Page last updated at 09:09 GMT, Sunday, 13 April 2008 10:09 UK

Madeleine suspect to sue media

Robert Murat
Robert Murat denies any involvement in Madeleine's disappearance

A suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann is to sue 11 leading British newspapers and one TV station over allegedly libellous stories.

London-based law firm Simons Muirhead & Burton said it was representing Robert Murat against Sky, the Sun and others.

The 34-year-old Briton, who lives near the Algarve holiday apartment from which Madeleine went missing, denies any involvement in her disappearance.

Reports suggest the action could lead to a record payout of more than 2m.

Villa searched

In a statement, the solicitors, who are specialists in media litigation, said they were taking action against Sky, the Sun, the Daily Express, the Sunday Express, the Daily Star and the Daily Mail.

They also listed the Evening Standard, the Metro, the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror, the News of the World and the Scotsman.

LIBEL ACTIONS
Sun
Daily Express
Sunday Express
Daily Star
Daily Mail
Evening Standard
Metro
Daily Mirror
Sunday Mirror
News of the World
The Scotsman
Sky

Media lawyer Caroline Kean of media law specialists Wiggin told the Observer newspaper that if Mr Murat successfully argued the papers implied he was involved in Madeleine's abduction or murder, he could win a record payout.

"You could expect 200,000 per paper, per claim, and that would clear 2m," she told the paper.

Joshua Rozenberg, legal editor of the Daily Telegraph, which is not being sued, told the BBC the papers will try to prove that what they printed was true.

"The newspapers will now be making their own investigations to see if they can find more information about Mr Murat in order to justify the allegations they printed," he said.

"So they may well be digging around in Portugal to see what they can find out."

Mr Murat was questioned by police 11 days after Madeleine went missing from the Praia da Luz resort on 3 May last year, before being made a formal suspect - or Arguido.

Police searched the villa where he lived with his mother after Sunday Mirror journalist Lori Campbell spoke to the British Embassy and the police about Mr Murat.

The British expatriate, who described himself as half-Portuguese, had become known to journalists and told them he had been helping police with translation work during the search.

Damages

Later, Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, were also named as official suspects in the case.

Under Portuguese law someone can remain an official suspect without charge for as long as the investigation is continuing.

Last month, Mr Murat said he hoped the return of his computers signalled police were to drop his status as a formal suspect soon.

His mother, Jenny Murat, has always maintained she was with her son on the night of Madeleine's disappearance.

Last month Kate and Gerry McCann won a libel settlement and apology from Express Newspapers for suggesting they were involved in their daughter's disappearance.

The newspaper group paid the couple 550,000 in damages.




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