News of the World editor 'berated' Madeleine McCann's parents
The News of the World's editor "verbally beat into submission" missing child Madeleine McCann's parents after they gave an interview to another publication, they said today.
Gerry and Kate McCann agreed to speak to Hello! magazine around the first anniversary of their daughter's disappearance to promote a European alert system for missing children, they told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.
But when Colin Myler, then at the helm of the now defunct Sunday tabloid, found out that his newspaper had been spurned, he was "irate", Mr McCann said.
"He was berating us for not doing an interview with the News of the World and told us how supportive the newspaper had been," he said.
"He basically beat us into submission, verbally, and we agreed to do an interview the day after."
Sitting next to her husband and appearing to rest a hand on his knee, Mrs McCann added that this had come during "an extremely stressful time" for the couple.
"To get a call like this - you actually almost feel guilty", she said.
Mr McCann explained that they had chosen to give an interview to Hello! as it is sold across Europe and it was a European Amber alert system they were campaigning for.
Describing Mr Myler's reaction, Mr McCann wrote in a statement submitted to the inquiry: "In the end we were made to feel so guilty we agreed to give an interview to the News of the World, despite not really wanting to do so."
Madeleine was nearly four when she vanished from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in the Algarve on May 3, 2007, as her parents dined with friends nearby.
Despite a massive police investigation and huge publicity worldwide, she has not been found.
Madeleine's parents said they were hounded by the press as they finally left Portugal and after they arrived home.
Mr McCann said: "The journey to the airport was one of the most terrifying experiences anyone could have."
Cars were cutting in front of them and people were hanging out of windows, he said.
"It was just dangerous," he added.
And when the family got back to their house in Rothley, Leicestershire, the onslaught continued, the inquiry heard.
Journalists were camped outside and helicopters hovered overhead, the McCanns said.
"We were hemmed in the house for a couple of days before the police moved them to the end of our drive," Mr McCann said.
His wife added: "They would often wait for Gerry to go and would know I would have to come out the house at some point with the children."
Photographers would then either spring out from behind the hedge or, on several occasions, would bang on the windows, sometimes with their camera lenses, she said.
She added: "(Madeleine's younger sister) Amelie said to me several times 'Mummy, I'm scared'."
Discussing the pain caused by the false headlines about them that were splashed across some newspapers, Mrs McCann said: "We wanted to shout out 'It's not true', but when it's your voice against a powerful media, there's no point."