The editor of the Sunday Mail in Adelaide has just been removed from his job after publishing some tasteless photographs which has prompted us to look at other famous newspaper stories that haven’t quite stood up to much scrutiny.
The pictures were of a model being used in the re-run as part of a legal submission on the Keough case of the late nineties where Mr Keough’s sudden discovery of his fiancee’s body in the bath coincided with five forged life insurance policies where he was the beneficiary of her death.
Gruesome case aside, The Sunday Mail couldn’t resist publishing the photos. They hadn’t asked the model, the family of the dead woman or tested the reaction of readers.
End result? Four thousand cancelled subscriptions to the Sunday Mail and one thousand cancelled subs to The Advertiser. All lucky outraged Adelaideans are now receiving personal phone calls of apology.
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And the Editor Kerry Sullivan? After taking unplanned leave for a couple of week it was announced in the most recent edition of the paper on page 2 that he has been replaced by Karen Porter and is on “specialist writing projects”. On page 4 is the story of Press Council condemnation of publication of the photographs.
Even a search of the News Ltd archive throws up an apology that reads as follows with the original story:
* LAST week we published a story and pictures on forensic investigation procedures concerning Anna-Jane Cheney. At the time, we thought this was appropriate coverage of a serious matter.
* OUR readers’ reactions have told us we were wrong. It was not our intention to offend — but clearly we did.
* WE unreservedly apologise to the Cheney family for distress caused and to all readers offended by the pictures and the story.
The text on the front page of the December 16 edition was as follows:
THIS graphic scene from a videotaped re-enactment of the 1994 murder of Adelaide lawyer Anna-Jane Cheney has put the spotlight back on the accuracy of some forensic evidence in SA court cases.
A former state senior forensic pathologist, Dr Colin Manock, already had been under scrutiny over testimony in other high-profile trials. The video, organised by a number of prominent legal and medical figures, was not taken as an attempt to prove the innocence of convicted murderer, Anna-Jane’s fiance Henry Keogh (above), but to examine forensic investigation procedures.
SEE Peter Haran’s special reports on Pages 2, 3 and 5
Illus: Photo (color): henry keogh
Photo (color): scene from video re-enactment of anna-jane cheney murder
And now this is what appeared on page 2 that same day:
FORENSIC EVIDENCE ON TRIAL
Cheney death scene re-enacted
Sunday Mail, SUN 16 DEC 2001, Page 002
By PETER HARAN
THE 1994 murder of Adelaide lawyer Anna-Jane Cheney in her bath has been re-created in a chilling video production, which casts doubt on the evidence of an expert witness, already under scrutiny over his testimony in several other high-profile trials.
Attempts by a former police detective to “drown” an Anna-Jane Cheney lookalike show it would have been impossible to kill her in the manner described by a forensic pathologist.
This is apparent in a step-by-step murder recreation which was filmed at night in the same bath in which the victim died.
Ms Cheney’s former home at Magill was made available for the video production.
Ms Cheney’s fiance, financial consultant Henry Vincent Keogh, 45, is serving a life sentence with a 25-year non-parole period for her murder on March 18, 1994.
Keogh was not aware the video was being produced and those involved in the re-creation stress the production was not an attempt to disprove Keogh’s guilt, but rather to examine forensic investigation procedures.
Up to seven people, including Adelaide lawyers, academics and a university professor were among those present at the re-creation on November 21, when a model was placed in the bath and attempts were made to “drown” her.
The young woman fought back as her face was forced down and her legs were violently pulled up over her head in an identical manner to that described in court evidence.
In the video, the “killer”, similar in build to Keogh, gives a running commentary as he demonstrates various holds said to have been used by the convicted murderer.
The commentary and demonstration was based on evidence given by now-retired chief forensic pathologist Dr Colin Manock, contained in Supreme Court transcripts.
Those present at the re-creation witnessed the procedures then signed affidavits. These state:
* They attended the former home of Ms Cheney on November 21 and studied court transcripts.
