Madeleine McCann’s parents told Leveson why they agreed to News International deal
Lord Harris told Exaro: “It was not immediately apparent that this was a case where there was any remit for the Metropolitan Police. Whatever happened did not happen in London.
“There was no particular connection. The McCanns do not live in London. It was simply a decision by the prime minister to ask the Metropolitan Police to review this case.”
Harris said: “That was at a time when the government was pushing through its legislation on ‘police and crime commissioners’, and was making big points that chief constables had to be operationally independent.”
However, the McCann case “appeared very much to be a case where the government was saying we want you to carry out this investigation.”
“I have total sympathy for Madeleine McCann and her family. I would like to see this matter sorted out.”
“But this was, prima facie, direct political interference in an operational policing decision where there would not have been obviously a policing remit for the Metropolitan Police.”
“When I chaired the Metropolitan Police Authority, I was always very clear that, while it was my job in providing political oversight, to ask questions about the resource decisions being taken, it was ultimately their [police officers’] decision to make. I had the right to challenge, but not necessarily to intervene.”
Len Duvall, another former chairman of the authority who succeeded Harris in the role, said: “I would support an extension of the investigation provided that the Met police have new leads to follow up. If they do not, it would be a waste of money at this particular time of constraint in public spending.”
“If the government asks the [Met] commissioner to investigate matters and provides the money, that would be fine, although there is a danger that sometimes police commissioners can be too accommodating to government demands.”
NI negotiated to serialise a book about Madeleine’s disappearance, authored by her mother, Kate. The serialisation would appear in two of the newspaper group’s titles, The Sun and The Sunday Times.
Madeleine’s parents had long campaigned publicly for a review of the case, but they did not participate in NI’s behind-the-scenes lobbying of David Cameron, prime minister, to force him into ordering the review.
A spokesman for the parents said that the review had “allowed the police to investigate thoroughly – and follow up – new leads.”
Madeleine’s father, Gerry, said in testimony to Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into newspaper practices, that they agreed to a deal with NI over the book after meetings with its then chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, and her deputy, Will Lewis.
Gerry told Leveson: “We had a couple of meetings with the general manager and – Will Lewis and Rebekah Brooks and others – and what swung the decision to serialise was News International committed to backing the campaign and the search for Madeleine.”
He and Kate had been trying to persuade “successive home secretaries” to order a review. “We felt that having News International helping in that,” he continued, “is what tipped the balance.”
Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation, which represents police constables, sergeants and inspectors, said: “It is very much for the investigating officers in the case to decide when, and if, the investigation should continue now in its present form, or whether it should be scaled back or, continued.”
“They are the ones who are fully aware of all the facts, and operational decision should not be impinged upon by others who perhaps are unaware of the subtle dynamics in which they are working.”
John O’Connor, former commander of the Met’s Flying Squad, said: “It is worth renewing if they have viable lines of enquiry still open.”
“It would be criminal to stop the investigation if they still have not sorted out all the lines of inquiry.”