Resolution Statement 01785-14 Williams v Daily Star

Decision: Resolved - IPSO mediation

Resolution Statement 01785-14 Williams v Daily Star

1. Chris Williams complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Star breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in articles headlined “Flesh eating ‘zombie’ chewed girl’s face off”, published on 7 November 2014, and “Tragic victim of cannibal killer”, published on 8 November 2014.

2. The articles reported that Cerys Yemm had met Matthew Williams on a night out and accompanied him back to his hostel. They reported that the victim had died after an attack by Mr Williams, which the articles alleged involved acts of cannibalism. The articles also included comments from friends and family of the victim, and individuals from the local community.

3. The complainant was the father of Matthew Williams. He said that it was inaccurate to refer to his son as a “cannibal”, as at the time of publication no cause of death had been established. The complainant said that reports of a cannibalistic element to the attack were based on statements by witnesses and locals, which he believed were inaccurate.

4. The complainant and publication agreed to put the complaint on hold until after the inquests were complete and the full details of the event were known.

5. The complainant said that the inquest had found that cannibalism had not taken place, and therefore it had been inaccurate for the publication to report this when it had not been confirmed as fact.

6. The newspaper did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that the article was based on eye witness accounts, which were accurately reported in the article. The publication said that the findings of the inquest did not make the article inaccurate, as it was published before the findings of the inquest were known.

Relevant Code Provisions

7. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Mediated Outcome

8. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

9. Following IPSO’s intervention, the publication offered to publish the following correction in print:

In November 2014 we reported on the murder of Cerys Yemm and subsequent death of her killer Matthew Williams. We said that a witness had seen Mr Williams eating Ms Yemms’ face and we referred to Mr Williams as a cannibal. At the inquest into the deaths of Ms Yemm and Mr Williams, the pathologist confirmed that amongst the 89 separate injuries inflicted upon Ms Yemm, he found 3 or 4 bite marks. However, no parts of her body were missing and the pathologist confirmed there was no evidence of her being eaten.

The publication also removed several online articles and added the above correction to any articles remaining online. The correction also appeared on the publication’s homepage. None of these articles formed part of the original complaint.

10. The complainant said that this resolved the matter to his satisfaction.

11. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.

Date complaint received: 13/11/2014
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 16/06/2017

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