* Evidence given by Dr Manock differed in each trial – so both scenarios were re-enacted.
* Although Dr Manock formulated an opinion of the murder, he did not view the bathroom crime scene until three months after the death.
* The re-enactment was authentic in that the actual scene of death was used, as was the manner of death described in court transcripts.
During filming in the cramped bathroom, the camera operator braced astride the end of the bath filming downwards, as the model was “manoeuvered” into drowning positions.
The bath was three-quarter filled — as it was found on the night of the death — and the model’s head was placed at the plug end. Mousse was placed in the model’s hair before she was forced underwater. It was found the hair treatment was washed out during the “drowning”.
Mousse was found in Ms Cheney’s hair after she was recovered from the bath, indicating – according to the re-enactment – that the victim’s head was not fully submerged.
The group of lawyers present, some visibly shaken by the experience, did not offer an alternative theory to the drowning-murder.
Despite repeated attempts and various holds placed on the model’s legs, it was not possible to force the victim underwater without her fighting back. The model was able to both punch and push at the attacker and kick out.
In the position in the bath – with the model sitting at the plug end – it was not possible to pull her legs up and over her head because the wall at the end of the bath prevented it.
The video indicates the victim would have offered very little resistance. In a violent struggle, the video indicates, there would have been more bruising injuries to her body.
Caption: 1 Her ankles are grabbed
2 Her legs are lifted over her head
3 Her legs are pressed back, pushing her head under
4 She is moved into a position to lift her out
5 She is lifted clear of the bath
Illus: Photo: anna-jane cheney murder re-enactment video (5)
The next bit is not surprising so check out the bollocking that was handed out by the Press Council.
Press Council finding
Sunday Mail, SUN 27 JAN 2002, Page 5
THE Press Council has unreservedly and unanimously condemned publication by the (Adelaide) Sunday Mail of a series of articles and pictures which described a 1994 murder by drowning of a woman, and a recent attempt by a group of South Australian academics, senior lawyers and scientists to re-create and film it.
The Council is reassured to note that the paper issued a prompt apology to its readers and the murder victim’s family, and that it acknowledged their outrage by publishing two pages of letters, all of them critical of the coverage.
However, publication of the material was, in the Council’s view, a serious lapse of editorial judgment and should never have occurred in the first place.
The material was intended to examine doubts surrounding forensic investigation procedures in South Australia, and the resulting evidence given to courts. Its particular focus was a former Chief Forensic Pathologist, Dr Colin Manock. However, most of its five component articles, and five images taken from a videotape of the simulated drowning, dealt directly with the murder and with what was purported to be a re-enactment of the event seven years later.
Dr Manock did not undertake the autopsy on the victim in this case, although he gave evidence at the trial of the man later convicted of the crime.
A substantial part of the text cited evidence about the alleged murder method presented at the trial. A colour picture covering half the paper’s front page, under the headline “Bath Murder Video”, showed a struggling model with her face being forced under water in a bath.
It was this emphasis that led to the material becoming the subject of complaint to the Press Council by Joanne Cheney, the murder victim’s mother, and by more than 20 other readers.
The complaints criticised several aspects of the coverage, including:
* Its sensationalism and gross insensitivity to the victim’s family;
* Its potential impact on children;
* The risk it might generate of “copycat” activities;
* Its timing (the material was published just over one week before Christmas).
The Press Council accepts that the reliability of forensic evidence in courts is a matter of major public interest. However, it was clearly inappropriate to base most of an investigative report on this issue on a rehearsal of detailed evidence presented at one particular trial, and on the antics of the persons who commissioned and videotaped the murder “re-enactment”.
The Sunday Mail acknowledged that the coverage had, in its own words, “crossed the boundary”. Its recognition of its error was reflected in the publication, in the following edition, of a Page 2 three-paragraph apology to readers and to the Cheney family, and of 49 letters to the editor, protesting about various aspects of the coverage.
