Have a read of the excellent second part of Blacksmiths views on the McCanns at the Leveson Enquiry
It’s a family affair
And so to the Leveson inquiry, which the McCanns, not having been hacked, have invited themselves into. It is primarily a show business affair and one’s main impression is that, with the exception of the Dowlers and their like, and leaving the McCanns aside for the moment, both sides are equally repulsive and deserve each other. Both are locked into a continuing private game: once the inquiry is finished, perhaps even before the comical denunciations are complete, the symbiotic relationships will resume, for showbiz can’t exist without cheap media to promote it, and the more down-market the celebrity the more down- market the promotional means required.
Perhaps another paper may close, some hackers will go to jail and the dredge end of the market will see abuses tightened up regarding the Dowlers and others. But the real action in the media crisis involves transparency between media groups and governments, the so-called “back door or front door at number 10?” question, and its resolution will involve serious negotiations between serious players—not the question of the “persecution” by the paparazzi of paunchy showbiz figures stumbling out of nightclubs at four in the morning, with coke still sticking to their nostrils.
What a gallery, what a procession of dreadful, gungy celebrities have been parading before the lawyers and the “lay assessors” alongside: Big breasts, big hair, big claims, big ego—and that was just Steve Coogan.
Most of the celebs, of course, can bring down their righteous fury on the media knowing that it won’t really damage established relationships, or more importantly incomes, in the slightest, for all of them, Hugh Grant included, have agents and it’s the agents who will be picking up the phone...Hi, how are you?...I know, I know, these things get said...these are sensitive people, face it, and some of your guys ...what?...of course! Anyway Sol, life goes one...yeah, it’s out next week...am I offering you an interview? I certainly am...sure, sure...and photo ops...of course he wants it, he’s said his piece but he knows the score, I said to him what do you want, retirement? A desert island? No! he wants a living ,man, like we all do. So he’ll do the interview, don’t worry. How’s Claudine?
It’s good to talk
But now Kate and Gerry McCann, who appear to have wandered in from a different plot, are behind the microphone. Four and a half years and family genes have transformed Kate McCann from the svelte figure overcoming her grief to pose wistfully for the paparazzi on the Praia da Luz rocks, into a dead ringer for an ageing waitress in a Liverpool chippie, waiting to go out and snatch a fag. Some of this is irrevocable, some, knowing the McCanns, may be down to Kate, devoid of make-up, wanting to create the appropriate ruined image for the occasion. Whatever, she doesn’t have to try very hard. A quietly bizarre note is struck by her left hand which vanishes beneath the desk, presumably hanging on to one of Gerry’s fleshly body parts, a curious, gauche, lapse into immodesty not usually seen in formal daytime company.
Both of them have shocking complexions, greyish pink, more reminiscent of over-worked night-shift immigrants than provincial doctors. Gerry McCann’s eyes flicker continuously from side to side as he speaks; below them are two chestnut shaped lumps, one moment hardly noticeable, next, as his cheeks tighten, appearing to swell visibly with tension or suppressed fury. She sits, drooping, at his side while he does the talking, telling the assembly the now familiar story of the nightmare they have endured at the hands of the media, chiefly the press, and, less familiarly, what he wants done about it.
The voice itself is quiet and largely reasonable but as the subject turns to retribution his face speaks more loudly than words: this is something more than his nose-in-the-air chippiness. The more you watch his features as he develops his theme, the more stretched they become until, at times, the skin at the bottom of his chin is actually tugged upwards towards his bitterly narrow mouth. Extraordinarily, the man goes through virtually the whole of the session like that, absolutely consumed by anger and resentment, and the intensity of the body language produces a stir of perceptible, perhaps surprised, concern in the room. At times Leveson, not a notably gentle person, looks almost uneasy on their behalf.
Counsel takes Gerry through the multiple examples of wild and untruthful tabloid story lines. What, like “the shutters had been jemmied and the door was hanging off”? No, no, no. Ah, you mean, “Portuguese police try to frame tot’s parents?” No, they don’t include that one either: most of them, in fact, are the excremental output of the Desmond factory, once his staff had grown sure that the supposed forensic evidence would send the McCanns down and leave them unable to sue.
