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Bilton asked 'to spy on' Murat By McCann 'supporters'

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Bilton asked 'to spy on' Murat By McCann 'supporters'

Post  jeanmonroe on Wed 3 May - 14:35

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/family/bbc-panoramas-richard-bilton-supporters-mccanns-asked-act-spy/

BBC Panorama's Richard Bilton: 'Supporters of the McCanns asked me to act as a spy - I declined'

Richard Bilton, BBC Panorama
3 May 2017 ē 11:40am

It is the story I keep returning to. For ten years, Iíve travelled to Portugal; talked to police officers and contacts; followed developments. But the facts have never changed.
Madeleine McCann disappeared ten years ago today, and we still donít know what happened to her.
I was sent to Praia da Luz in the first days after her disappearance. The village is a collection of modern villas and apartment blocks sat between fields and a golden beach. Apart from the church and the fort, itís hard to find anything more than 30 years old. Itís built for families like the McCanns. Middle-class Brits who want time in the sun.
Iíve come to view Luz in a different way. The holidaymakers only see the beach and the restaurants. They donít think of crime. Theyíre not aware of their vulnerability.
In the weeks before the McCanns arrived in Luz there had been a mini-crime wave. There had been two burglaries in the apartment block where they were staying. British police still think Madeleine might have gone missing during a burglary that went wrong.
I spent much of 2007 in Portugal. It changed from being a missing person story to something else. Something approaching a national obsession.
Those early days were hectic: filming searches, briefings, family statements. I was expecting to be in Luz for a week. But it never stopped. There was always more. I spent much of 2007 in Portugal. It changed from being a missing person story to something else. Something approaching a national obsession.
As a reporter, Iím not often recognised or approached. Now, people were coming up to me at petrol stations or in supermarkets. They all wanted an answer to the same question: What had really happened to Madeleine McCann?
I was offered a deal by supporters of the McCanns. If I spied on the press pack, and passed on any stories I heard about the first suspect, Robert Murat, Iíd be given leads from inside the camp. I declined. Richard Bilton, BBC Panorama
I didnít know then and I donít know now. But I wanted to know. My relationship with the case was changing. Reporters rarely bring stories home. Itís healthy to leave them in your laptop. But this case was different because I was with it all the time, but there were no answers.
Night after night Iíd broadcast live from outside apartment 5a Ė the last place Madeleine was seen. As I waited in the dark, Iíd stare at the windows and doors, turning over the theories. Itís such a bland little flat. It gives up no clues. But something happened in there. A little girl went missing and she has never been found.
There were strange moments. I was offered a deal by supporters of the McCanns. If I spied on the press pack, and passed on any stories I heard about the first suspect, Robert Murat, Iíd be given leads from inside the camp. I declined.
The McCann family have 'said' they 'knew nothing about it'. I recently told Robert Murat, whoís long since been cleared. He seemed genuinely upset.

There were a few times when it felt like we were close to a breakthrough. I remember racing to a location in southern Spain. Weíd been told the police had a major lead. But it was a gang trying to make money. Madeleine wasnít there.
Over that first summer, suspicion moved towards her parents. The relationship between local and British journalists altered. At one point a Portuguese crew started shouting questions at me. They wanted the BBCís reaction. My slightly half-hearted, "I donít think itís for me to comment" made the evening news.
Reporting facts had become difficult, as there were none. Just lots of demand. UK tabloid newspapers were lifting unattributed leaks from Portuguese papers and running them as headlines.
When the story of blood being found in apartment 5a broke, it was initially based almost completely on Portuguese leaks. I had to do a live update for the BBC News at Ten.
I thought the viewers would expect me to tell it straight: "I know where these stories are coming from, but theyíre rumours, and I donít know if theyíre true."
I got calls from colleagues praising my honesty. A cameramanís reaction was more straightforward: "Great live. What wonít you know about tomorrow night?"
The story continued to twist and turn. By late summer the McCanns had become the main suspects. Iíll never forget the days they were questioned. They were brought to the town of Portimao. The tight streets around the police station were lined with film crews and journalists from around the world. Locals gathered too, and booed when Kate McCann arrived.
The Portuguese case against the McCanns looked weak then. It looks preposterous nowRichard Bilton, BBC Panorama
Later in the day, the familyís spokeswoman breathlessly confirmed to a knot of journalists that the police had accused Kate McCann of involvement in her daughterís death. They were offering her a deal.
It was an extraordinary moment. I had met Kate and Gerry McCann several times. Could they really have had something to do with their daughterís death? I couldnít believe it. The Portuguese case against them looked weak then. It looks preposterous now.
I have no relationship with Madeleine McCannís parents. As I have examined the case over the years, I have received warning letters from their lawyers, Carter Ruck. But I have never seen anything that makes me doubt their innocence, and I have always felt for them as parents enduring an ongoing nightmare.
Two days after they were questioned, the McCanns returned to the UK. I was told in the middle of the night that they were leaving. I went to their villa at dawn. There were scores of journalists gathered by their gates. As the McCanns headed to the airport they were pursued by a snapping, filming pack. Camera crews hung out of windows and sun roofs. It was as dangerous as it was unedifying. But they were home, and the story had moved to a new stage.
Since that first, mad summer I have returned to Luz many times. The village has tired of the attention. Reporters are no longer welcome. But interest in Madeleine McCann has never dipped. The publication of the PJ Files Ė the records of the Portuguese investigation Ė and the appearance of websites dedicated to the case have allowed anybody to study the details. People used to ask my view. Now they tell me theirs.
I have no relationship with the McCanns. But I have never seen anything that makes me doubt their innocence, and I have always felt for them as parents enduring an ongoing nightmareRichard Bilton, BBC Panorama
As a journalist, I have tried to look at the case from every angle. We have made three Panorama programmes. Iíve looked for evidence, witnesses and clues. Iíve spent time with police officers from the UK and Portugal. Whatís striking is how little is truly known. After so much police hard work, itís still theories and ideas. Both forces Ė here and in Portugal Ė say they continue to investigate. "It isnít over", they say. Iím glad.
I would love to report on the resolution of this mystery. To finally know what happened on that night ten years ago. But the truth about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann still seems as far away as ever.
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