Murat's £½m damages in Madeleine case

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ROBERT Murat, an official suspect in the Madeleine McCann case, is to receive damages of more than half a million pounds from UK newspapers over allegations he was involved in the three-year-old's disappearance.

He sued for libel and has now settled his claim in a deal that will also result in him receiving an apology, his spokesman said yesterday.

Mr Murat, a British expat, was questioned by police after the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine, who vanished from an apartment in the Algarve, Portugal, in May last year. He denied any involvement in her disappearance.

He is still an official suspect – or arguido – in Portugal.

His case against the media was due to be heard tomorrow, but he has reached a settlement for about 550,000.

In April, Mr Murat's lawyers, Simons Muirhead and Burton, revealed they were pursuing 11 leading British newspapers and Sky TV over allegedly libellous reports. In their statement they named the Sun, Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star, Daily Mail, London Evening Standard, Metro, Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, News of the World and The Scotsman.

The Scotsman has already apologised to Mr Murat and paid his legal costs for that part of his complaint.

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for Mr Murat said a settlement and written apology had been agreed with the other newspapers, and a statement would be read at the High Court in London today.

Mr Murat, 34, was questioned by police 11 days after Madeleine went missing from the Praia da Luz resort on 3 May, 2007.

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

Last month, Mr Murat said he hoped the return of computers seized from him by police signalled they were soon to drop his arguido status.

His mother, Jenny Murat, has always maintained she was with her son at home on the night of Madeleine's disappearance. And Mr Murat has consistently and strenuously denied any involvement.

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

Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, also remain official suspects in the inquiry.

In March, they reached a similar libel settlement and got an apology from Express Newspapers for suggesting they had been responsible for her death.

Express Newspapers paid 550,000 to the Find Madeleine campaign, and the Daily Express and Daily Star issued front-page apologies admitting the stories were inaccurate.