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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 August 2007, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
McCann attacks media speculation
Gerry McCann in Edinburgh
Gerry McCann was speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival

The father of missing four-year-old Madeleine McCann has asked the media to end the constant speculation about his daughter's whereabouts.

He said there had been "huge amounts written with no substance" and that it was not necessary to "bombard people on a daily basis" with Madeleine's image.

Gerry McCann told the BBC the media campaign to find her would be scaled down and take on a "low-key format".

Madeleine, of Rothley, Leicestershire, disappeared in the Algarve on 3 May.

Unfortunately the human interest side of this is enormous now and that's been very difficult
Gerry McCann

Mr McCann, who is originally from Glasgow, described coverage of the abduction from his family's Algarve apartment as being "10 times greater than we ever possibly imagined".

Although he acknowledged that he and his wife Kate had initially sought publicity, there was now a "lack of control" in the coverage, he said.

He told the Edinburgh TV festival his family had deliberately "tried to withdraw" from the public spotlight and signalled the coverage of the campaign to find his daughter would be scaled down.

"The compromise has always been do we do something because it will help Madeleine," he said.

"Unfortunately the human interest side of this is enormous now and that's been very difficult."

'Wild speculation'

It was not necessary for the media to "bombard people on a daily basis with Madeleine's image" and the couple did not expect to sustain the same level of coverage throughout their campaign, he said.

Everything the family did was being scrutinised, he added, and this had become "very unpleasant".

Madeleine McCann
Madeleine's parents say they still believe their daughter is alive

Police in Portugal have dismissed press allegations that Mr and Mrs McCann were involved in their daughter's disappearance, saying the couple were not suspects in the case.

Mr McCann said that although the British media and photographers had been "very respectful and kept their distance" from his family in Portugal, the pressure on journalists to find a story was leading to "absolutely wild speculation" about what had happened.

"Even early on, there was saturation coverage with nothing to report, and there are commercial decisions being made with filling column inches and time on TV," he said.

"Particularly in the last six weeks, other than the recent searches, there has been nothing."

He said it was the responsibility of TV producers and editors to make it clear when reporters were "talking about speculation".

Campaign 'scaled down'

Mr McCann, interviewed by Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark, said he first realised the scale of media interest when he and his wife returned from the police station soon after Madeleine's disappearance to find "about 150" journalists outside their apartment.

However, he said in order to fill a "void" in details from the police investigation, he and his wife had conducted a series of interviews to raise awareness of Madeleine's disappearance.

The difficulty we have is leaving Portugal as a family of four, when we arrived as a family of five
Gerry McCann

But Mr McCann said he now wanted the story to be "reported responsibly and only newsworthy material" used.

"Staying in Portugal may be counter-productive because of the attention on Kate and I, and that generates pressure on people to write things," he said.

He added that he had now started thinking about returning to the UK and his job as a consultant cardiologist in Leicester.

"I've spent such a long time training and I have got a lot of sub-specialist expertise, and there aren't a lot of people who have that.

"The difficulty we have is leaving Portugal as a family of four, when we arrived as a family of five."

Madeleine disappeared from her family's apartment room in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz while her parents were eating with friends at a nearby restaurant.

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