EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS issued a High Court apology in the UK on Thursday, October 6, to friends of Gerry and Kate McCann and agreed to pay 375,000 pounds sterling in libel damages after admitting printing false allegations about the group, known as the Tapas Seven, following the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
Six members of the group were present at the court – Jane Tanner, Fiona Payne, David Payne, Matthew Oldfield, Rachael Oldfield and Diane Webster.
Fiona Payne, speaking on behalf of the group outside the court after the announcement by Mr Justice Eady, said: “The defamatory stories written about us were not only extremely damaging on a personal level but we strongly feel were detrimental in the search for Madeleine.
“Although we are very pleased with today’s result it changes little. Madeleine’s plight remains ongoing: she is still missing, her abductor is still free.”
The group have agreed to donate the damages to the Find Madeleine Fund.
Express Newspaper group will be covering legal expenses incurred by the friends.
A statement read by Adam Tudor of law firm Carter-Ruck, who acted for the group, said: “The defendant (Express Newspapers) accepts that those allegations are wholly untrue and there was no evidence to support them.
“The defendants accept that the actions of the claimants following Madeleine’s disappearance were entirely proper and were motivated by a desire to find Madeleine and support the McCann family through a very difficult time.”
Keith Mathieson, solicitor for Express Newspapers, apologised on behalf of the media group for publishing false allegations about them.
“The defendant regrets the distress caused,” he said.
The award follows previous libel settlements this year by British newspapers to both the McCanns and to Robert Murat.