioning, you know, why Lord, you know, have we not got a result? You know why aren’t you telling us where Madeleine
is? Why do we have to wait so long? But, you know, quite honestly that’s what we have to say, you know. The psalms are
full of questioning. It’s all about questioning. If you didn’t question your faith it wouldn’t be a strong
faith in my opinion. I think we do question…
AG: ... believe me that’s
not the first time we’ve heard that, even today.
KG: To have a real relationship
with God, you’ve got to be absolutely truthful and honest with Him. And He doesn’t want you to just be ‘nicely
nicely,’ you know. He wants you to be up front and to really, really challenge Him. That’s what it’s all
about. But having said that, both in the village -- with the ecumenical aspect of all the […] -- and the little Catholic
Church that we go to -- I mean every Sunday after mass people stay behind willingly to say the rosary and nobody goes, unless
they’re visitors and they don’t know.So there’s tremendous
support, you know, a thread of support. And the letters that have come as well from, you know, thousands – and boxes
and boxes of letters and you just know --
And the Anglican Bishop of Leicester
did a walkabout through his diocese some -- about two months ago and we went to meet him, and he said, “I hope you are
aware,” which we are, “that there is a circle of global prayer all around you” And I think we feel actually
very strongly, I have to say, that there’s strong global prayer everywhere. And even in the darkest moments, you know,
there’s just that thread of support and prayer going through. I have to be honest that’s how we cope.
AG: Clarence I’ve
no idea whether you come to this from a perspective of faith or not. What keeps you going?
CM: I -- I admit I’m
not particularly religious. I’m not a catholic. But I have seen the strength that Gerry and Kate’s faith, indeed
the wider family, has given them at times. Yeah, they’ve had wobbles - there’s no doubt about that. They --And,
you know, sometimes I walk in full of the latest: “You won’t believe this, this…” and suddenly you
sense the mood, it’s changed. And they have good days and they have bad days but nevertheless it is a central focus,
very much - for Kate particularly - I think it’s fair to say. And, you know, what it would’ve been like without
that for them, I-- I --I dread to think.
AG: What about you?
CM: What about me? What
keeps me going is that they were kind enough to ask me to help. As a father of three myself --one of my girls is two years old; in many respects I see Madeleine in her, in a way -- and I think what on earth can
they really going through even though I’m with them on a regular basis and talk to them every day. It’s hard really
to understand that. So if a family in that situation is kind enough and generous enough to ask me to help - it is the very
least I can do - to continue doing that - and I will continue to support them in any way I can. As long as the media monster
is growling at the gate I will keep dealing with it
AG I mean are you in this
for the long haul? We know that…
CM: I’m in this
for the long haul. I’m in this for -- At the moment I am employed by Brian Kennedy, (no relation to the other Brian
Kennedy; there are too many Brian Kennedys in this story) who is one of the backers who kindly stepped in - once Kate and
Gerry were made arguidos - to help them on the financial side and he currently picks up my salary. My -- In future whether
I stay with him or develop it into a business of my own I don’t know that’s something we will -- we’re having
active discussions on at the moment. But I certainly will continue to represent Kate and Gerry for as long as they, and the
wider family, want me to.
AG: We need to draw this
to a halt. One of my moving moments of this conference happened this morning, when the conference was in session here, and
I happened to be out in the lobby where there’s a little display focussing on missing and vulnerable children. And a
bunch of 13 and 14 year old school children came through here. They use the sports hall; they’re from the local school
and I went out and found them gathered round, on the floor, around the candles in front of this display. And one of the little
girls said to me - well not so little, she was about 14 - 15 - she said to me, “Haven’t they found Madeleine yet?”
and I said “No.” And she said, “Well, can I light a candle then?” and I said “Yes.” And
she did and so did several of the others. And we’ll continue to do that.
That you so much for coming and
joining us - and for being so frank, and open, and honest with us. Clarence and Janet thank you very much.
The McCann family spokesman is a shark used to the ways of English politics. He knows how to use words and chooses
the moments for drama - like that hilarious moment where he allowed himself to be filmed on a supposed phone call with the
couple - and others, when the communication is serious.
Yesterday, between the drama and the seriousness he threatened
the newspapers who reproduce the book by Gonçalo Amaral with processes for slander. 'Either they are very brave or completely
stupid' said Mitchell. It's not one thing or the other. In Portugal - we believe... that we still have the freedom of expression,
and, without offending anyone, we still can write and say different things from what is told by the McCanns by Mr. Mitchell.
We can still write about the doubts that an investigation raises. We can still say, I believe, that an archiving is a long
way from being considered a declaration of innocence. Mr. Mitchell would like to create a 'wall of silence' over this issue
but honestly that will be impossible for him to achieve. Mr. Mitchell is in fact someone who deserves something to the silence.
At least, that is what is status of witness, advises so - but, in that matter, the Portuguese authorities are much more generous,
mainly when they are British subjects...
The former BBC journalist and spokesman for the parents
of Madeleine McCann has developed a nice little niche as a spin doctor of misery.
First he took on Fiona MacKeown, the mother of the teenager
Scarlet Kelling, who was murdered in Goa. Then he started representing the parents of murdered London teenager Jimmy Mizen.
And today we've discovered that Mr Mitchell is also speaking for the wife of Jeremy Hoyland the British jet skier who went
missing off the coast of Bali last October.
Mr Mitchell is not charging for his services. But his presence
can hardly be reassuring – the PR equivalent of an angel of death.
Clarence Mitchell: 'I am a decent human being. If I can help them, I will', 01 March 2009
Clarence Mitchell: 'I am a decent human being. If I can help them, I will' The Independent
The ex-BBC journalist built a career on professional detachment. Then, he went to work for the McCanns
Sunday, 1 March 2009
The search goes on. "There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever, nothing, to suggest that Madeleine has been harmed,
let alone killed," insists Clarence Mitchell, the former television reporter who speaks for the family of the most famous
missing girl in the world. Her face is instantly recognisable. There is no longer any need to use her surname, McCann. And
yet, nearly two years since she vanished from the Algarve, there is still no trace.
This is hard to say to Mitchell – who began as a dispassionate adviser and then became a close personal friend
of her parents – but there seems no evidence to suggest the three-year-old is still living. "Obviously," he says, "as
time goes on, Kate and Gerry are finding it harder and harder. But they are still firmly of the view that Madeleine is alive
and out there to be found."
For months now they have turned down interviews, preferring to go through the many files handed over by the Portuguese
police. There is another reason for their silence, too. "You reach a saturation point," their spokesman admits. "People would
say to us, 'Oh, it's tragic, but we've almost had enough of Madeleine.' That was appalling to hear."
In their silence, Clarence Mitchell is re-emerging as a public figure in his own right. On Friday he will speak at the
Oxford Union, following in the footsteps of Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa and Kermit the Frog. Now he is giving his first personal
interview since the days when he was a familiar face on the BBC. He is doing it at the West End offices of Freud Communications,
which has hired him as a consultant. Dressed as if to broadcast, in a light brown suit and dark blue shirt, he has two BlackBerrys
on his desk: one for Kate and Gerry, the other for everyone else.
Lately, he seems to be setting himself up as a public relations guru for families in distress, including that of 16-year-old
Jimmy Mizen, who was stabbed to death in south London last year. The trial of Jimmy's alleged killer begins at the Old Bailey
a week tomorrow, and Mitchell will be outside, representing the bereaved parents. Once again, he will be on our screens. But
despite seeming so familiar, Clarence Mitchell has never really given anything away about himself. Why did he stop reporting
and reading the news? What then drove this 46-year-old man to campaign on behalf of the McCanns, a couple he barely knew and
who were suspected of murdering their daughter?
