Resolution Statement 04374-18 Bowen v Worcester News
Summary of Complaint
1. Patrick Bowen complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Worcester News breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) in an article headlined “1905 murder mystery finally solved in 2018” published on 21 February 2018.
2. The article reported on the 1905 death of a local man, which had been recorded at the time as death by drowning. It reported that a local historian had researched the circumstances of the death and had received information from a woman in Australia - the owner of a historical letter. The article stated as fact that the information included in this letter “solved” the “murder” of the man, and named Harry Bowen as responsible.
3. The article also appeared online with the headline “1905 Worcester murder mystery finally solved in 2018 after amazing coincidence”. It was substantially the same as the print article.
4. The complainant was a relative of the man named as responsible for the death. He said that the article was based only on hearsay; it was not established that the death was even a murder, let alone that Harry Bowen was responsible for it, and it was misleading to present this speculation as fact.
5. The publication said the article had been written by a successful local author, and had been accepted in good faith; it had not seen the letter which the author claimed was the basis for the article as it remained in Australia. The publication said that readers would be aware that the facts of any historical death could not be conclusively proved, but accepted this could have been made more explicit.
Relevant Code Provisions
6. 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.
7. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
8. During IPSO’s investigation, the newspaper offered to publish the following statement on page 10, and as a standalone correction on its website:
“In a Crime Files article published in January this year, titled ‘1905 Murder Mystery finally solved in 2018’ the Worcester News stated that new evidence in the form of a historical letter showed that Harry Bowen was the murderer of Alfred Heeks. However, there is no evidence of Mr Heeks’ death being a murder or that Harry Bowen was involved in the death in any way. We are happy to clarify this point, and apologise to the Bowen family for any upset caused.”
9. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.
10. 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: 11/07/2018
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 05/12/2018
Back to ruling listing