A deputy editor has spoken out over a “hugely damaging” story about an alleged assault on a TV dancer after police halted their investigations into the incident.
As previously reported on HTFP, Andy Sykes, deputy editor of Blackpool daily The Gazette, appeared on BBC 5 Live to defend his paper’s patch after The Sun claimed “local louts” had been responsible for the supposed attack on Strictly Come Dancing star Gorka Marquez.
The Sun reported that Mr Marquez had two teeth smashed when he walked with friends after filming an episode of the programme at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom.
However, subsequent enquiries to Lancashire Police by The Gazette revealed no complaint had been made by the dancer, and the force now says it has found no evidence of the alleged attack.
In a comment piece on the investigation’s closure, Andy wrote: “It appears we will never know what happened to poor old Gorka. Is this is a case of tabloid sensationalism or was the Strictly dancer really attacked and left injured by a feral pack of Blackpool thugs?
“Whatever the truth, this tale has been hugely damaging to our town. Blackpool people are the first to criticise things about the town… but woe betide any outsiders having a pop about us without any fair justification.”
Mr Marquez was not quoted in The Sun’s initial story and refused to make a complaint to police, tweeting only a message thanking his fans for their support following his “experience”.
The tabloid claimed a BBC spokesman told them he was attacked by a gang of youths while reportedly walking to a nightclub, while a spokesman for Strictly later said he was getting out of a car when a “random group of lads” ran past and assaulted him.
Mr Marquez has since ignored The Gazette’s offers to clarify what happened.
Andy added: “Marquez wasn’t actually quoted in The Sun’s story but he has had plenty of opportunity since to tell us exactly what happened. But the longer it dragged on, the harder it perhaps became to unspin the story.
“Council leaders are understandably reluctant to criticise anything to do with Strictly as it is undeniably amazing kudos for the town and the highlight for many in the calendar. It shows the Tower Ballroom in all its wonderful glory.
“But others are furious our town has been dragged through the gutter without any real explanation. And quite rightly so. People remember the negative headlines.”
Blackpool tourism bosses had sent Mr Marquez flowers during his recovery.
Andy concluded: “While Mr Marquez’s may have made a swift recovery – aided by those lovely flowers no doubt – Blackpool’s reputation may take longer to heal. And that is grossly unfair and should not go unchallenged.”