"Everything I have seen of them, in all of the pressurised situations, shows me a family who are suffering the loss of
their child," he says. "Everything they are doing, behind the scenes, convinces me of that."
So far, so on message for a man who was hired in September 2007 to "salvage their reputations" in the wake of the McCanns
being named as arguidos, or suspects, by the Portuguese police. Mitchell had already been with them for a month, as a civil
service media expert sent to help the couple to cope with all the attention. But he returned in the pay of a millionaire supporter
of the McCanns, leading a publicity campaign "to correct and balance the inaccurate coverage that was coming out and try to
get everything back on an even keel ... with a view to helping to get arguido lifted".
It worked, of course: they won £550,000 damages and a front-page apology from the Daily Express, and last summer the
police cleared them of all suspicion. But Mitchell could not have known it would turn out that way. "It was," he says, "gut
It was a life-changing moment. Until then, his entire career had been built on remaining calm and uninvolved in the most
trying circumstances: reporting for the Hendon and Finchley Times with the local MP, Margaret Thatcher, bursting into the
office; broadcasting from the M1 with the wreckage of the Kegworth air disaster strewn in front of him; covering wars in Northern
Ireland, Kuwait, Iraq and the Balkans alongside the likes of Kate Adie. "You see a lot of distressing things, whether that's
a war zone or a murder scene, but I have always found it relatively easy to be dispassionate."
He needed that skill most when sent on a story in Fulham in 1999. "There was a rumour that Jill Dando had been in some
sort of accident. The area was taped off. There were detectives walking up from the house who told us to ring the press bureau.
I said, 'Look, I know Jill.' We were friends. She used to called me Clarenzio. They said, 'She's dead, I'm afraid.' It was
dreadful." But he still filed reports from the scene. "You just have to get on with it."
He did breakfast TV and the odd Six O'Clock News – "which nobody remembers" – but by the time he left the
BBC in 2005, his career had reached a plateau. "I felt I had more to offer." Recruited by the Cabinet Office to run the Media
Monitoring Unit, he had a hard first week. "The Monday was the G8 at Gleneagles. I was just about getting my head round the
job on Tuesday, then Wednesday we won the Olympics. Thursday was 7/7." When the Foreign Office sent him to assist the McCanns
– as he insists it would have helped any family in that situation – he asked difficult questions. "I was assured
that from the perspective of the British authorities, this was a rare case of stranger abduction."
They had left their very young children alone in a holiday apartment while they went to a tapas bar. He doesn't duck
that, even if the response has been smoothed by repetition. "They made a mistake at the time; they weren't with her when it
happened. They will always regret that, God forbid, possibly for the rest of their lives."
In media terms, he says, Madeleine was "a perfect storm: her age, her appearance, the location, the parents..." Columnists
wrote about "people like us". Picture editors loved Kate, to an extraordinary degree. "It would be sad if it wasn't laughable:
Kate was finding herself in Nuts or whatever lads' magazine's top 10. You think, 'This is ridiculous.' But they can't help
how they look."
There's no truth, then, in the report that he tried to get Kate to be photographed in a swimsuit? "Utter bollocks." Gerry
suggested it without realising the implications, he says, and was then persuaded otherwise. "A good example of facts being
distorted. Completely, 180-degree wrong."
Mitchell had a home in Bath with his wife and children, two girls and a boy who were aged 10, eight and one at the time.
Why go back to Portugal? "We had become friends. There was an emotional drive. I felt they had been the victims of a heinous
crime and very badly wronged in the way stories had appeared."
There was also his response as a father. "I have never had to analyse it like this before ... but yes, this was every
parent's nightmare, my own included." Didn't he miss his own children? "At night, when I had a few hours to myself, you did
miss them more acutely, perhaps, than if it had been a job of a different nature."
These days Mitchell gets 40 per cent of his former salary as a retainer from the Find Madeleine Fund. Kate is said by
relatives to spend hours with the files at home in Rothley, Leicestershire, while her twins are at nursery. Gerry, devotes
evenings to the case, after days as a consultant at Glenfield Hospital.
"Sadly, the files have not revealed any substantial new leads," says Mitchell. "And sadly, they have confirmed a lot
of what Kate and Gerry feared: that things haven't been done properly in certain areas, and certain things hadn't been followed
up." The detective agencies they hired are no longer on the case. Have a dozen British former detectives and security service
agents been employed instead, as reported? "I can't go into details, because the investigators don't wish me to. The investigation
is on a smaller scale, but just as relevant."
There is still a huge amount of material to work through: such as more than 3,000 "psychic tip-offs. Any verifiable fact
in them – and some are very detailed – has to be checked".
Meanwhile, his new life involves media training for corporations as well as advising people such as the mother of Scarlett
Keeling, who was murdered in Goa, and the Mizens. "I do it pro bono, for free." Why? "Because these people came to me in the
direst of situations, with their children dead. I'm not going to say no. Nor am I going to say, 'I'm sorry about your loss.
Here's my fee.'" Others would. "It's a non-starter. I am a decent, caring human being. If I can help them, I will."
Yes, but isn't he using this free work to build the kind of reputation that made him attractive to Freud? "Not deliberately
so. Honestly." Others have compared the new Clarence Mitchell to a more obviously compassionate Max Clifford, with whom he
says he gets on well. "People are entitled to their point of view," he says, as calmly as he says everything, on and off camera.
"But I am doing this for what I believe to be honest, genuine, compassionate reasons."
The making of a media expert
From TV to Madeleine, and beyond
1962 Born and educated in north-west London. Tries working in a bank after school but hates it.
1982 Joins Hendon and Finchley Times as a trainee reporter, which brings him into contact with the local MP, Margaret
Thatcher. "To see the Prime Minister sweep into the office with Special Branch while you are writing up the latest golden
wedding is quite an experience."
1985 Shift work on Sunday Express.
1986 Joins the BBC in Sheffield as a radio reporter, before going on to television in Leeds with Look North.
1989 Breakfast News in London, then "fireman" sent where needed, including extensive war reporting.
1999 Made a BBC News presenter.
2005 Joins Civil Service as director of Downing St Media Monitoring Unit.
May 2007 Sent to Portugal to help with press attention in the McCann case.
september 2007 Quits the Civil Service to become spokesman for McCanns.
2008 Extends help to other families.
Clarence Mitchell on The Breakfast Show on Newstalk, 07 April 2009
A TROUBLED son
trying to get to the bottom of his mother's death is hoping a hospital report will provide answers almost one year on.
Jean Hanlon had lived in Crete since 2005 and was reported last seen at a cafe in the port of Heraklion on March 9,
2009. Her body was found in the sea there days later.
Jean's three sons have now hired Kate
and Gerry McCann's spokesman Clarence Mitchell to help raise the profile of the case.
The Conservative Party recruits McCann spokesperson as head of media monitoring,
04 March 2010
The Conservative Party recruits McCann spokesperson as head of media monitoring PR Week
Danny Rogers 04 March 2010, 08:42am
The Conservative Party
has signed up Clarence Mitchell, best-known as spokesman for Madeleine McCann's parents, as the head of media monitoring
for its general election campaign, PRWeek can exclusively reveal.
Newly appointed: Clarence Mitchell
Mitchell joins the Tory comms operation today, reporting directly to director of communications Andy Coulson.
Mitchell, who was the director of the Government's media monitoring unit for two years (2005-2007) will take a
back room role, monitoring the progress of the Tories' campaign in the media.
Coulson was keen to stress that
Mitchell would not be an active spokesman for the party.
‘Clarence will be monitoring output and coverage
ensuring that our campaign team is on its game,' Coulson told PRWeek.
The appointment of the well-respected
Mitchell is a boost to the Conservatives' campaign, which has lost ground in the opinion polls in recent weeks, despite
last weekend's Spring Conference.
