Madeleine McCann photo use in holiday ad 'vile'

A travel firm has said the use of an image of Madeleine McCann on an independent website to promote its holidays in Portugal is "vile".

The advert, on VoucherDigg.co.uk, used a photo of Madeleine released by her parents soon after she disappeared.

It was used to illustrate deals offered by lowcostholidays.com.

Clarence Mitchell, a McCann family spokesman, told Sky News that the misuse of the image was "utterly appalling and frankly unforgivable".

A spokesman for lowcostholidays.com said it had no advertising contract with VoucherDigg and had been trying to get the image removed. VoucherDigg has not commented.

Lowcostholidays described VoucherDigg as a company that "picked up deals and offers via an affiliate network" and said it had "previously featured holidays from lowcostholidays.com as well as many other well-known holiday companies".

But consent to feature its holidays had not been given, it added.

'Lawyers contacted'

Chief operating officer Lawrence Hunt said: "We have no contract with VoucherDigg to advertise our holidays and we are doing all that we can to contact the website and get the picture removed.

"We discovered this vile material yesterday and immediately broke all the [web] links to our site and contacted our lawyers.

"We apologise for any distress this may have caused which is completely beyond our control and are disgusted by the use of this image."

Mr Mitchell said: "It needs to be taken down immediately. Kate and Gerry were horrified when they found out about it. It is offensive in the extreme.

"Whether it's a mistake or hacking it's an utter disgrace."

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Media captionKate and Gerry McCann interviewed May 3 2012

Madeleine, of Rothley, Leicestershire, was nearly four when she vanished from her family's holiday apartment in the Algarve.

Events have been held recently to mark the five-year anniversary of her disappearance - including a church service at her grandparents' church in Liverpool.

Last week, her parents Kate and Gerry McCann said they had "no doubt" Portuguese authorities would reopen the investigation.

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