The coverage of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has been compared to coverage of reality show Big Brother by former Daily Express editor Peter Hill.
He denied being “obsessed with the McCann story” and dismissed claims made by Nick Fagge, a former Express reporter, who has also given evidence to the Leveson Inquiry.
Hill defended the coverage, and said: “It was nothing to do with an obsession, it was more to do with a method of working”.
Fagge told the inquiry last year: “The Madeleine story was on the front page of the Daily Express more than any other newspaper, because he decided it would sell newspapers, it became an obsession of his”.
Hill said the reporter had “misunderstood” the reasons why he repeatedly used the story, and that the paper had been reflecting the interest of the readers. He said this was also the case with numerous articles on Big Brother and Princess Diana.
Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, questioned whether coverage of the McCanns could be compared to stories about a reality programme and caused Hill became angry when it was suggested he encouraged “whacking the story” into the paper.
He accused Jay of using “judgmental” language and said: “The fact of the matter is this is a public inquiry and I do not believe that I’m on trial”.
Hill denied accusing the McCanns of killing their child, and said: “The story that I ran were the people that did accuse them and those were the Portuguese police”.
He added that checking allegations made against the McCanns was difficult, saying the Express “did the best we could do which was not very much”.
The editor confirmed that he had not been disciplined by Express Newspapers following a libel payout of £550,000 to the McCanns.