Since September 2008 Mitchell has balanced his role as spokesman for the
McCanns and the parents of murdered teenager Jimmy Mizen, with a crisis management role at Freud Communications.
Mitchell is known to be close to Coulson, who was a former editor of News of the World. Late last year Mitchell expressed
an interest in standing as a Conservative MP. He began his career as a reporter on the Hendon and Finchley Times in 1982.
Since then he has worked for The Sunday Express, BBC Radio Sheffield and as a correspondent and presenter on BBC TV News.
McCann spokesman comes back to Coventry, 17 May 2010
The man who has kept the search for Madeleine McCann in the public
eye for the past three years is coming to Coventry on Thursday 20 May to take part in a Coventry Conversation.
Clarence Mitchell came to do a Coventry Conversation at the height of the Find Madeleine campaign in October
Now he returns to re-assess it and also talk of his most recent role as Head of the Media Monitoring Unit
for the Conservative Party in the General Election Campaign.
John Mair, creator of the Coventry Conversations said:
"It will be fascinating to listen to Clarence talk about this case which has had such a high profile for the
past three years, mainly down to his constant work on the family's behalf." The Coventry Conversation
'Madeleine – three years on" takes place on Thursday 20 May in room ETG 34 of the Ellen Terry Building (the
former Odeon cinema) at 1pm.
Entry is free and members of the public are welcome to attend.
For further information, contact John Mair, series organiser on 07785 378 156.
21 May 2010 - The Coventry Conversation 'Madeleine - three years on' event, due to take place
last night, was postponed at short notice by Clarence Mitchell. John Mair has suggested it may take place next Wednesday,
26 May 2010, although this is yet to be confirmed.
Former BBC News Correspondent Clarence Mitchell joins LEWIS PR as Director of
Media Strategy and Public Affairs, 19 May 2010
Former BBC News Correspondent Clarence Mitchell joins LEWIS PR as Director of Media Strategy and
Public Affairs Lewis PR
Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
Global communications agency,
LEWIS PR, has hired seasoned former BBC journalist Clarence Mitchell as its new Director of Media Strategy and Public Affairs.
Clarence spent more than 19 years reporting for BBC Television and Radio News, including a stint as Royal Correspondent
where he reported, amongst other things, on the aftermath of the crash that killed Diana, Princess of Wales. As a general
News Correspondent he regularly covered conflict zones including the Balkans and Northern Ireland, as well as reporting many
high profile, domestic crime stories. He spent several weeks in New York following 9/11.
After leaving the BBC,
Clarence joined the Cabinet Office to become Director of the Government’s Media Monitoring Unit, overseeing its development
and later transfer to the Central Office of Information (COI). Whilst there, he was seconded to the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office and sent to Portugal to act as the FCO media handler for Kate and Gerry McCann after their daughter Madeleine disappeared
in Praia da Luz three years ago. The McCanns later took Clarence on as their full time media spokesman, a position he retains
to this day.
Most recently, Clarence ran the Media Monitoring Unit for The Conservative Party during the recent
2010 General Election campaign.
Paul Charles, Chief Operating Officer at LEWIS
PR and himself a former BBC presenter, commented:
"We're really pleased to add someone with Clarence’s
strong journalistic heritage to our media and crisis communications team. He brings substantial reporting and public affairs
experience to LEWIS, which is unique in its global ability to deliver campaigns with true journalistic focus."
Clarence Mitchell added:
"I'm absolutely delighted to be joining LEWIS PR. To be part of such a vibrant
and forward looking global agency, one that places such store on the value of a strong journalistic approach for its clients,
is both a pleasure and a very exciting challenge. I relish the campaigns ahead."
Agencies swoop to sign up senior Conservative aides, 20 May 2010
Agencies swoop to sign up senior Conservative aides PR Week
PRWeek reporters 20 May 2010, 06:00am
A trio of senior Conservative
Party operatives have signed up with PR agencies, while others prepare to take jobs in Downing Street and government departments..
New posts: Clarence Mitchell and George Bridges
can reveal that Lewis PR has hired Clarence Mitchell to be director of media strategy and public affairs. Mitchell, best known
for providing PR support to the family of Madeleine McCann, was employed to run the Conservative Party's media monitoring
unit during the general election.
Huntsworth-owned lobbying firm Quiller has also persuaded heavy-hitting Tory
strategist George Bridges to return to the fold - six months after Bridges quit to help George Osborne run the party's
general election campaign.
Another Tory to move into the agency world this week is Graham Hook, assistant director
in the Conservative Party's research department, who also managed David Cameron's 'briefing team'. Hook becomes
senior consultant at lobbying firm Politics International.
Headhunters expect more Tories to make the move into
PR and lobbying in the next few weeks, as the set-up at Downing Street and in government departments becomes clearer. Among
those set to take key roles in Downing Street are Tory comms director Andy Coulson, strategy director Steve Hilton, head of
policy James O'Shaughnessy and chief of staff Ed Llewellyn.
It is also understood Tory press officers Caroline
Preston and Alan Sendorek have been offered jobs in the Downing Street press office, but it is not known whether they have
accepted. One Tory insider said that a number of aides had discussed setting up their own agency and were still considering
the venture as PRWeek went to press. Other Tory staffers will become special advisers in government departments. TORY LEAVERS
Clarence Mitchell - Ex-BBC journalist rose to fame handling media for
the McCann family. Left Freuds in March 2010 to run Tories' media monitoring unit George Bridges -
Ex-Tory campaigns director quit for lobbying firm Quiller in 2007. Lured back late last year to help run election campaign Graham Hook - Became assistant director in Tory research department in 2009
The Peter Levy Show (with Clarence Mitchell), 06 January 2011
Peter Levy: Yes, here
we are, BBC Radio Humberside, BBC Lincolnshire and we're into the second hour this Thursday. Thank you for being there.
I hope your day is good. Now, anyone who's followed the sad case of the missing girl, Madeleine McCann, will know the
name of my next guest. Clarence Mitchell is a former BBC journalist and television presenter who started his career here,
at the BBC. He's been spokesperson for Kate and Gerry McCann since their daughter disappeared in May 2007 and Clarence
is joining us on the programme today. Clarence, good afternoon to you.
Clarence Mitchell: Peter,
good afternoon. How many years has it been since we last spoke?
Peter Levy: I don't know,
it's, errr... it's quite a few years, errr...
Clarence Mitchell: Too many.
Levy: Too many... 'cause, errr... for people... Clarence used to work at, errr... Look North... in fact, you
used to live... you used to live in Hull, didn't you? Or some...
Clarence Mitchell: That's
right, on Sunny Bank, in Hull, errr... I... I... it was a great city, and I very much enjoyed my time there. It was, phwooah,
some years ago now. It would have been 88/89, around then; the last century, virtually.
My... my, errr... memory, well, there's memory... many memories of you, but... but you actually were the... the journalist
who... I think you were... you were travelling back from London in your car the night of the... of the terrible, errr... air
crash at Kegworth, weren't you?
Clarence Mitchell: I was. I'd actually been down to London
to visit my parents, errm... while working on Look North during the week, errm... and I was on the way back up on the M1.
I was at Leicester, Forest East Service Station, errm... and the first I was aware of what seemed to be a major accident was
the number of ambulances and police cars flying under the... the restaurant that straddles the motorway there. Errr... And
I immediately got in my car and basically followed them, as... as reporters should do, and it became clear very appar... very
quickly that this wasn't a... a simple, local, small accident, errr... this was a major incident and, errr... yes, you're
absolutely right. I... I broadcast live, errr... using a early rudimentary mobile phone from my car, errm... at the beginning
of, errr... from memory, that would have been 89.
Peter Levy: Coming up to... to date, or more
recently, how did you first meet the McCanns?
