Kate and Gerry McCann
Gerry and Kate McCann arrive at the Leveson Inquiry into media practices at the High Court in central London

The parents of missing Madeleine McCann "were being tried by the media" and faced a barrage of innuendo suggesting they were involved in murdering their missing child, they told the Leveson Inquiry.

Dr Gerry McCann and Dr Kate McCann felt "we were ... unable to defend ourselves adequately", they said.

Madeleine, also known as Maddie, went missing in Portugal on May 3, 2007.

Her parents left Maddie and her younger twin brother and sister sleeping in a holiday apartment as they dined with friends.

When they returned to the apartment, Maddie was no longer there.

Among the press coverage the McCanns told the inquiry about were articles by different titles belonging to Express Group Newspapers, including the Daily Star and Daily Express.

One headline in the Star read "Maddy sold' by hard-up McCanns".

"That's nothing short of disgusting," said Gerry McCann.

Other articles implied the two stored Madeleine's body in a freezer, and took part in wife-swapping orgies, as well as enduring headlines referring to Madeleine as a "corpse".

All claims made in the newspapers were false and the McCanns successfully sued for libel, securing a front page apology and a £550k donation to the Find Madeleine Fund.

However before a deal was agreed, the newspaper group had suggested they do an interview with Hello! Magazine - which it also owned.

Gerry said this was "breath-taking".

An 'irate' call from the News of the World

In the run up to the year anniversairy of Madeleine's disappearance, they struggled to get coverage in the press of a new appeal for information on their daughter's whereabouts.

Reluctantly they gave an interview to OK magazine, to drum up coverage.

They were then called by an "irate" Colin Myler, editor of OK's rival, News of the World.

He criticised them for not giving the interview to his publication, claiming they had done a lot for the couple in the past.

Gerry McCann said they were "berated" and that Myler verbally "beat us into submission" as they caved in and gave an interview.

"This was an extremely stressful time," said Kate McCann.

"It was the run up to the year [anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance] and to get a call l like this, you almost feel guilty ... It's almost like somebody won't help you unless you give something back."

Portuguese police, innuendo and 'arguido'

The McCanns suffered constant innuendo and speculation that they murdered Madeleine, especially when they were questioned by Portuguese police.

In order for someone to have legal representation when talking to the police, they must be declared "arguido" - a person of interest.

Gerry and Kate were declared "arguido" as the police wanted to question them, given they were the last to see Madeleine alive.

Being declared arguido doesn't make you a suspect, however.

It is also illegal for police to speak about any details of an investigation to the press. This means the press rely heavily on speculation.

In turn, the British press picked up on the speculative articles coming out of Portugal and, without verifying the information or checking sources, republished the information.

This lead to "exaggerated", "downright untruthful" and "on occasion made up" reporting by the British press, said Gerry McCann.

'Hurtful' press coverage left them 'totally violated'

One of the most "hurtful" pieces of press coverage, said the McCanns, was a Daily Mirror front page picture of Madeleine under the headline "She's dead."

This article was based on an unnamed police source from a Portuguese newspaper, who had said that they didn't know if she was dead or alive, but that she was "probably dead".

"That was one of the most distressing headlines that was just taken from supposition. It was incredible," said Gerry.

Another article saw the publication of a secret diary written by Kate McCann to her daughter, Madeleine, in the days after she went missing.

Portuguese police seized it as evidence.

An article in the News of the Wold then published extracts from the diary.

Most of it was accurate, though a few words appeared were slightly wrong, suggesting the extracts had been translated from Portuguese to English and that the source had been a police leak.

"I felt totally violated," said Kate.

"I'd written these words at the most desperate time of my life. It was my only way of communicating with Madeleine. It made me feel very vulnerable and small. I just couldn't believe it."

In one incident, a journalist went to Gerry's mother's house and obtained a previously unpublished photograph of Kate, Gerry and Madeleine.

When Gerry found out, he contacted the paper's editor and asked him not to publish it.

After a "stroppy" response with no apology, the editor eventually agreed not to publish it because the McCanns owned the copyright.

A full statement of the McCanns' evidence has been published on the Leveson Inquiry website.