Kate and Gerry
McCann have told an inquiry into press standards how journalists who
camped outside their home scared their children and left the family
feeling hemmed in.
Speaking at the
Leveson Inquiry yesterday they gave some of the most vivid accounts
yet of their experiences since their daughter Madeleine was abducted
in Portugal four years ago.
The couple joined a list of high-profile figures giving evidence at the
inquiry set up in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal to explore press
ethics and practices.
Sitting together throughout the two-hour session at the Royal Courts of
Justice in central London, the couple said they endured some of the
worst harassment as they left Portugal and returned to their home in
Mr McCann said: "The journey to the airport in Portugal was one of the
most terrifying experiences I think anybody could have.
"Cars were coming across us, cutting in front with cameras, people
hanging out of windows, motorbike riders.
"It was frankly dangerous.
"When we got back to our home in Rothley there were tens of journalists
– we live in a cul-de-sac – at the end of it, camped outside our house,
cameras and helicopter crews following us.
"We were hemmed in the house for a couple of days before the police
moved them to the end of our drive."
Press interest in the McCanns skyrocketed as newspapers in the UK and
abroad printed false stories reporting that the parents were implicated
in their daughter's disappearance.
Mr McCann explained that the biggest distress to them was that the
incorrect message was going out that their daughter was dead, hindering
a meaningful search.
He also said that at the time of the ordeal their younger children were
two years old and found the experience of dealing with photographers
Mrs McCann said: "Photographers stayed there until December 2007 and
that was only after we had help to get them removed.
"But they were there every day and they'd often wait for Gerry to go and
they knew that I'd have to go out of the house at some point with the
"It would be the same photograph every day. I would be in the car,
myself and the two children, and the photographers would either spring
out from behind a hedge to get a startled look so they could attach
'fragile' or 'furious', whatever they wanted to put in the headline.
"There were several occasions where they would bang on the windows,
sometimes with their camera lens and Amelie said to me several times
'Mummy, I'm scared'."
The Leveson Inquiry was set up after it emerged that journalists at the
News of the World illegally hacked into people's mobile phone messages,
although it has been asked to investigate the press broadly.
The McCanns said yesterday that they did not believe their phones had
been hacked but recounted a long list of false stories that had been
printed about them which resulted in them receiving more than £500,000