Clarence Mitchell: I met them, errm... because of
my role following the BBC, errm... I was with the BBC, as you rightly said, for around twenty years. I then joined the Cabinet
Office, errm... as director of the media monitoring unit for, errr... the government which meant working at... with No. 10
and all of the major Departments of State and because of my existing media contacts, errm... whenever a big story came along,
errr... I was considered, errm... as a possible, errr... press officer, if you like, for the government to go and assist the
media on the ground. Now I thought it would be something like bird flu, or foot and mouth, or perhaps another terrorist incident
where government press officers are... are sometimes sent out to assist the police or the emergency services on the ground
deal with the media, errm... but as it was, errm... I was told that a... a child had gone missing in Portugal and, errr...
the media interest was developing very rapidly and that the ambassador in Portugal had asked for assistance for his press
office team, errm... So I was effectively seconded to the Foreign Office and sent out to Portugal. I actually met Gerry for
the first time in Leicestershire. He came back to collect some belongings from home, errr... and he and I then flew back to
Portugal in May 2007 and I met Kate out there for the first time. So that's... that's how it came about. I went out
as a civil servant and met them through the... through the consular assistance that they were offered.
Levy: What are they like as... as people, because, I mean, they... they've been through, you know, errr... hell
and back really but... and also, at one time, of course, everybody was pointing fingers very much at... at them?
Clarence Mitchell: They are coping as... as best they can under the circumstances. Nobody ever expected
that, errm... we'd be here, what, nearly four years further down the line without Madeleine being found, errr... without
her being recovered and brought home to... to her rightful place at home with them. Errm... they have good days and bad days
like anybody. If they feel that there is momentum in the private investigation that's still very much ongoing - they have
a small team of former British police officers working on the case - errm... they feel, they... they draw strength from that
or if the campaigning side of the work that they constantly do, errr... is going well, again they... they draw strength from
that. It's during the quieter periods when nothing much appears to be happening, errm... that they can... they can be
knocked back a little bit and that's only natural and perfectly human. Errm... But they are very committed to the search
for their daughter. They want an answer. And until they know what has happened to their daughter, and until this awful situation
is resolved, they will keep going. And yes, you're right, there was a lot of criticism at different times and a lot of
leaked rubbish, frankly, that came out in the Portuguese press and was then repeated without any attempt to check it in the
British media and then recycled a third time into... back into Portugal. Errm...This was a very difficult period for them.
They were, errr... part of the investigation as 'arguido'; the status that's given to people who, errr... the
police wish to speak to about incidents in Portugal. But that status was ultimately lifted and the Portuguese Attorney General
made it clear there was absolutely no evidence, errr... to, in any way, to implicate them in Madeleine's disappearance
which, of course, there isn't because, errm... I know them well enough now to say with with absolute confidence that...
that... of course, they were'nt involved. They are a grieving family and they need all the help and support they can get,
errm... to keep the search for their daughter going.
Peter Levy: You can't imagine what it
would be like as a...as a...as a parent to know that the finger is pointed at...at you, when they're going through that.
I mean, it... it's extraordinary really, isn't it?
Clarence Mitchell: Well, it... it is,
but it is also perfectly understandable. In any police enquiry the police will look at those nearest and dearest to the victim
of the crime. It... it's a standard procedure and... and, you know...
Peter Levy: Because,
very often... very often it is those people.
Clarence Mitchell: Well, in this case, it
isn't! And, but... you know, Kate and Gerry would be the first people to say they welcomed the police looking at them
so that they could be ruled out. You know, they made that point themselves several times early on, errm... that the police
should do whatever they need to do to find the true abductor; the person responsible for Madeleine's disappearance. Errm...
and, as I say, that process was a lengthy, drawn out one and there were very, errr... a great number of unhelpful leaks at
times, speculative things that weren't factually correct, then got repeated, errr... there were language difficulties,
translation difficulties, all sorts of things that led to this storm around them, errm... and it was... at times it was very
bleak for them to have to cope with that, but they got through it and, as I say, they... they are as strong as ever as a couple
and they're doing their best to... to cope and maintain momentum behind the search for their daughter.
Levy: Well, you've given them, errr... amazing support your... yourself. Errm... What... how do they... when
you say there's teams of people working, are these... these are not, errr... errr... ordinary police, these are... these
are... are 'paid for' hired police, are they? Working on it, still?
Clarence Mitchell: There
is... there is no official police search, if you like, for Madeleine going on, errm... at all. When... when the Portuguese
authorities shelved the case, errr... that effectively ended the formal police work. Of course, if any significant new leads
were to develop, then the police may well re-visit it. But, at the moment, the only people actively looking for Madeleine
are a small team employed by the McCanns, errr... through their Fund, and the pub... British public - in fact, the international
public have been very, very generous to them - errr... money still occasionally comes in. Errm... They've also had a number
of settlements with various newspaper groups, because of some of the libels that were written about them and their friends,
and all of the proceeds of those actions have gone into the Fund to... to keep it going. Errm... And that money is used to
employ... they've had a number of agencies, private detective agencies over the years, errr... on short term contracts.
But currently, errm... it's the... the investigation is a private investigation being led by Dave Edgar, who's a former
RUC officer, errr... retired, errr... and he calls in assistance, errr... from his colleague, former colleagues in various
police forces, as and when he needs it. Errr... And there is work going on in Britain and in Portugal at different times but,
because of the sensitive nature of it, obviously I can't go into any detail, but it's very much ongoing.
Peter Levy: No, I... I... I understand that to... totally. What... again, don't answer if you don't
want to, but I know that every parent listening will be interested to know the answer to this. What do they... because it
is a... the whole thing is a mystery; what... what do they believe, what do they think is the strongest possibility
of... of what happened to little Madeleine?
Clarence Mitchell: Kate and Gerry know Mad... know
their daughter well enough to know she didn't wander out of the apartment, as has often been speculated. The only assumption
they can make is that somebody took her out of the apartment. That is the working hypothesis on which the private investigation
is also based. That there is somebody, perhaps one, or just two or three people out there who know what happened and that
there was an element of pre-meditation, pre-planning went into it. Possibly because of the location of the apartment; it was
on a fairly remote corner of that particular resort. Errm... Children would have been coming and going over months/weeks beforehand
and there... it... the private investigation believes there was a degree of pre-meditation and planning, errm... and the very
fact that nothing has been found of Madeleine since, not a trace, tends to suggest that she has been taken somewhere else
and has been... hopefully, is being looked after, or at least cared for, errr... with someone. Errr... That is... that is
the working hypothesis. In some cases, if... if God forbid, she had been harmed, she probably would have been found long ago
but she hasn't been and that's why they keep going.
Peter Levy: So the belief is that
she is... she is alive and being looked after, and probably still in Portugal?
Clarence Mitchell: As...
as Kate and Gerry have always said, until they have the answer as to what has happened and until they are presented with incontrovertible
proof that she has been harmed, they will continue to believe - just as logically, without any evidence to the contrary -
that she could still just as easily be alive. And every time... even if they ever begin to doubt that themselves, which they
don't, but if they ever do, something like Jaycee Lee Dugard in the States happens...
Clarence Mitchell: ...or other people emerge from diff... very different situations but
it can happen. It is rare, errm... but it can happen and each of those cases do give them a renewed hope that one
day they too will get that call that says Madeleine has been recovered safe and well.
They must be very heartened by the huge amount of... of public interest and... and concern and care for... for them,
that there's been over the last 3 and half years?
Clarence Mitchell: They... they are immensely
grateful to everybody who continues to support them, to the media as well. The very fact that you and I are now talking about
it, so far down the line. Many other families of missing children, errr... have not had that luxury, if you like, of the continued
media interest, which...
