Latest from the Leveson Inquiry. After the glitz of recent appearances by Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan and Elle McPherson’s former advisor, events took a more serious turn at the Leveson Inquiry with the appearance of Kate and Gerry McCann. The McCann’s three-year-old daughter Madeline disappeared from Portugal in 2007 and has never been found. A clearly upset Kate McCann explained how she reacted when she realised that her private diary where she wrote letters to Madeline had been published in News of the World

“I felt totally violated. I had written these words at the most desperate time of my life, and it was my only way of communicating with Madeleine … There was absolutely no respect shown for me as a grieving mother or a human being or to my daughter. It made me feel very vulnerable and small, and I just couldn’t believe it.”

The diary had been handed in to Portuguese police as evidence and then apparently stolen by a Portuguese journalist and given to the NotW. Then deputy editor Ian Edmondson had told the couple’s spokesperson that a positive story would be running about Madeiline that weekend, but gave no warning of the fact they had Kate’s private diary. “This added to our distress as it gave the impression that we were willing to capitalise financially on inherently private information, which could not have been further from the truth,” said Gerry McCann.

Both parents also spoke of their distress at reading stories in the UK and Portuguese tabloids insinuating their daughter was dead. The appearance of the McCanns transformed the tone of the Leveson Inquiry, writes Dan Sabbagh in The Guardian:

“… what happened to the McCanns at the hands of the tabloid press in the 18 months or so after their daughter’s disappearence was — as their lawyer, David Sherborne, said — little short of a national disgrace. The inquiry heard an account of repeated violations of truth and privacy by every major tabloid, built up over two measured hours of testimony from Gerry McCann, punctuated by Kate’s more emotional contributions. While the couple acknowledged help and support from the press when they received it, their criticisms amounted to a plea for reform that will be very difficult for Lord Justice Leveson to dismiss.”

Sheryl Gascoigne, the former wife of well-known British footballer Paul Gascoigne, also gave evidence at the inquiry, noting she was “scared of the repercussions” that her appearance may bring. Gascoigne recalled how she had been chased by paparazzi while heavily pregnant: “I think they were just waiting for me to give birth on the pavement or something.” She spoke of how she’d run into a police station after a chase with one paparazzi and was told by the police that “there’s nothing we can do unless he touches you.” The former WAG also spoke of how she had to crawl on her hands and knees inside her own home to avoid being photographed by paparazzi outside.

In other news, James Murdoch — whose own dual appearances at the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee sparked questions of his managerial competence — has resigned from the board of News Group Newspapers. The company owns The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times and were the owners of the now defunct NotW. If anybody wanted to pursue damages for breaches of privacy from phone hacking, News Group Newspapers would be named as a defendant in the case. Murdoch remains an executive chairman at News International. — Amber Jamieson

Front page of the day. An amazing photo on the front page of today’s New Zealand Herald:

Sandilands to journo: sorry, but think again about criticising

“Kyle Sandilands this morning refused to back down over the growing row over his personal comments about a journalist who reported negative comments about his TV show.” — mUmBRELLA

Sean Hoare, NotW whistleblower, died of natural causes

“Sean Hoare, the former News of the World reporter and whistleblower, died of natural causes, according to the coroner conducting the inquest into his death.” — The Guardian

Three awards in two days for Guardian‘s Nick Davies

“Guardian journalist who uncovered the extent of phone hacking at News of the World named FPA journalist of the year and will tonight collect Frontline Club award.” —

Southern Cross Media announces buyback

“SouthernCross Media which owns Australian radio and television assets, Thursday said that it intends to buy back around 5.4% of its shares.” — The Australian