As Gerry’s calls for retribution for this stuff, however politely expressed, continue undiminished, one is reminded, with a start, that the bent figure beside him was responsible for the analogous scream of anger which echoes through the pages of Madeleine: the craving for vengeance on Amaral and others who have wronged her is now on full view in her husband. Asked why he is present, he offers no nonsense about being there for Mudelin’. He wants, he says, action, processes put in place to protect “ordinary people”. Against what, exactly? Why, activity which would fall well below the “standards that I would deem acceptable”.
Such as descending on his apartment to discover that his clothes and car have been seized by the police, as described on page 205 of Madeleine? Sorry, that’s us asking, not the inquiry. But Gerry, never strong on either magnanimity or legal details, certainly wishes that the inquiry’s powers stretched over the Portuguese border, for he urges that its resources should be used to track down the Portuguese person who might have leaked his wife’s misbegotten diary, so they can face proceedings for “contempt of court”.
A late episode in his testimony took us straight into Alice in Wonderland and the Red Queen, whose solutions always involved executions all round. Gerry’s calls for condign punishment for “repeat offenders”—journalists guilty of repeated inaccuracies— led to the intervention of the judge himself on behalf of the media! In response to Dr McCann’s mad demand that such repeat offenders should be banned from working at all, Leveson stirred in his seat and tried to bring him back to reality.
“I understand exactly why you're saying that,” said Leveson soothingly, “but just let me share with you the difficulty, that what journalists do is exercise the right of free speech...”
“Sure,” was the Red King’s brisk answer and then he was off again, the chestnut lumps above his cheeks standing forth once more, dealing with his beloved subject of appropriate punishment for his enemies.
“Yes,” said the judge as the end of this peroration, adding, “I wasn’t criticising you at all.”
What’s the score?
So much for the passions. How did he score on the truth index? Any improvement? The essence of Gerry McCanns’ account of their Portuguese experiences followed closely the story first outlined in his Edinburgh Festival interviews and then developed to the Commons select committee.
The media had “descended”, arrived out of the blue, confronting him on his return from Portimao police headquarters.
They were supportive and accurate at first. Then, as news died down and the parents decided to withdraw from their media campaign on behalf of their daughter, the media had to invent stories to satisfy the insatiable demands of their employers.
Most of the inventions were wild and offensive accusations that the parents were guilty of involvement in the death of their child, or even, for example, had “sold her”, much of the stuff being taken from the Portuguese media. These continued until they returned to the UK.
Because of the draconian Portuguese judicial secrecy rules they were unable to counter these monstrous fantasies.
None of this is true.
As all of us outside parliament and inquiry hearings know the media were contacted on a very wide scale during the night of May 3/4 by people working on their behalf and with their consent. With judicial secrecy plus the explicit instruction from the PJ “no media” in place it could not have been the Portuguese who alerted the media, let alone turned an “incident”, potentially liable to be resolved by daybreak like other missing children events, into a huge United Kingdom story. It was only possible for the media to have descended in their hundreds if they had been deliberately alerted en masse by agents of the parents.
For Gerry McCann, though, everything begins not with the group alerting the media, contrary to police instructions, during the night of May 3, but with the sudden appearance of the media crowd on the afternoon of May 4. As he told the commons committee:
“The first impressions really started on day one when we came back to Praia da Luz having spent the day in Portimao at the police station. Clearly, there was a huge media presence there already.”
But perhaps Dr McCann has been reading the demolition of this claim in the Blacksmith Bureau, along with other websites which he tells the inquiry—chestnuts swelling?—he will deal with “going forward”. For he has altered his position just a little, even though, of course, he can’t contradict his previous claims. Now he has added in his written evidence to the inquiry:
”Jon Corner, a good friend and godparent to the twins used his media experience to release a number of pictures of Madeleine to the whole of the UK media in the early hours of the 4 May 2007 to publicise her image.”
So, a tiny change. Yes, but leaving aside all the other emails and phone calls made during the night of May 3, was Jon Corner doing this at the parents’ request?
No. McCann adds in his verbal evidence:
“... a very good friend of ours [Corner]who we spoke to in the early hours of 4 May took it upon himself [our italics] to issue photographs of Madeleine to all the major media outlets in the UK.”
Took it upon himself. That’s clear for the future then.
The change in media reporting
Websites such as the computer generated EMM news tracker listing Madeleine McCann stories certainly show a slackening of new information in July. But there is no correlation with the claims by the pair that they wished to take a lower profile: interviews with the couple in the media are shown not only to have continued unabated but to have increased in length and intensity as they began to defend themselves, rather than concentrating on “the search for Maddie”. The argument that there was a vacuum due to their attempted withdrawal which required filling by invented stories is clearly false.