Peter Levy: Why did it capture the imagination so much?
Mitchell: Oh, how long's your programme? There are all sorts of reasons but essentially, errm... it... it played
into the... every parental nightmare of losing your children whilst on holiday, errr... it raised the whole question of parental
responsibility. Kate and Gerry felt they and their friends were mounting a perfectly correct and proper checking system on
the... on the... given the... the lack of resources available to them, at the time, but they made a mistake and they... they
got it wrong.
Peter Levy: And it's kicking... it's kicking yourself isn't it? You
know, it's... it's the... it's... it's the... you know, it... and that... they've got to live with that,
Clarence Mitchell: Yes, they do and, God forbid, they may have to live with
that, you know, for the rest of their lives. Let's hope not, but... but they accept that they made a judgement call and...
and, that million-to-one chance, it went wrong and, as you say, they... they have to live with that now. And some of the recriminations
and online... there's a very small vocal minority online who... who attack them for being negligent. That is completely
misplaced and entirely wrong and doesn't actually help find Madeleine in any shape or form. Errr... But the vast majority
of right-thinking, decent people understand the awful situation that they find themselves in, errr... and are supportive and,
of course, wish them well and hope that Madeleine will be found.
Peter Levy: And, of course, errr...
we all do, and everybody listening as well. And they were planning a book to raise some money but they've delayed the
publication because they didn't want it to... to clash with the royal wedding?
Clarence Mitchell: Well,
that was a decision that was taken by... by the publishers. Errm... As I'm sure you know, any book publication involves
quite lengthy lead in times with dates for printing, and distribution, and promotion and all the rest of it, errm... and they
had announced... the publishers had announced, it would be April the 28th. Errr... Kate is still writing the book, at the
moment. Errm... She's well on with it, but she's still writing it, and, errm... then, of course, the royal wedding
was announced just after that as being the very next day, so logistically the media and all the distribution processes will
be dominated by the royal wedding, in the run-up to that date, and probably slightly beyond. So it made... it made sense from
the publisher's point of view to move the production deadline, errr... and the production... the publication date. Errr...
This is quite common with many book... book launches. Errr... its only been moved on a fortnight and it's on May the 12th
now - will be the day it appears - which, of course, is Madeleine's eighth birthday, which is also highly appropriate,
and it will still be very much tied into the... the fourth anniversary of Madeleine going missing if... if, God forbid, we...
we have to get that far. Errm... and of course by then some of the royal wedding coverage may well have moved on, errm...
and hopefully people will be able to see the book and see what Kate and Gerry are saying, errr... much more clearly. Peter Levy: Okay, well listen, errr... Clarence, it's, errr... it's good of you to, errr... come on the
programme and, errr... and talk about them and when you next speak to, errr... Gerry and Kate do give them our, errr... best
wishes. Errr... Very good to have you on the programme. I wish you well, onward. And, errr... and how do you spend your days,
these days, when you're not, errr... when you're not, errr... doing the wonderful work for them that you are?
Clarence Mitchell: Well, thank you for the good wishes Peter, and, of course, I will pass those on... on
to them. Errr... I speak to them pretty much virtually every day. I either phone or email or contact. Errr... And I will certainly
make it clear to them that... that you... you've said that. Errm... I'm now working as a result of moving into Public
Relations, if you like, with the Madeleine, errm... situation. I now work for a PR agency in London, Lewis PR. I'm the
Director of Media Strategy and Public Affairs which means that I work with a number of their clients as well, advising them
on their media contact. And if any particular stories flare up involving those clients I... I generally act as a... a bit
of a go-between, in much the same way as I do for Kate and Gerry, with... with the media, the print, broadcast and online
media. Errm... And on the public affairs side because of my governmental work, errm... I'm able to assist as well, where
I can, with, errr... governmental contact for some of the clients too. So it's... it's a busy old agenda, errr...
just as frenetic as... as the BBC in many ways; if it's on the other side of the fence.
Well, I know you're a workaholic. That's what... that's what I can tell people, errr... but, errr...
people, errr... in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Errr... Very good to have you on the programme, Clarence.
Clarence Mitchell: Peter, lovely to speak again, thanks very much.
Stephen Nolan interviews Clarence Mitchell, 07 January 2011
and fierce topical phone-in debate live from Manchester.'
By Nigel Moore
Our last story, errr... of tonight. Nearly four years since their daughter disappeared, Kate and Gerry McCann
have written a book about their ordeal. Tonight, I've been talking to the man charged with keeping the hunt for Maddie
in the public eye. A hard job these days for Clarence Mitchell, the McCann's spokesman.
Well that's the fickle nature of the news media, isn't it, and the attention span of news desks. I mean the...
the situation with Madeleine is still very much continuing and I'm still very much working on it on behalf of Kate and
Gerry and all of the people who are... are helping them looking for Madeleine. Errm... I now work for a firm in London, Lewis
PR, errm... but I'm still very much, as I say, active for Kate and Gerry and media enquiries still come in from around
the world every day, in one form or another. Errr... All sorts of enquiries, interview requests, suggestions for features,
sightings of possibly Madeleine. All sorts of things. They all have to either be passed on to the private investigators or
we take decisions as to how we deal with them. So although I, and Madeleine, and the whole situation may not be in the news
as much as it was, its still very active for me.
Stephen Nolan: And, of course, it... it's
by the very nature of how news works that you're going to have that period that you've got to exploit, for want of
a better word. You've got to get the maximum publicity because, you know, it will go away and it's gone now.
Clarence Mitchell: Well, I would argue that it hasn't gone completely. Kate and Gerry and myself are
very grateful to the international news media, not just the UK, around the world for the continuing interest in Madeleine
and whether she will be found. Errm... many, many families around the world of missing people have not had that luxury, if
you like, where the media visit them at the start of their situation and then go away for good. That hasn't quite happened
in Madeleine. I mean, look, here we are, nearly four years on, and still here we are discussing her on national radio. For
that I'm grateful to the BBC and to you and your programme producers.
Stephen Nolan: How possible
do you think it is though, Clarence, because you're a journalist at heart and you... you understand the amount of publicity
you got; you understand that was exceptional. How... how possible is it that Madeleine is still alive given that level of
Clarence Mitchell: It is still possible that she is alive because there is no evidence
to suggest that she isn't and that's the whole basis on which the investigation, the private investigation, continues
to this day. In the absence of anything to suggest that she has been harmed or, as you suggest, has been killed, and there
is no evidence to suggest that, then not only Kate and Gerry but everybody working with them will continue to keep
going until an answer is found.
Stephen Nolan: Did the campaign cost a lot of money?
Clarence Mitchell: The campaign has cost a lot of money and continues to cost a lot of money and
it's only happening because of the vast generosity of people around the world. If you remember an awful lot of money came
in very quickly due to that publicity level that we were discussing. People responded and Kate and Gerry, everybody associated
with them are immensely grateful to this day for every penny of it. It was all spent in terms of the investigation and running
a private investigation in two countries, sometimes in several continents where if things have to be followed up around the
world, is a very expensive business. All of that's been spent on various contracts, on various private agencies, errm...
since... since it happened. At the moment, a small team led by Dave Edgar, a former RUC officer, errr... are... are still
investigating and they are funded by the Find Madeleine Fund. We also, if you remember, had a number of settlements against
certain newspaper groups, not least the Express, and all of the monies that were raised through that in settlement to Kate,
Gerry and their friends went back into the fund and have been ploughed back into it. So the money is still there but it...
it ebbs and flows as the investigative needs require.
Stephen Nolan: I want to talk to you, Clarence,
about how the newspapers, errr... errr... dealt with Gerry and Kate in... in the context of what's happened in... in the
Jo Yeates murder, as well, errr... of... of recent times. But before we do that, errm... what is your gut instinct because
you've seen all the information and all the leads coming in? What's your gut instinct now as to what's happened?
