I have been scarred forever by the tabloids – Robert Murat

Robert Murat, who was falsely linked to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, has said his life has been “scarred forever” by the tabloid press.

The British expatriate, speaking at the Cambridge Union Society yesterday (Thursday, March 5) evening, said the intense press interest in him for eight months turned his home village of Praia da Luz into a “ghoulish carnival” and “nearly destroyed” his family’s lives.

“There was never a shred of evidence that I was in any way involved, despite eight months of lurid headlines. At times, I felt like a fox being pursued by a pack of hounds,” he said.

“But could the acres of newsprint devoted to publishing inaccurate and hurtful stories about me have been put to better use in finding Madeleine? “I have dwelt on that a lot, agonised about it and the fact is we’ll never know.”

Saying he felt like “a fox being pursued by a pack of hounds”, Robert Murat added that he often felt like he was somewhere between “a Kafka novel and the Will Smith movie Enemy Of The State”.

After Madeleine disappeared, he, like other locals, felt a natural urge to help and since he was fluent in English and Portuguese he “pitched in” by helping police translate British witnesses’ statements.

Robert Murat was at the university to propose the motion This House Believes Tabloids Do More Harm Than Good.

Also speaking in support were British MP Lembit Opik and Guardian assistant editor Michael White.

The motion was opposed by media consultant Peter Bazalgette and Sport Newspapers editor-in-chief Murray Morse.

Four national newspaper groups apologised for publishing false allegations about Robert Murat at a court hearing in July.

News International, Mirror Group Newspapers, Express Newspapers and Associated Newspapers acknowledged making “false claims”, in a statement read out in the High Court.

In November, Mr Murat accepted libel damages in settlement of an action against British Sky Broadcasting.