The new stories
The new stories dating from July were not inventions of the media. Indeed an argument can be made—remember Oldfield crying on May 10—that for the very first time the media were reporting truthfully on the affair: that almost from the beginning, and certainly since May 10 the “search for Madeleine”, stripped of Team McCann/ Alex Woolfall inspired camouflage, consisted of investigation into the Tapas 9’s claims. That was the story but the early reporting, so much approved of, and inspired by, the McCanns, never reflected the reality of what was actually going on.
Both in the House of Commons and in the Leveson inquiry the McCanns have distorted history by deliberately conflating the mad and disgusting inventions of the Express and other gutter papers reaching into September, with the truthful reports starting in July that they were the subject of police investigation themselves, reports which the parents did everything they could to deny or suppress, as Madeleine and Part One of this piece describes.
All along, again exemplified by Gerry McCann’s interviews in Scotland during the Edinburgh Festival, questions about why rumours of their investigation for possible involvement were appearing in both the Portuguese and UK media were met with the repeated response from the pair that it was a “mystery” why the stuff was being printed. But it wasn’t a mystery at all: the McCanns knew perfectly well why. And none of that had anything to do with the later mad and vicious nonsense about “selling Madeleine” and the rest.
That, from early July onwards, the police were deliberately leaking to the Portuguese press while overrating the strength of their evidence is irrelevant to the issue of why the UK were printing stuff suggesting that they were potential suspects: rightly or wrongly they were potential suspects, the media knew it and the parents knew it but chose to deny it.
Hostages to judicial secrecy
Finally, the parents maintained to the inquiry, as before, that they were constrained from answering their critics by the threat of two years imprisonment under the judicial secrecy rules, a quite extraordinary fib in the light of Kate McCann’s revelations in her book of how the pair had time and again successfully evaded the rules using family, friends and allied journalists. This is one example of how the parents ignored that law any time it suited them in the crucial war for the support of the UK public.
Lori Campbell In Praia Da Luz, Sunday Mirror, 12 August: “There is also further "concrete evidence" that Madeleine was still ALIVE when she left the holiday apartment. Her kidnapper had a window of just five minutes to strike - from when dad Gerry last checked on the children until family friend Jane Tanner saw a man carrying away a child she is sure was Madeleine wrapped in a blanket...The new revelations rubbish reports in Portuguese newspapers this week that she was murdered or died in an accident inside the villa. And they come as local police Chief Inspector Olegario Sousa ruled Gerry and Kate out of the inquiry - and admitted for the first time Madeleine could be dead. Now, the Sunday Mirror can give a true picture of what happened when Kate found her daughter missing.”
The information was provided to Lori Campbell by Kate McCann. For a further strong example see the very important “Beyond the Smears” in the Times. The journalist in that story has admitted in writing that he was fed confidential information that had never appeared elsewhere by Gerry McCann. There are many other examples.
And we have:
Madeleine Page 246, September 7: “For a good couple of hours we were on the phone calling family and friends to make them aware of the situation and to give them the green light [our italics] to voice their outrage and despair [to the media] if they wanted to.”
Madeleine Page 246, September 7: “[Justine] was ringing selected newspaper editors in the UK. We knew only too well how we would be portrayed in Portugal that morning and Justine wanted to give the British media a broad outline of what was really going on...”
Gerry McCann answers questions under oath!…
As you can see, the evidence offered by this group of witnesses under the rules of the inquiry is being accepted without close examination for veracity, a procedure which rather suits Kate and Gerry McCann. Nevertheless there was one incident which gives us a very faint hint of how the McCanns might perform under real cross examination, rather than the easy ride provided both here and in the sycophantic commons committee hearings. In his written statement for the Leveson inquiry Gerry McCann wrote:
“When I gave evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport select committee in 2009 a number of questions were [sic] raised as to the presence or otherwise of the PCC during this period and their willingness to get involved. Whilst we understand that the PCC have said they tried to contact us through the British Embassy in Portugal in May 2007 the first we were aware of it was when the PCC gave evidence to the Committee in 2009....however when it came to the reporting of articles both defamatory and otherwise the PCC did nothing that we are aware of. The PCC did nothing proactive before our libel complaint. We did approach the PCC about these articles but the then chairman, Sir Christopher Meyer, explicitly told us that it would be better if we were to seek redress through the courts. I found it amazing that the press regulator could do nothing to regulate the press.”
