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Former Harlow solicitor could face jail over McCann allegations

By Harlow Star  |  Posted: November 01, 2012

Tony Bennett

Comments (70)

A RETIRED lawyer from Harlow is facing the threat of  a jail sentence for contempt of court following his latest run-in with the parents of missing  Madeleine McCann.

Tony Bennett (65), of Chippingfield, Old Harlow, has been accused of multiple breaches of formal undertakings he signed in November 2009 in which he agreed to stop making allegations that Madeleine’s parents – Kate and Gerry McCann – were involved in covering up their daughter’s death in 2007.

Three–year-old Madeleine went missing in May 2007 from an apartment complex in Praia da Luz, Portugal, where her parents had been holidaying with friends.

The McCanns believe their daughter was kidnapped and have mounted a high-profile campaign in a bid to find her. But despite widespread investigations by both the Portugeuse and British police, she has never been found.

In 2008 Mr Bennett published a controversial book – What Really Happened to Madeleine McCann – in which he made  a number of allegations relating to the case

Last Wednesday lawyers acting for the McCanns went to the High Court in London to argue that Mr Bennett had persisted in spreading false allegations against them both online and in print and as a result they were now seeking his imprisonment – or other punishment – for alleged contempt of court.

For his part, Mr Bennett is asking the court to vary the undertakings he gave in 2009 so he can publish what he claims is "credible evidence" that Madeleine died in the holiday apartment, that her parents have covered this up and have lied about matters connected to her reported disappearance.

The court heard the McCanns denied there was any truth in any of the allegations which Mr Bennett "wishes to be free to make" and argued that his continued publication of "numerous grave and actionable libels" against them amounted to harassment.

Mr Justice Tugendhat underlined the vital importance of court orders and undertakings being obeyed and directed that the couple’s case against Mr Bennett should be heard "as soon as practicable".

Speaking to the Star this week, Mr Bennett  vowed to fight for his right to free speech and said he believed he had "valid" arguments for his defence.

"Britain’s libel laws are so oppressive that I had no alternative but to agree to the terms of the formal undertakings set out by the McCanns’ lawyers in November 2009," he said.

"Of the 16 undertakings I signed there are only three which I am alleged to have broken. I want to make it absolutely clear that I have never claimed the McCanns killed or were responsible for Madeleine’s death."

He added: "I believe that in a country where freedom of speech is valued so highly I should have the right to publish what I believe to be credible evidence about what happened to Madeleine."

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  • Harlow Star  |  November 02 2012, 2:01PM

    Pete, do not put words into my mouth, thank you very much. I am not concerned with Mr Bennett's views - only what I have deduced myself. This case,for those who think it an amusing pastime, should start looking at the wider implications for future democracy. Or perhaps Eastenders is their bag.

  • Harlow Star  |  November 02 2012, 1:55PM

    TW, Well the McCanns have asked for the case to be reopened. It was their campaign to get a review that has led to the Scotland yard and PJ review. The McCanns are the ones who have tried to get the case reopened, not their haters.

  • Harlow Star  |  November 02 2012, 1:52PM

    Luz, I have read the originals too, and what you are claiming is untrue. There is not one bit of evidence in them against the McCanns, and the final report clearly states the McCanns are not believed to have committed any crime. Bennett's claims do not have any basis in facts found in the PJ files. Terry, I think you will find that Scotland Yard do not reveal their evidence during an investigation just because people on the internet demand it. There is no evidence against the McCanns, both the PJ and Scotland yard have stated this. So to support hate campaigns against them and making false claims is just sick. Bennett is the one making the claims and claiming they are true, so he is going to get his day in court where he will have to prove his claims are true. I also wonder how much Bennett spent translating the documents correctly, I suspect not a penny, and that he just read them on the internet rather than bothering to actual ensure he had the correct versions.

  • Harlow Star  |  November 02 2012, 1:51PM

    Well Pauli, until facebook and twitter start to take more responsibility and stop people like Bennett libelling, there will be people who both carry out misdeeds and those who wish to balance the arguments or give an alternative viewpoint. In tis instance Mr Bennett has done much harm to the Mccanns and others before and since.

  • Harlow Star  |  November 02 2012, 1:49PM

    What chance is there of ever getting this case reopened when the McCanns threaten anybody who dares to say there was no abduction, and the McCanns have been allowed to preach this as a FACT for years now. The McCanns only want the case reopened if the investigators would agree to look away from the apartment, and the findings of those dogs.

  • Harlow Star  |  November 02 2012, 1:43PM

    This whole case has become an example of how the Internet can be MISused. There are sets of forums on each side- pro and anti McCann which both claim the high ground. They all thrive on half truths, misunderstandings, conspiracy theories and inadequate understanding of processes, forensics and science. The only important facts are: 1/ Madeleine is not where she should be. 2/ No legal authority has found enough evidence to charge anyone with anything (whether neglect or something worth) 3/ Competing groups of Internet Nutters, Conspiracy Theorists, Trolls, Busy-bodies and people with no interest in real life, are in a stupid battle on the Internet which causes plenty of heat but no light to fall on the matter. Why don't you all go home, stop turning a sad event into something for your personal amusement and leave it to the COMPETENT authorities to act on the matter. I am sick of the lot of you.

  • Harlow Star  |  November 02 2012, 1:43PM

    Rosalind, So you agree with Bennett that the British police are inept, and part of the cover-up? Because they have said it was a stranger abduction, and the PJ have stated there was not a single piece of evidence against the parents.

  • Harlow Star  |  November 02 2012, 1:42PM

    It's ridiculous how people discredit documents they can't even read in the original - I have the original portuguese CD obtained in Portimão for those that stil discredit the translations. I concur with Tony: Mr. Bennett is only guilty of trying to divulge what the PJ and the Public Ministry reported in a very public way in Portugal, but which the British media avoided (I still wonder why?!). His papers, postings and small books were only parcels of the documents emitted by the Portuguese authorities to the public, why should he be condemned to make available to the British what Portuguese and so many other Europeans knew?

  • Harlow Star  |  November 02 2012, 1:40PM

    can any one pleasee show me any evidence of an abduction

  • Harlow Star  |  November 02 2012, 1:39PM

    Ken...but Bennett has not told the TRUTH and he is unlikely to concede and say he has lied either.