The Daily Telegraph wrongly said an inquest into the deaths of a married couple found the pair died as part of a suicide pact because they were upset that travellers would be moving to a location near their home.
The Telegraph‘s story reported on the deaths of John and Elizabeth Knott. John Knott killed his wife and then died by suicide, IPSO said, and the articles claimed Knott was upset about “a planning application to establish a site for a traveller family on a field close to his home.”
The Telegraph was ordered to publish a correction in the first 11 pages of its print edition for its article. The print headline was “Gipsy camp stress ‘drove couple to suicide pact.'” The Telegraph‘s April online article was headlined “Retired couple carry out suicide pact after travellers move in next door.”
The correction read:
“On 9 April 2015 we published an article headlined ‘Gipsy camp ‘drove couple to suicide pact,” which reported the inquest into the death of John and Elizabeth Knott. In fact, while the inquest heard that Mr Knott had concerns about a proposed traveller camp, it did not, as suggested by the headline, hear evidence that it was the cause of the couple’s death, nor was this a finding of the Coroner. This correction has been published following a ruling by the Independent Press Standards Organisation.”
The Traveller Movement’s Mike Doherty complained about the article, arguing that it was misleading because the coroner didn’t talk about the planning application, IPSO summarized.
Doherty was upset that the article “could contribute to prejudice against the traveller community,” and pointed out errors such as the location of the family’s planning application and whether travellers had “moved in” or not yet.
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Doherty also pointed out the inquest didn’t actually say the Knotts “carried out a suicide pact” and the article didn’t report that a police officer told the inquest Knott was upset about his wife’s health more than the planning application.
The newspaper stood by its reporting and specifically said that its headline was just a summary.
“While the text of both versions of the article had made clear the findings of the inquest, the print headline was not an accurate summary of any evidence heard during proceedings,” IPSO concluded adding that the “headline was not supported by evidence heard at the inquest, in whole or by any individual; the inquest had not heard or found that Mr Knott’s concern about the camp had been the cause of his death (rather than a contributing factor).”
In September, the Daily Mirror apologized for an article making similar claims, also following a complaint from the Travellers Association, according to the Guardian.
iMediaEthics has written to the Telegraph for comment.