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Verdict on £1m McCann fund

Original Source: UN: WEDNESDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2007
September 12, 2007
GERRY and Kate McCann will discover tonight if they can use the £1million donated by the public to find her to pay for their defence.

The couple risk a public backlash if the board controlling Madeleine’s fund hands over the cash to shell out for a £500-an-hour legal team.

But without it the couple could face financial ruin — funding a court battle which could rumble on for years.

The fund directors were due to meet in London later to decide if they should pay to fight Portuguese police allegations that the couple killed their four-year-old daughter.

The McCanns earn around £120,000 a year between them as doctors but have been on unpaid leave while staying on in Praia da Luz.

Legal experts believe there is little to stop the couple — because the fund is a private business and not a charity.

It was knocked back by the Charity Commission which ruled its aims were not broad enough.

Instead Madeleine’s Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned Ltd was set up as a company.

It means the McCanns, both 39, only have to get the consent of four of the firm’s six directors — who are all close pals.

Two directors are relatives and cannot vote. One director who will vote is former GMTV presenter Esther McVey, 39 — a pal of Kate’s since they went to sixth form college together.

Last night she said: “At the moment none of the fund has been used to pay for the defence case.

“But we are convening a meeting of the board of directors to decide if the money can be used for this purpose.

“When the fund was set up one of its stated aims was to provide financial support for Madeleine’s family as they searched for her.

“But we are uncertain if the use of the money to pay for lawyers in these unexpected circumstances would be in the spirit of that aim. We will be taking advice from a barrister who will attend the board meeting.

“We are aware of our responsibility to ensure how the money donated by members of the public is used.”

Esther — who runs a Liverpool-based PR firm — said Gerry’s brother John McCann, 48, and Madeleine’s great uncle Brian Kennedy, 68, would not be able to vote as family members.

The other directors are Doug Skehan, 54, a clinical director of cardiology who works alongside Gerry at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, and friends Peter Hubner, 64, a retired consultant, and lawyer Philip Tomlinson, 76.

She refused to say if anyone who had donated cash had asked for it back. But messages posted on websites revealed some donors do want their cash returned. And some called for the fund to be frozen.


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