Page last updated at 15:25 GMT, Thursday, 17 July 2008 16:25 UK

Court 'vindicates' McCann suspect

Robert Murat outside High Court
Robert Murat was in London to reach the damages settlement

Madeleine McCann suspect Robert Murat has accepted a 600,000 settlement from 11 British newspapers in a libel claim.

Mr Murat told the BBC in an exclusive interview that the court award represented a "vindication".

He said the more than 100 articles and sensational headlines about him had caused the "total and utter destruction" of his life.

Mr Murat said: "I would have preferred to have not gone through it, than had to get to this stage."

He said an apology from the papers allowed him to "rebuild his life".

"I have to live my life knowing that I was linked to this situation but with a strong family I do have a future, I do feel I have a future - now which direction that takes me in I don't know. At this moment I have no idea."

I do think the case should continue - I do think they should carry on to find that child
Robert Murat

Mr Murat is still an official suspect - or arguido - in the three-year-old's disappearance in Portugal in May 2007.

He said: "I don't want to be an arguido... I want to carry on with my life. But it doesn't necessarily mean I want the case to be shelved in Portugal. I do think the case should continue - I do think they should carry on to find that child."

The 34-year-old had travelled from his home in the Algarve to accept the settlement at London's High Court.

His then girlfriend Michaela Walczuch and IT consultant Sergey Malinka also brought proceedings against Associated Newspapers, Express Newspapers, MGN Limited and News Group Newspapers and were awarded "substantial six figure settlements".

Mr Murat's solicitor, Louis Charalambous, said they had taken the action over "baseless inaccurate media coverage".

He said the newspapers had accepted that they had not been involved in Madeleine's disappearance.

Robert Murat speaks exclusively to the BBC

"They accept that Mr Murat's actions after the abduction were entirely proper and were motivated by a desire to help find Madeleine McCann," Mr Charalambous said.

"Until now Robert Murat has had to watch silently as the worst elements of the British media have gone about destroying his good name and reputation."

In an interview with the BBC's Richard Bilton Mr Murat said the media's behaviour had been "disgusting".

"The media does need to have a look at itself and I think that if it can't look at itself I think there has to be some kind of protection for people that don't have the resources to be able to confront them."

The 11 papers involved are the Daily Mail, Evening Standard, Metro, Daily Express, Daily Star, Sunday Express, Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, Daily Record (Scotland), Sun and News of the World.

All the papers have agreed to publish reports of the statement to recognise the distress and damage which they have caused.

600,000 between several very rich papers is pocket change
Andrew Neil
Former newspaper editor

"The defendants apologise to each of the claimants for publishing false allegations about them", Keith Mathieson the papers' solicitor said. "They very much regret the distress these publications caused".

Outside the court Mr Murat said: "I am pleased that the publications concerned have today admitted the falsity of all their allegations and I can now start to rebuild my life."

In March, Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry McCann reached a libel settlement and got an apology from Express Newspapers for suggesting they were responsible for her death.

Former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil said the pay-out to Mr Murat would not stop a similar barrage of stories happening again because the damages were too low.

"The papers have not been hurt enough," he said.

"600,000 between several very rich papers is pocket change."

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