see article →Scotsman; Published 08/12/2007
Scots tycoon attacks 'scurrilous allegations' as he comes out as McCanns' secret funder
ONE of Scotland's most wealthy businessmen can today be revealed as the mystery donor helping fund the fight to clear the names of Madeleine McCann's parents. Stephen Winyard, who owns the luxury Stobo Castle spa in Peebleshire, has spoken publicly for the first time since pledging 100,000 to help meet the escalating legal costs of Gerry and Kate McCann. In an exclusive interview with The Scotsman, Mr Winyard revealed he has already paid for DNA tests carried out on the Renault Scenic hire car used by the McCanns nearly four weeks after Madeleine's disappearance. The 58-year-old father-of-three has remained in the shadows since offering a 1million reward for four-year-old Madeleine's return in May. But he said he could no longer remain silent as “scurrilous allegations” continue to be directed towards Mr and Mrs McCann. He said he wanted to highlight the results of the tests on DNA recovered from the car, and on hair samples from Kate McCann and Madeleine's brother and sister. Portugese police believe that DNA recovered from the boot of the car suggest Madeleine's body was carried inside the vehicle. Meanwhile, Portuguese newspapers have alleged that hair samples from Kate and Gerry McCann's children show the couple sedated the two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie, and Madeleine on the night she disappeared.
Mr Winyard stated that the findings of their own tests, by Home Office-approved forensic scientists, refuted these claims.
“The reason I am breaking cover is to highlight the findings of that report,” he said. “The conclusion of the report was that no DNA was found that in any way implicated Gerry and Kate in Madeleine's disappearance. The further test that was commissioned, basically a hair drug test, also refuted the fairly scurrilous accusation that the twins were sedated or that Kate took sedatives herself.” Mr Winyard, who splits his time between Stobo Castle and his home in Monaco, was approached by Gerry McCann for financial help in September. The businessman agreed to offer an initial sum of 100,000 - a figure matched by Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson. Double-glazing magnate Brian Kennedy is also donating money to help the McCanns clear their name. Mr Winyard said the three were sharing the costs between them. “I think the McCanns are entitled to the best legal defence they can muster to refute these scurrilous allegations. I remain absolutely confident there is totally insufficient evidence to link them to Madel-eine's disappearance and I'm absolutely confident that in the fullness of time they will be fully exonerated,” he said. Mr Winyard “simply could not stand by and watch” as the couple endured the worst possible hell. “I think you have to be a parent to fully understand, to some degree, what they're going through, to understand their loss,” he said.
Mr Winyard, who has met Gerry twice and Kate once, said the couple “deeply resented” the allegations made against them in the Portugese press. “Their main concern is to get their suspect status lifted so that the search for Madeleine can continue. Some of the reporting in the British press has been less than fair. The blanket coverage of every aspect of their lives, the littlest things that they do, creates, I think, the impression in people's minds that they are somehow responsible for what happened to Madeleine. This is all to do with getting the focus back on finding Madeleine. Both Gerry and Kate have been through an absolute nightmare over the last seven months and they're facing some very difficult weeks with Christmas coming up.”
Mr Winyard criticised the lack of public support offered to the McCanns by the Prime Minister. Gordon Brown initially spoke to the McCanns several times on the phone. But since they were declared suspects by the Portugese authorities, lines of communication had come to a halt. “This government was elected to look after its citizens,” said Mr Winyard, “and it's fair to say it's a fundamental principle of our legal system that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. With that in mind, I would really strongly urge that Gordon Brown, who has previously been really supportive, accede to our request for a meeting at ministerial level.” He acknowledged that the McCanns' decision to leave their children in their apartment at Praia da Luz while they dined had “divided opinion. It is something the McCanns will have to live with,” he said. A Downing Street spokesman said: “We do not comment on ongoing cases.”