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Paper attacked over 'race hate' tragedy

Shropshire Star editor Adrian Faber proved his critics wrong as controversy raged over a double tragedy on his patch.

At a packed public meeting, the paper came under fire for its coverage of the deaths of two members of a Telford family who were found hanged six months apart.

A relative accused the Star of failing to support the McGowan family. One member of the audience claimed that many people did not trust the paper. Another branded its coverage “disgusting”, adding: “I dare the editor of the Shropshire Star to report this meeting fairly and properly.”

The Star carried a straight, 950-word report of the meeting, including the criticisms, with no editorial response.

Earlier, Mr Faber had drawn on personal knowledge of the McGowan family for a Page 1 article attacking national newspaper coverage of the deaths.

He wrote a bylined piece headed “Jason: Is the grief distorting the facts?” over the death of 20-year-old Jason McGowan, who was found hanged from railings six months after his uncle was found hanged at a friend’s home.

The Independent suggested that a racist lynch mob was at work, but Mr Faber wrote: “This gigantic leap from a very personal tragedy that has touched us all to talk of a murdering conspiracy is terrifying.”

Referring to the Independent’s claim that white supremacists in Telford had a death list, he asked: “Does anyone who lives or works in Telford or knows anything about the town believe this is true.”

Mr Faber told readers how he had come to meet Jason McGowan. He had hired him a year earlier as picture desk assistant at the Star. Jason, he said, was “a great young man”, quiet, thoughtful and with an enthusiasm for computers that “puts most of us to shame”.

Jason’s wife, Sinead, works in the paper’s classified advertising department and Mr Faber recalled seeing the couple walking past his office window, deep in conversation, as they went to lunch.

He told how he had stood at the back of a packed church as Sinead McGowan paid tribute to her husband at his funeral.

“Life in newspapers can make you hard but I have no doubt that those few moments when Sinead spoke will stay with me forever,” he wrote.

As police took the unusual step of issuing a detailed statement about the deaths before inquests had been held, Mr Faber added: “It has to be said the evidence to support a racist conspiracy theory is scant. We cannot allow rumour to become reality just because it is repeated often enough.”

Sinead McGowan, who believes her husband was murdered, has lodged a formal complaint with the Police Complaints Authority, accusing police of failing to investigate his death properly because he was black.

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