Are you comfortable sharing that?
Clarence Mitchell: My instinct has been, and remains, that there
is a chance that she's alive and that's the basis we're all doing this. We wouldn't... if we thought there
was no hope, you know, what would be the point of going on? But, because there is that absence of anything to suggest what's
happened, it is just as logical to keep going. That's certainly what keeps Kate and Gerry going. Obviously, as her parents,
they will maintain that. But for all of their supporters, people who are trying to help them, myself included, I honestly
don't know what happened and therefore I've got to keep going, and as long as they want me to keep helping them then
I'm happy to do that.
Stephen Nolan: Oh look, Kate and Gerry have recently said that they
may need to face the fact that they may never face... they may never find their daughter.
Well, in their darker moments, of course, it was perfectly human, perfectly natural, to think that, but equally they're
very rational and they think that until they know, they will keep ploughing all of their efforts into it. It's for Madeleine,
it's their daughter for goodness sake and, of course, you or I would do the same, I would think. They've been very
fortunate in having the resources and having the support because so many people have been kind enough to back them.
Stephen Nolan: When you get that world-wide attention, you see all different types of humanity because
lots and lots of people are... are contacting you with information. And indeed some... some crazy people are contacting you
with crazy information.
Clarence Mitchell: Anything that develops a profile, errr... as high as
this case has, does attract all sorts of people. You're quite right. Errm... most of them, the vast majority, are well
meaning and if information can be checked out and is credible or potentially credible then it goes through, not only to the
British police, it goes through to the Portuguese police, and it goes through to the private investigators to be assessed;
prioritised. It's very much a police operation. It's former British policemen that are working on it and then they
will act upon it. Now amongst those, of course, there are the occasional slightly more lunatic things that are said.
Stephen Nolan: Did you get much nasty stuff?
Clarence Mitchell: There was a
certain amount, errm...
Stephen Nolan: And what... what was that? People... people gloating that
she'd been killed or what... what type of stuff was it?
Clarence Mitchell: I'm not going
to talk about things that will lead inevitably, even now, to tabloid headlines about ghouls saying X, Y or Z. Some of the
things that were said were awful, hurtful and, in cases where there was a direct threat, or any suggestion of anything happening,
it went straight to the police and, in certain cases, which have never received publicity, police took action to stop it.
To this day there is a very small but highly vocal minority online; the joys of the Internet. The Internet is a wonderful
thing but it has its downside, as we all know. There is a very vocal but very small minority of people who believe Kate and
Gerry were negligent and to this day they rail and rant against them. They are powerless, they know nothing and it... it's
totally irrelevant. But we keep a... a weather eye on what they're saying and if action needs to be taken, in certain
cases, then it is.
Stephen Nolan: So, share with me, what it is like for Kate and Gerry when there
is this media onslaught suggesting that they might have killed their own children. What is that like?
Mitchell: Well... it... what do you think? It is just appalling. Errr... It is hurtful in the extreme but it... it
is just dreadful. And, of course, what makes it all the more frustrating for them was that they knew that much of the coverage
was based on either falsehoods, misunderstandings, deliberate leaks from certain quarters, that were then mistranslated, either
through mistake or through deliberately. A story that would appear on a Monday in Portugal, saying something was possibly
the case - which we knew wasn't true - would then become hardened up as fact on the Tuesday in the British press and then,
on Wednesday, it would be repeated, 'as reported by the illustrious London paper X or Y'.
Nolan: And presumably, Clarence, you're on the phone to the editors of those newspapers warning them about legal
threats. The lawyers are on the phone. You're on the phone trying to stop them doing this and continuing to do this?
Clarence Mitchell: I was trying to brief the reporters on the ground. There were three packs, if
you like, of journalists at the height of it. There were journal... journalists on the ground in Praia da Luz - where we were
- wanting... almost in tears some days, demanding lines because they were under pressure from their news desk to deliver a
front page splash. And certain days we didn't have anything to say, or the police had asked us not to say anything, and
I couldn't help them but the whole thing was a nonsense but it was driving sales of papers. I had a second group of journalists
in Leicestershire, and in the UK, trying to get to Kate and Gerry's relatives, trying to dig up stories about them and
what was going on back here. And then, I also had all the columnists who had... it had become, if you remember, almost the
dinner party topic of choice, for a couple of summers. You know, obviously there were legitimate questions about child safety
and, errr... parental responsibility. Absolutely fine for discussion, no problem with that at all. But occasionally the odd
commentator would overstep the mark and say hurtful things. We would talk to journalists on the ground and we would talk to
editors. It made a difference sometimes. Overall, in certain cases, it made not jot... not a jot of difference.
Nolan: I know... I know you'll understand the... the limitations as to how much we can talk about... about the...
the Jo Yeates, errr... murder at the moment but there has been, errr... a... a man, Mr Jefferies, who has not been found guilty;
is an innocent man in the eyes of the law. He's been released on bail. He has not been charged, and you will have seen
the front page coverage on him, and he has not been found guilty. What are your thoughts?
I think, from a journalistic point of view, a lot of the coverage, in certain papers which I won't name, was...
was very near the mark, in terms of breaching the Contempt of Court Act. The basic standard in law, quite rightly, is that
any person is innocent until proven guilty and that is a matter for the police to prove.
So, why is our media getting... doing this, and how are they getting away with it, Clarence?
Mitchell: There... there is this insatiable desire now to be first, to be fastest. The 24/7 machine, the monster
that I used to work in, and you still work in, needs feeding all the time. And news desks, I'm not saying the BBC... the
BBC, thank goodness, is one of the... is one of the most responsible organisations but some news desks almost fall
over themselves and almost forget the law. At the end of the day, no matter what deadlines and yawning spaces of coverage
you... you need to fill, there are still basic tenets of fairness and justice in this country and I'm very grateful they...
they exist. They serve everybody's interest, not just the defendants but the journalists as well.
Nolan: It... it... it is his legal right that Mr. Jefferies is presumed to be innocent. That is his legal right.
Do you feel sorry for him given the coverage that he has endured?
Clarence Mitchell: I feel sorry
for anyone who finds themself, for whatever reason, at the centre of the media firestorm these days. It's always been
bad. You don't... wouldn't want journalists on your door step, and that would have happened in the forties or the
fifties, if necessary, but it was much more at a leisurely pace and was nothing like the onslaught that it is now with the
Stephen Nolan: So, Clarence, what... what needs to happen? Does... does the PCC work,
the Press Complaints Commission? Errr... Does there need to be a change of legislation? What needs to happen?
Mitchell: Well, we... we tried to resort to the PCC, at times, and they were very helpful in terms of logistical
things, like keeping photographers away from the McCann's home. There were photographers camped outside their house, at
the end of their drive, for six months. We even had paparazzi photographers, who normally do celebrity jobs in... in Los Angeles,
turning up looking for them. And, you know, we had to patiently explain the McCanns were not celebrities, they didn't
warrant this sort of intrusion and these photographers needed to be moved. Now the PCC were fantastic in that case, they were
really helpful. But in terms of making the news desks and the editors in certain papers sit up and really listen, I'm
afraid we had to, reluctantly, pick up the rather large hammer of defamation action and say, 'You will apologise, you
will settle this, errr... on our terms, or we will go further'. And thankfully, after a lot of discussion - the Express
group being the best example - finally agreed with us. Errm... But it was a reluctant action. You know, it shouldn't have
got to that stage. But it wasn't of our making.
Stephen Nolan: It's interesting you talk
about defamation because, of course, we see Nick Clegg very much pushing, errr... a bill and a proposal at the moment. The
leader of the Liberal Democrats, obviously, in terms of relaxing, changing the defamation laws, errr... in... in this country.
