McCann spokesman Mitchell tells of phone security fear
- 21 January 2011
- From the section UK
The spokesman for the family of Madeleine McCann says he will contact the police because he believes someone attempted to access information about his mobile phone account and voicemail.
Clarence Mitchell became the family's point of contact for the media after three-year-old Madeleine disappeared from the holiday apartment where her family was staying in Portugal in May 2007.
Journalists from dozens of news organisations around the world regarded him as a key to potential new angles.
I contacted Mr Mitchell after I learned of talk that the McCann story may have been a possible target of phone hacking.
He asked his mobile phone provider, Vodafone, to check his account details. There had been allegations for years about how some journalists got their stories.
"I was always concerned that if some journalists were up to this sort of thing that I might be a target but I had no proof," he said.
Mr Mitchell was told that records of calls made and received were routinely destroyed after about a year.
However, he was provided with some information including details of calls made to Vodafone about his account.
Two instances were drawn to his attention, the first one on 29 February 2008.
Mr Mitchell said: "The operator lists it, saying 'a gentleman called wishing to check the phone', as he gets calls each night from the number and wanting information and is a 'witness on the CID trial for McCanns'.
"Well, that doesn't make sense. It certainly wasn't me that made that call. I would never use that phraseology and there was no such thing as a CID trial for the McCanns. It's ridiculous.
"That appears to me to be a blatant attempt to get information about whose number it was and what was happening. Thankfully the operator didn't give them anything."
'Fishing for information'
Another call was made to Vodafone customer services in July 2008.
Mr Mitchell said: "Basically it [the entry] claims the person ringing - not me, I stress - had received a text message, claiming that a third party had been trying to access their voicemail but there was nothing on the account showing that.
"Well, that's because it isn't true. I never got such a text. Somebody else is again fishing for information here. The Vodafone operator believed they were talking to me as the account holder, that's why they listed it as customer."
Mr Mitchell says he knows "absolutely" that he did not make either call.
On both occasions, he says, "thankfully" the phone company's security measures worked and no information was divulged.
To his frustration, due to the lack of other information now available, he says he cannot trace who might have done this.
"It is impossible to state with any accuracy who was behind these calls. Given the situation that I was in at the time and the amount of journalistic inquiry and traffic that I was receiving on that number, it would be naive of me to think that it wasn't journalistic in its nature.
"This was a cack-handed, pretty low-level, amateurish attempt. I'm angry, I'm shocked by it but I'm not surprised."
Mr Mitchell also said that Kate and Gerry McCann, of Rothley, Leicestershire, had a "very dim view" of some sections of the British press and therefore had a "world-weariness" about the situation.
"They're angered by this and will be upset, but again, like myself, in some respects not surprised that somebody could be so stupid as to possibly try this," he said.