Robert Murrat wins £600,000: full court judgment

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN’S BENCH DIVISION

BETWEEN:

ROBERT MURAT
MICHAELA WALCZUCH
SERGEY MALINKA CLAIMANTS

– and –

ASSOCIATED NEWSPAPERS LIMITED
EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS
MGN LIMITED
NEWS GROUP NEWSPAPERS LIMITED DEFENDANTS

STATEMENT IN OPEN COURT

Solicitors for the Claimants (Louis Charalambous, Simon Muirhead & Burton):

1. My Lord, in this action I appear for the claimants, Robert Murat, Michaela Walczuch and Sergey Malinka.

2. My friend Mr Mathieson appears for four newspaper groups, the publishers of ten different daily and Sunday newspapers. He appears for Associated Newspapers Limited, publisher of the Daily Mail, Evening Standard and Metro; Express Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Express, Daily Star, Sunday and Express and the book ‘Madeleine’; MGN Limited, publisher of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror (as well as an associated company of the publisher the Daily Record, in Scotland) and News Group Newspapers Limited, publisher of the Sun and the News of the World. These newspapers have a combined circulation in the jurisdiction in excess of 15 million copies as well as a very substantial on-line readership.

3. My Lord, this libel action arises out of the very well known case of Madeleine McCann, the three year old girl who went missing from an apartment in the Portuguese holiday resort of Praia da Luz on 3 May 2007. Mr Murat, Ms Walczuch and Mr Malinka all live in or nearby Praia da Luz.

4. In May 2007 Mr Murat was setting up Romigen, an internet-based estate agency business with Ms Walczuch. He was brought up in Portugal but lived for many years in England where his daughter still lives with her mother, Mr Murat’s former wife. He lived with his mother in a villa in Praia da Luz close to the apartment complex from which Madeleine disappeared. Like many other concerned local residents, Mr Murat and his mother were heavily involved in the search for Madeleine McCann in the days after her disappearance.

5. Ms Walczuch is a friend of Mr Murat who now works as a translator for the German and British communities of the Algarve. She lives in Lagos with her daughter.

6. Mr Malinka is an IT consultant who has lived and worked in the Algarve for the last 8 years. One of his clients was Mr Murat and Ms Walczuch’s proposed new internet based real estate business. He was involved in the design of their website.

7. Following Madeleine McCann’s disappearance last year the defendants published nearly 100 articles about the case in their various newspapers which referred to one or more of the claimants and which were seriously defamatory. Many of these articles were published between May and Novermber 2007 but some were as recent as January this year. Almost all featured Mr Murat, and several featured Ms Walczuch and Mr Malinka. The stories were also published in online editions of the newspapers. Many of the articles were published on the front pages of the newspapers with sensational headlines and striking photographs.

8. The articles published by the defendants strongly suggested that Mr Murat had abducted or been party to the abduction of Madeleine McCann, had lied to Portuguese police about his involvement, and had otherwise obstructed the police investigation into her disappearance including giving false details of his whereabouts on the evening of 3 May 2007. Some of the newspapers suggested that Mr Murat had paedophile tendencies including an interest in child pornography and that he might have been part of a paedophile ring involved in the abduction. Other newspapers stated that Mr Murat’s behaviour was similar to that of the notorious Soham murderer, Ian Huntley. A false claim that DNA evidence had shown that Madeleine had been in Mr Murat’s villa was published. The allegations continued over a period of many months.

9. It was suggested that Ms Walczuch might have been involved in Madeleine’s abduction and that she had been seen with a young girl answering Madeleine’s description shortly after Madeleine’s abduction. Some of the newspapers also suggested that she had lied about her whereabouts on the night of Madeleine’s abduction, might have been part of a paedophile ring and had been cast out of her church.

10. Of the first three defendants, some published allegations that Mr Malinka was involved in Madeleine’s abduction with Mr Murat; some suggested Mr Malinka had lied about a telephone call to Mr Murat on the night of the abduction and about the extent of their acquaintance; others suggested that he was a sexual pervert who had convictions for sex offences, boasted of sex with young girls and had an interest in child pornography.

11. The defendants are here by their solicitor today to acknowledge that the allegations they published about the claimants are entirely untrue. In particular, the defendants accept that none of the claimants had any involvement whatever in the abduction of Madeleine McCann. They accept that none of the claimants has any paedophile tendencies or connection with paedophiles or paedophile websites and that none of them lied to the police or obstructed the investigations. They accept that Mr Murat’s actions after the abduction were entirely proper and were motivated by a desire to help find Madeleine McCann. He became a volunteer translator for the Portuguese police and did everything he could to assist the investigation. Ms Walczuch was never suspected or accused of any involvement in the abduction of Madeleine McCann. Mr Malinka was not guilty of any sexual misconduct and has no criminal convictions.

12. The defamatory allegations against Mr Murat, Ms Walczuch and Mr Malinka should never have been made are unreservedly withdrawn. The defendants wish to make unreserved apology for the false defamatory allegations which they published.

13. In recognition of the immense distress and damage which they have caused, all ten newspapers represented in Court today have agreed not just to join in the reading of this statement but also to publish reports of this statement and apologies. They have also agreed to pay very substantial libel damages to each of the claimants and to pay their legal costs.

Solicitor for the Defendants (Keith Mathieson, Reynolds Port Chamberlain LLP):

14. My Lord, on behalf of the Defendants, I confirm what my friend has said.

15. The defendants apologise to each of the claimants for publishing false allegations about them. They very much regret the distress these publications caused and in acknowledgement of that I confirm that the defendants have agreed to pay substantial damage to each of the Claimants and also to pay their legal costs. The offending articles were withdrawn from the newspapers’ websites when the complaint was received.

Solicitor for the Claimants:

16. My Lord, in the circumstances, I am pleased to confirm that the claimants’ objectives in bringing these proceedings have been achieved.

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3 Responses to “Robert Murrat wins £600,000: full court judgment”

  1. Alex Says:

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  2. AlexM Says:

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  3. Alex Says:

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