Clarence Mitchell: Well, personal view, I... I think if anything there's... there's...
there should be some argument for them to be slightly tightened up.
Stephen Nolan: Tightened
up in the UK?
Clarence Mitchell: Well, because people... these days... or certainly there needs
to be some sort of statutory reminder, not just to journalists but to all of your bloggers who are now online. These days
a lot of people think, wrongly, that they can write what they like on a website. They are publishing that. It is a newspaper
in all but name, an electronic version of it and the person responsible for distributing that material is legally responsible,
certainly under British jurisdiction, for what they say in it.
Stephen Nolan: How on earth do
you control the Internet? How does an Internet service provider know everything that's going onto their site and onto
their channel? They don't, and that's the problem.
Clarence Mitchell: They don't.
Stephen Nolan: You can't control this beast.
Clarence Mitchell: This
is... this is... this is the problem and this is what the politicians need to work out.
So what would you do?
Clarence Mitchell: Well... hah... I... I would...
Nolan: Because you have been in the middle of one of the most high... prolific Internet campaigns that... that there
will have been. So what would you do, given the experience you've had?
Clarence Mitchell: I
would make it clear, if it's a... if it's a story around an... a crime. I would make it clear that the police, I think,
from the first instance, have a remin... have a duty to remind journalists much more forcibly and clearly than they have done
so far. In the Yeates case you mention, we saw the Attorney General having to come out and... and issue a warning around the
coverage of Mr. Jefferies. Well, that's fine and absolutely proper but he should have done... that should have been done
beforehand. A lot of young journalists are coming up through the ranks now who have not necessarily and this makes me sound
like a bit of an old dinosaur but they have not necessarily come up through the... the traditional route of local newspapers,
sitting in courts, watching juries, listening to verdicts. They don't necessarily know the finer points of defamation
law, contempt of court, and I think a general reminder both in the journalistic industry, better training, errr... of the
basic tenets of law and for the police, perhaps, in a high profile case, to sit down right at the outset and remind all of
the covering media of their responsibilities. That won't stop online gossip. It won't stop tittle tattle. You're
right. That can't be controlled. We watch what's said about Madeleine only when it enters the real world and goes
beyond the keyboard and the screen in the middle of the night, then do we act. But in the... with responsible mainstream media
I think there's a time for a reminder of some of the basics here that have... that have served journalism so well for
Stephen Nolan: Just finally, Clarence, we... we understand that the McCanns obviously
are releasing this book. Is this going to be, errm... a summary of everything we already know?
Mitchell: No, it's going to be Kate's story. Kate is writing it. Gerry, of course, is... is helping her but
essentially it will be Kate's work. For... virtually from the first day it happened, errr... I was coming under pressure
from various publishers, some of them very polite, but very persistent, saying they should write a book, or it should be ghost
written. Kate and Gerry always said they didn't want to do that, they didn't feel the time was right, they had far
more important things to do in the search for their daughter. They've now decided, and it's largely been driven by
the need for funds for the... for the search to continue, that the time is right for the book to be written. Kate has been
writing it for some months. She's probably finished about sixty to seventy thousand words and, errm... it's coming
out on May 12th which is Madeleine's eighth birthday. It is designed to keep the search for her going. That is the simple
Stephen Nolan: That's Clarence Mitchell talking to me earlier on tonight. That's
it from the Nolan team for tonight. Thank you so much for your company. We'll be back tomorrow night, Saturday night,
ten o'clock when you and I will talk about the big news stories of the day.
After an appearance during the phone-hacking scandal, Flack
wonders where Clarence Mitchell has gone. After the fanfare made by Lewis PR when it gave the McCanns' former PRO the
grandiose title of director of media strategy and public affairs last May, it seems he's slipped away into the night.
'Oh, he's gone,' said an unimpressed-sounding lady who answered his phone last week.
Burson-Marsteller called in to cover Costa
Concordia disaster, 16 January 2012
Burson-Marsteller called in to cover Costa Concordia disaster
Sara Luker 16 January 2012, 10:27am
Carnival, the holding company
of Costa Cruises, has called in Burson-Marsteller to handle the corporate and crisis comms around the Costa Concordia disaster.
Costa Concordia: ran aground off the Italian coast (Rex Features)
Burson-Marsteller MD Clarence Mitchell started working on the
comms last night.
Rooster, the UK & Ireland PR agency for Costa Cruises, has also been handling media relations
throughout the weekend.
Michele Andjel, head of PR at Carnival UK, told PRWeek that the company is working with
the Passenger Shipping Association (PSA) on press enquiries and ongoing updates.
The Costa Concordia, which had
more than 4,000 people on board, flipped on its side after hitting a rock on Friday night off Italy's west coast. At least
six people have died in the accident.
The first statement from Costa Cruises was released at 1am CET on Saturday,
detailing how many people had been evacuated and that it was 'currently working with the highest commitment to provide
all the needed assistance'.
The comms response of both Costa Cruises and the general cruise industry to the
disaster could have been more effective, according to one travel PR practitioner.
Brighter Group executive chairman
Steve Dunne said: 'It's clear that the PR function there has been slow to react and take control of the situation.
To have members of staff being interviewed and using terms like there was "mass panic" on the ship smacks of people
not being briefed properly.'
Dunne went on to say that the disaster was not just Costa Cruises' problem
but an industry problem – saying that it had had a 'wake-up call'.
He said: 'For 30 years cruise
holidays have been the golden child of the travel industry with sales continuing to climb. This accident has caught them on
the back foot and it has amazed me that nobody from the industry, especially the Passenger Shipping Association, has stepped
forward to defend crusies and their safety record.
'Somebody needs to be combating the pictures of the Costa
Concordia sinking being broadcast across the world's media and the word Titantic being used.'
Captain 'Ignored Order' To Return To Ship Sky News
6:59pm UK, Tuesday January 17, 2012
- Extract -
it has emerged that in 2010 Mr Schettino gave an interview to a Czech newspaper where he said he never wanted to face a scenario
like the Titantic.
He told Dnes: "I wouldn't like to be in the role of the captain of the Titanic, having
to sail in an ocean of icebergs.
"But I think that thanks to preparation, you can handle any situation and
deal with potential problems."
A Facebook group has been set up in Francesco Schettino's name with Italian
users calling him a "coward" and saying he should be sent to prison.
Costa Cruises chairman Pier Luigi
Foschi has apologised for the tragedy, which has left dozens of the 4,200 people on board injured and the 114,000-tonne ship
lying on its side.
Clarence Mitchell, who is representing Costa Cruises, said: "Mr Foschi confirmed the captain
had been approaching the island of Giglio to 'make a salute'.
"The company says this (incident) was
caused by an attempt by the captain to show the ship to the port.
"But there's a criminal investigation
going on and we're not going to say anything that's going to compromise that or the captain's case."
Prosecutor Francesco Verusio said the captain's alleged conduct was "inexcusable."
struck by the unscrupulousness of the reckless manoeuvre that the commander of the Costa Concordia made near the island of
Former BBC royal correspondent shortlisted
by Brighton Pavilion Conservatives, 24 July 2013
The former BBC reporter who acts as
spokesman for the family of missing Madeleine McCann has been shortlisted by Brighton Pavilion Conservatives.
Mitchell has represented Kate and Gerry McCann for almost six years after their daughter disappeared during a holiday in Portugal.
His previous jobs include heading the government's Media Monitoring Unit and a 20-year career with the BBC.
He worked as a royal correspondent, political reporter and presenter during his time at the corporation, having trained
as a reporter at the Westminster Press Training Centre in Hastings.
Since September 2011, Mr Mitchell, who was
born in 1962, has been a managing director at public affairs firm Burson-Marsteller UK.
