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 Saga of the McCanns is not yet over

Original Source:  INDEPENDENT: SATURDAY MARCH 22 2008
Saturday, 22 March 2008



Saga of the McCanns is not yet over

The libel lawyers Carter-Ruck, famous for their aggressive tactics and huge fees, have won another victory. Only recently they were in receipt of a ?30,000 cheque from the Government for services rendered to the House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin. This week their clients Kate and Gerry McCann won the jackpot when the Daily Express paid them half a million pounds for a series of libels concerning their daughter Madeleine. Based on the Speaker case, one can safely assume that the Carter-Ruck bill of costs will run to six figures at least.

No one can feel too sorry at the thought of Express owner Richmond Desmond, who has made a huge fortune out of pornography, having to shell out a fraction of his profits to the needy McCanns. All the same, the story is puzzling. The Express was undoubtedly guilty of libel. But the suggestion that the McCanns might have been in one way or another responsible for their daughter's death did not originate with the newspaper. It was the Portuguese police who long ago branded the McCanns as suspects. And officially they remain so. It has never been explained why they were so convinced of the McCanns' guilt when all the facts seem to point the other way.

But, following this week's libel settlement, there was general agreement that as a result of the Daily Express apology the McCanns had finally been cleared. But that isn't so. They are still officially labelled arguido, or suspects. The Portuguese police are even anxious to re-interview the McCanns' friends, the so-called Tapas Nine. So all those who were hoping they had heard the last of this story are likely to be disappointed.

* Cab drivers are a notoriously stroppy group of individualists. So it is not surprising that in Bournemouth they are boycotting a council course to teach them how to behave. The course, which includes a written test, advises drivers on how to lift a heavy suitcase, how to read body language and even how to say hello. Cabbies will also be asked if they can "recognise emotions such as anger, worry or annoyance".

None of this will cut any ice with your average cabbie, who will remain impervious to the feelings of his passengers. The passenger is likely to register annoyance first when he sees the notices telling him not to smoke and reminding him of his legal obligation to wear a safety belt. He may be further annoyed by the cabbie's loud radio tuned to a local station broadcasting a mindless phone-in, usually to do with football. Either that or jungle music from Radio 1. Further annoyance may result from the flashing advertisements on a miniature TV screen, many of which are now installed in London cabs.

My friend Willie Rushton once did a cartoon of a cabbie sitting behind a notice which said "Thank you for not interrupting" that was inspired by the habit of many cabbies to give you their views about the political situation, often from an extreme right-wing perspective.


This can well cause annoyance. But something more than annoyance may ensue from the cabbie choosing the wrong route and the resulting huge fare. This in turn may result from his having talked non-stop on his mobile and consequent lack of concentration.

No amount of tests or courses is going to change the cabbie because that is the way he is made. And, despite all my reservations, I would not have it otherwise.


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