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Daily offers apology to murder victim’s mum over bravery award story

A regional daily has offered to apologise to a murder victim’s mother over a story about which she said contained “gratuitous details” about her son’s death.

The Cambridge News carried a report on a bravery award made to Andrew Phelps, who had intervened in the attack in which Andrew Hasler was killed.

Although absolved of any wrongdoing by the Independent Press Standards Organisation over the story, the News offered to write a letter of apology to  Mr Hasler’s mother, Helen Frazier, after she claimed it contained gratuitous details about his death, as well as distressing images of the scene of the attack in which he was killed.

Complaining to IPSO on behalf of both herself and Mr Phelps, Ms Frazier believed it was unnecessary for the details of her son’s death to be included in the article nine months after it had happened, adding it was distressing for her to see images of the attack.

The scene of the attack

The scene of the attack

Mr Phelps had been named as the recipient of “one of the country’s highest bravery awards” after disarming attacker Matthew Sharpe.

Sharpe, who was jailed for 25 years over the offence, was in the process of a frenzied stabbing of Mr Hasler’s girlfriend Charna Knights at the time of Mr Phelps’s intervention.

Complaining under Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Ms Frazier further claimed the article was inaccurate because Mr Phelps had not yet received the award, and also misleading because the News had not acknowledged that her son had also stepped in to save Ms Knights.

Denying a breach of Code, the News repsonded that the article had been provided by a reputable news agency and did not believe the details included in the report were gratuitous, adding the article was intended to highlight the bravery Mr Phelps had shown in a dangerous situation.

The newspaper said that it had not intended to cause any further distress and had removed the word “bloodbath” from the online article as soon as it was contacted by the complainant, adding the pixilated photograph included in the story showed only the assailant being arrested in the street.

The News added the article had made clear that Mr Phelps had not yet been physically awarded the medal, but that it had been confirmed that he would receive the award. and provided a copy of a document issued by the committee of the awarding organisation which confirmed yes to all publicity for this award.

During the complaints process the News offered to write the victim’s mother a letter of apology, to remove the photograph of the assailant being arrested from the online article, and to circulate a note to all staff to remind them of their obligation to report such matters sensitively.

It also offered to contact the victim’s mother in advance in future if any other articles on this matter were going to be published.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.