He is one of three candidates to have been shortlisted for the parliamentary
seat. The winner will challenge Green MP Caroline Lucas for a place in the House of Commons at the next general election which
is due to be held in May 2015.
One of Mr Mitchell's rivals is Michelle Lowe, a marketing communications specialist
and the deputy leader of Sevenoaks District Council.
The other is solicitor Jean-Paul Floru, who serves as a member
of Westminster City Council. He is the author of What the Immigrant Saw, a book looking at Britain through the eyes of an
immigrant from Belgium.
The Brighton Pavilion hustings are being held tomorrow (Thursday 25 July) and will be chaired
by Councillor Ann Norman, who represents Withdean ward on Brighton and Hove City Council.
She said: "I'm
delighted that our members have three excellent candidates to choose from."
Brighton Pavilion Conservatives pick
former BBC reporter to take on Caroline Lucas, 25 July 2013
Brighton Pavilion Conservatives pick former BBC reporter
to take on Caroline Lucas Brighton & Hove News
July 25th, 2013
The Conservative Party has chosen former
BBC reporter Clarence Mitchell as its candidate for Brighton Pavilion this evening (Thursday 25 July).
who has acted as the spokesman for the family of missing Madeleine McCann for six years, will take on Britain's first
Green MP Caroline Lucas at the next general election.
The election is expected to be held in May 2015.
Mr Mitchell joined the public affairs consultancy Burson-Marsteller
UK as a managing director two years ago.
His previous jobs include being the director of the government's Media
Monitoring Unit and before that he spent 20 years at the BBC.
He worked as a royal correspondent, political reporter
and presenter while at the corporation, having trained as a reporter at the Westminster Press Training Centre in Hastings.
Mr Mitchell's most high-profile role has been to represent Kate and Gerry McCann after their daughter disappeared
during a holiday in Portugal.
He has previously worked with the Conservative Party briefly and this evening he
beat two other candidates to win the selection.
Brighton Pavilion Conservatives pick
former BBC reporter to take on Caroline Lucas, 26 July 2013
Brighton Pavilion Conservatives pick former BBC reporter
to take on Caroline Lucas The Argus
8:47am Friday 26th July 2013
The Conservative Party
has chosen former BBC reporter Clarence Mitchell as its candidate for Brighton Pavilion.
Mr Mitchell, who has acted
as the spokesman for the family of missing Madeleine McCann for six years, will take on Britain's first Green MP Caroline
Lucas at the next general election.
Before his move into public relations, Mr Mitchell was a reporter for BBC News
covering the Soham murders, the Fred West killings and the death of Princess Diana.
He also worked as director
of the Government's Media Monitoring Unit, controlling the flow of information to newspapers.
After being seconded
by the Foreign Office to help the McCanns, Mr Mitchell resigned his government post after one month to become the family's
He also works for PR firm Burson-Marsteller, "advising clients over engagement with both
the British Government and the Conservative Party".
But Mr Mitchell himself is no stranger to the headlines.
Mr Mitchell battled solicitor John-Paul Floru and marketing communications specialist Michelle Lowe to be selected
for the Brighton Pavilion seat, currently held by Green MP Caroline Lucas.
Withdean councillor Ann Norman, who
hosted the hustings, said: "I'm delighted that our members have three excellent candidates to choose from. I am increasingly
confident that we will be able to regain the Brighton Pavilion seat for the Conservatives.
"We will be choosing
the candidate who could ensure a majority Conservative Government in 2015."
The election is expected to be
held in May 2015.
McCann family spokesman to stand as Conservative
MP, 26 July 2013
McCann family spokesman to stand as Conservative MP ITV News
Madeleine McCann's family spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, has announced that he has been selected to stand as an MP for
the Conservatives at the next election.
Mr Mitchell, a former journalist, will be up against Britain's first
Green MP Caroline Lucas in the Brighton Pavilion constituency at the next general election in 2015.
Mr Mitchell tweeted his delight at the news of his selection:
"Absolutely delighted to be selected by Brighton & Hove Conservatives tonight. Huge honour . The fight for
Brighton Pavilion starts now."
Tories choose Clarence Mitchell, Maddy
McCann family spokesman, for Brighton Pavilion candidate, 26 July 2013
Madeleine McCann's family spokesman picked to take
on Caroline Lucas The Argus
By Bill Gardner 8:47am Friday 26th July 2013
Madeleine McCann's family spokesman will battle the country's
first Green MP for a key city seat.
Clarence Mitchell, who has acted as the spokesman for the family of the missing
youngster for six years, will take on Caroline Lucas for the Brighton Pavilion constituency at the next general election.
Before his move into public relations, Mr Mitchell was a reporter for BBC News covering the Soham murders, the Fred
West killings and the death of Princess Diana.
He also worked as director of the Government’s Media Monitoring
Unit, controlling the flow of information to newspapers.
After being seconded by the Foreign Office to help the
McCanns, Mr Mitchell resigned his government post after one month to become the family's full-time spokesman.
He also works for PR firm Burson-Marsteller, "advising clients over engagement with both the British Government and
the Conservative Party".
But Mr Mitchell himself is no stranger to the headlines.
When he was a
presenter on BBC News 24, he fell asleep during a night shift, forcing a producer to stand in for him at short notice.
And in 2008, he was involved in a row with Portuguese police who accused him of "lying with as many teeth as
he has in his mouth" after McCann family statements were leaked to the media.
At the time, Mr Mitchell
accused police of masterminding the leak to overshadow the visit.
Mr Mitchell battled solicitor John-Paul Floru
and marketing communications specialist Michelle Lowe to be selected for the Brighton Pavilion seat, currently held by Green
MP Caroline Lucas.
Councillor Ann Norman, who chaired the selection meeting, said: "We are very pleased to
have Clarence as the Conservative candidate as he is ideally placed and qualified to take the Brighton Pavilion Parliamentary
seat back into Conservative hands as that is where it truly belongs."
The election is expected to be held
in May 2015.
Maddie family's aide in parli bid, 27
Maddie family's aide in parli bid The Sun (paper edition)
THE spokesman for the family of Madeleine McCann will take on Britain's
first Green Party MP at the next election, it was announced yesterday.
Former BBC reporter Clarence Mitchell has
been chosen as the Tory candidate for Brighton Pavilion. The seat is currently held by Caroline Lucas - a former leader of
the Green Party - who won with a majority of 1,252 at the 2010 election.
Mr Mitchell, left, tweeted: "Absolutely
delighted to be selected by Brighton & Hove Conservatives tonight."
The Tory campaign in Brighton Pavilion: not
getting off to a Grand start, 28 July 2013
The newly selected Conservative candidate for Brighton
Pavilion, Clarence Mitchell, has not got off to the most auspicious of starts. This afternoon he tweeted a picture a photo
of Brighton beach, taken from his hotel window at the Grand Hotel:
It's a curious tweet, and suggests a certain lack of knowledge
of the city's politics: Brighton and Hove currently has a Green-led minority council, and one Green and two Tory MPs.
Labour are the third party on the council. "Labour Fail" seems like an odd way of putting it.
Moreover, Mitchell compounded the error by his response to people who pointed out that the Grand Hotel was not exactly representative
of a city in which low pay and high living costs are endemic – that he was supporting the local economy. The Grand is
not locally owned; dozens of more modest hotels are local businesses. A better-briefed, more serious candidate would
It's all a bit surprising for someone who works in … PR. It reinforces the impression
that, in 2015, the Tories will be also-rans – the comedic support for a fascinating battle between Purna Sen for Labour
and incumbent Green MP Caroline Lucas, candidates of real substance with proven track records: Clarence Mitchell's selection
suggests that this battle will powerfully highlight the difference between celebrity and achievement.