Friday, 30 May 2014

What happened to the News of the World readers' cash?

On May 13 2007, ten days after Madeleine McCann disappeared from an apartment in Praia da Luz, the News of the World announced the "biggest ever newspaper reward" for information leading to Madeleine's safe return.
At 11.10pm UK, Sunday May 13, 2007, the newspaper posted this on its website:

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has made a significant donation to a £1.5m reward for the safe return of Madeleine McCann.
The writer has made the largest, but undisclosed contribution to the News of the World fund, which means £2.6m is now on offer.
British businessman Stephen Winyard offered a £1m reward earlier this week, and a colleague of Madeleine's mum Kate a further £100,000.
Manchester (sic) and England star Wayne Rooney and sweetheart Coleen McLoughlin have also given £25,000 to the newspaper campaign while music mogul Simon Cowell donated a further £50,000.
The reward is for information directly resulting in the safe return of the four-year-old who was abducted in Portugal nine days ago.
Other personalities and leading business figures , including BHS boss Sir Philip Green, Bill Kenwright and Sir Richard Branson, have also joined together in the unprecedented show of support for the family.
Madeleine's father, Gerry McCann said: "Anything that can be done to publicise that Madeleine is missing and help with the search is very welcome."
Portuguese police have also endorsed the reward offer.
The co-operation of the backers means this is the biggest reward ever offered in a newspaper.
Pledges are still pouring into the reward fund - which will be paid out for the crucial piece of information that leads police to Madeleine.
Sir Philip Green, who matched the News of the World's £250,000 contribution, said: "My wife Tina and I have children, and anything we can do to help bring this beautiful little girl back we will of course do without hesitation.
"We are praying for Madeleine's safe return and can't imagine what Kate and Gerry are going through at the moment."
Madeleine was snatched from her parents' Portuguese holiday apartment in the Algarve village of Praia da Luz on Thursday May 3.
The offer is subject to standard News of the World reward offer conditions.
Anyone with information should contact:
Portuguese Police: 00 351 282 405 40
Portuguese (sic) Crimestoppers: 00 44 1883 731 33

While the offers of support from those business people and celebrities were undoubtedly heartfelt and generous, they didn't actually cost them anything. No money changed hands between them and the newspaper.
They didn't actually give, donate or contribute to the News of the World Reward Fund. What they did was pledge. They promised to pay out for "that crucial piece of information that leads police to Madeleine", subject to standard News of the World reward offer conditions. (What those conditions were was never made public.)
In July 2011, Madeleine had still not been found but, as a result of the public uproar surrounding the phone hacking scandal, News International closed the News of the World for good.
With it, we must assume, went those promises to pay.
But there had been money in the reward fund. Real money, not just promises and pledges. It didn't come from anyone famous, just ordinary readers who'd been touched by the story of a missing child.
They had perhaps noticed this article on page 5 of the News of the World on 13 May 2007:

So what happened to that money?

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