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Complainant Name:
Miss Sarah Kidd

Clauses Noted: 1, 5

Publication: Evening Standard

Complaint:
Miss Sarah Kidd of London complained that an article, which appeared six months after the death of her partner from injuries sustained in an explosion on his boat, intruded into her private grief and shock. The description of two ambulance men’s role in the tragedy was, she said, full of lurid detail, inaccuracy and an offensive insinuation about the woman also injured on the night. The words used by the newspaper should have been chosen with more discretion and checked thoroughly for accuracy.

Resolution:
The managing editor of the newspaper apologised for the hurt the complainant had endured through reliving the incident. Subsequently, the newspaper published the complainant’s letter setting out her strong criticism of the article, contrasting its shocking directness with the sensitive way in which the tragedy had been dealt with by the inquest journalist (this letter can be seen below). Although the complainant remained dissatisfied, believing the newspaper should have taken more responsibility for the content of the article, she decided not to pursue the case further insofar as the PCC’s investigation was concerned.




The time and place for discretion


Sir

Your article ‘The Boat Blew Up’ (11/10/04), which was part of your NHS Champions Awards coverage, appeared without my knowledge, six months after my partner’s death – as a result of terrible injuries sustained in an explosion on his boat in April 2004.


I felt this article to be an invasion of my private shock and grief – full of lurid detail and even some inaccuracy. For example, one of the ambulance men ‘went aboard to find out who was screaming’. He ‘had no idea whether it was a man or a woman’. This is a deeply hurtful and shocking reference to my partner, as are the following: ‘He had the worst head injury’ the ambulance man ‘had ever seen’; ‘95% burns’; ‘the man’s face was in a terrible mess’. Again, an ambulance man said ‘any movement caused him intense pain prompting screams of agony’.


In particular there was an offensive insinuation about the identity of the woman also injured that night. The ambulance men described how ‘Her relationship to the man remained a mystery. We never found out whether she was his wife, daughter or even his mistress.’ I can now confirm that she was simply a friend.


I seriously question the manner in which the article was written. I know my partner would not have wanted his suffering publicised or misrepresented. It was, of course, about the bravery of the ambulance men. They were brave. They tried to save my partner’s life. I am so grateful to them. However, the words used by the newspaper should have been chosen with more discretion and checked thoroughly for accuracy.


The coroner stated at the inquest (25/8/04) that details would be limited to spare loved ones. Subsequently, the inquest journalist coined the phrase ‘a labour of love’ capturing the tragic irony of my partner’s death, referring to his long commitment to building his own boat and the tragic manner in which he and the boat were destroyed; all rather different from the shocking directness of ‘The boat blew up’.


Sarah Kidd
SE10

Report: 71



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