Now just about every word in this paragraph was a serious misrepresentation of the facts, only this time they didn’t get away with it. It almost certainly came about because, in preparing his written statement for Leveson, McCann had copied out his original stuff for the Commons committee, completely forgetting that he was copying one of his own, er, mistakes. And the Commons committee had checked it out against another witness, Sir Christopher himself, and found it wanting, as one of their reports demonstrated.
The point was that, leaving aside the claim that the PCC had never contacted them, Gerry McCann was saying that Sir Christopher, on behalf of the PCC, was telling him that they didn’t want to know about the false stories and told him to sue instead. Sir Christopher’s version was very different. Which was true?
It appears that Sir Christopher, who clearly has his own views on the truthfulness or otherwise of Gerry McCann, wasn’t willing to leave to chance which version would be accepted by the inquiry. Did he approach Leveson legal staff? Someone, certainly, had drawn the inquiry’s attention to the facts as described in the commons committee report before the McCanns appeared.
…and gets stuffed
Counsel for the Leveson inquiry: There's a whole section [of the report of the commons committee] that goes to that [the PCC] issue. The position I think is—I'm back in your statement, paragraph 101— the PCC's position is that at an early stage they put a message out that they were ready, willing and able to assist you. This was in May 2007. Do you follow me?
Counsel: I think your evidence is, well, you never got that message. Was that right?
McCann: [waffling] If I did, it was lost in the time when we were obviously dealing with lots of things, and I would say probably similar to Mrs Gascoigne who gave evidence earlier this morning, that I was only vaguely aware of the PCC at that time....[continues to waffle]
But counsel took him not just through that rather dodgy answer but to the other issue: who had told the truth about the PCC’s attitude, he or Sir Christopher Meyer?
Counsel: The general thrust of what you were told by Sir Christopher Meyer during the course of an informal conversation...is that if you wanted to deal with the issue of libel, well, then the route was legal recourse, legal action. But if you wanted to deal with it in some other way, then the PCC might be able to help?
That, of course, was Sir Christopher’s version, not his. Counsel for the inquiry then wanted to be quite clear for the record.
Counsel: Does that capture the sense of that meeting?
But McCann wouldn’t say yes or no. Instead he launched into a ludicrously long piece of damage limitation and flannel. Bored readers can ignore it but it gives a flavour of how Dr McCann is likely to deal with issues of the truth in future judicial settings, whether involving libel or other matters. Forget the flannel and remember the simple question: will he now confirm that it was Sir Christopher’s version that is correct, not his own?
McCann: It's probably fair to put in there that I had a number of conversations with Sir Christopher, primarily because we became friendly with his wife, Lady Catherine, through her work with PACT, so on that first occasion I met Sir Christopher and he broadly asked, "How are the media treating you?" and we were very open and at that point we said, "Considering the interest, not too bad”, and we didn't really have too much in the way of specific complaints. I did have further informal conversations and they also dealt with correspondence from Kingsley Napley over the period, but the gist of the conversations, and most of my dialogue with him, informal rather than written, was that we agreed with our legal advice and we took the best legal advice we could get, that the way to stop this was to take legal action and not to go to the PCC and I think Sir Christopher agreed with that.
If you search underneath that garbage you will detect the answer, “yes”: Sir Christopher was correct. He had never told McCann to sue rather than dealing with matters through the PCC; Gerry McCann, on the contrary, had told him, that that was what he was going to do.
Tedious, we know, but just for once we have seen Gerry McCann’s veracity being tested in a legal tribunal concerned with facts, rather than in staged interviews from which he can withdraw, or stalk out of the studio, at any time. For some of us the result is exactly what we would expect.
As for the rest there was a predictable conflict between the McCanns’ initial and written assertions of being innocent victims of the media, like Mrs Gascoigne perhaps, and the weighty evidence that the two sides were, and remain, as thick as thieves, negotiating, arguing, shouting, dealing, suing and settling right up into 2011, just like the cheap celebs and their agents. Not quite Mr and Mrs Dowler, somehow. But we knew that anyway, didn’t we?
So, the mixture as many times before. After four and a half years they continue to serve up evidence of why we can’t believe what they say. And each time the evidence grows a little stronger. Meanwhile the evidence for abduction…
To see the picture he refers to you will have to go onto the blog.
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