Page last updated at 11:20 GMT, Friday, 1 May 2009 12:20 UK

Couple criticised for flu story

Dawn and Iain Askham
Max Clifford said the Askhams had received 'a lot of money' for their story

The Scottish couple who became the UK's first confirmed swine flu cases have been criticised by a politician for selling their story to newspapers.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott said it was "distasteful" that Iain and Dawn Askham were making money from their ordeal.

Interviews with the couple have appeared in two tabloid newspapers.

But publicist Max Clifford defended their right to put forward their own version of events.

Mr Scott said the Askhams owed a debt of gratitude to the "fantastic" NHS staff who had treated them.

He told BBC Scotland's Morning Extra programme: "We all pay taxes to make sure we can provide the best health service we can.

If it's your story, and the media are going to make money from your story, why shouldn't you make money from your story?
Max Clifford

"In those circumstances, I think our role as citizens is to thank them for the service and to get on with life.

"To make profit out of it at the end - I'm not sure any of us would feel that's a very good place to be after using the National Health Service, because rightly they needed that treatment."

Max Clifford, who represented the couple, said they had received a "lot of money" for their stories but declined to give a figure.

"The press shove cards under their door, saying we will pay you this or that," he said.

"Even if they didn't have the idea themselves, it is soon put in their minds.

"If it's your story, and the media are going to make money from your story, why shouldn't you make money from your story?"

Mr Clifford said there was no "moral problem" with selling a story about a disease that had claimed lives elsewhere.

"They are bringing out the information that people want to read," he said.

"Nothing is being held back, nothing is being hidden.

"The only difference is that they are being paid for it, as opposed to journalists just writing it as they say it."

Mr Clifford revealed he was also representing a man from London who had contracted swine flu, and that his story was likely to appear in newspapers at the weekend.

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