EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS issued a high court apology to seven friends of Gerry and Kate McCann, known as the Tapas Seven, in the High Court in London on Thursday and agreed to pay 375,000 pounds sterling in libel damages after admitting to printing false allegations about the group following the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
Six members of the group were present at the high court – Jane Tanner, Fiona Payne, David Payne, Matthew Oldfield, Rachael Oldfield and Diane Webster.
Fiona Payne spoke on behalf of the group outside the court after the announcement by Mr Justice Eady.
“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 all the damages to the Find Madeleine Fund while the Express Newspaper group will be covering legal expenses incurred by the Tapas Seven.
Gerry McCann thanked his friends for donating the money to the fund. “This money will be put to good use for the ongoing search for our beautiful girl. Our friends were under no obligation to pay the damages into the fund. However, they have indicated from day one that this was what they wanted.”
Keith Mathieson, the solicitor for Express Newspapers, apologised on behalf of the media group for “publishing false allegations about them. The defendant regrets the distress caused”.
The damages awarded to the friends follow libel settlements earlier this year by British newspapers to both the McCanns and Robert Murat.
Meanwhile, a drawing of a man suspected of being involved in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has been shown on an American TV show.
The picture was drawn by psychics connected to the FBI, who picked up the name Steve or Stav who they claim was stalking the McCanns while they were on holiday in Praia da Luz last year.
Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for the McCanns, said: “If they have given their files to the police in Portugal they should also pass them on to our investigators.”
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