The Press Council urges Australian newspapers to reject the kind of gratuitous portrayal of violence, compounded by failure to consider the sensitivities of relatives, that generated these complaints.
Now Crikey makes plenty of mistakes but that won’t stop us assembling some of the great newspaper stuff-ups of recent years. Let’s open with this classic from the Herald Sun which turned out to be a load of complete garbage. Mind you it was editor Peter Blunden who was more to blame than reporter Michelle Coffey and we’ll explain how once you’ve read this shocking beat up.
HUGE BILL FOR 4 MOTHERS, 48 CHILDREN
Herald Sun, FRI 17 MAY 1996, Page 3 lead
By MICHELLE COFFEY
TAXPAYERS are paying about $3300 a week to support four single Victorian mothers who have 48 children to various fathers.
A prominent welfare worker told the Herald Sun the women, who each have 12 children, have admitted that money provided by government agencies is the incentive to having such large families.
Department of Social Security figures reveal a single mother with 12 children receives up to $1661.60 a fortnight in welfare payments.
Over a year, they get up to $43,201.60 a year tax-free. That’s $10,000 more than the average worker earns annually.
The welfare worker said while not wanting to judge the women, family laws seemed to encourage such behavior.
“I asked one of the children their father’s name and they told me,” the worker said. “Moments later the child’s younger brother looked at me across the desk and said `I wish I knew who my daddy was’. It was then I realised what a tragic situation this was.”
The existence of these single mothers comes as a Perth study reveals children in sole-parent families are twice as likely to have mental health problems as those in two-parent homes.
A Herald Sun investigation has revealed the number of single mothers in Victoria with five or more children has trebled in less than five years from 462 to 1493.
At December last year, there were 69,090 single mums in Victoria receiving a pension.
The Australian Family Association last night called on the Federal Government to reduce the level of payments to single mothers who had more than three children.
“If you give a single mum free money to have children, you encourage that behavior further because of the financial incentives,” association national president Bill Muehlenberg said.
“The only way to stop that behavior is to lessen the economic incentive to make sure people aren’t cheating the system.
“In America, they are looking at reducing the payment for each child once a mother has more than two children. Perhaps we should do the same.”
But the Victorian Council for Single Mothers and Their Children condemned the call as discriminatory.
“The vast, vast majority of single mothers are women doing it very tough,” council president Elvie Sievers said.
“Even if these four women are doing the wrong thing, anyone who thinks it would be some sort of Nirvana trying to live on $1600 a fortnight trying to raise 12 children is deluded.”
The Herald Sun is not suggesting all single mothers are seeking to abuse the welfare system. Statistics show that the average sole-parent family has only 1.8 children.
The majority of those who do receive the pension do so for less than five years.
Now the saga behind this one is quite amusing. Editor Peter Blunden briefed the reported directly after Dame Phyllis Frost, a supposed philanthropist, had been in his office not long beforehand just for a general chat. During the course of their conversation, somehow the subject of single mothers came up, and she started mouthing off about how there were all these single women having tonnes of kids for welfare payments. (Frosty used to head up the Blanket Appeal, amongst other things and she’s had a long-time association with News Ltd, particularly the Herald).
Anyway, when Blunden pushed her further she said there were at least 4 she knew of, each of whom had 12 kids. Anyway, that was all she’d say. He then came out and briefed poor old Michelle Coffey who had only been back on the paper for a few weeks at the time. Coffey, who is now chief of staff at Who Weekly in Sydney, was to told to go back to her and push her to get names, or some other kind of proof, that these women existed so they could be exposed. Keith Moor, who was Insight Editor, was also involved in the briefing and managing the story.
Unfortunately, the Dame is said to have refused to confirm anything when Coffey made contact. Most editors would drop the story at this point but Blunden insisted that Coffey write it anyway.
As you can see from the story, Coffey made contact with the DSS and explained the situation but they were unable to give a categorical denial which might have hosed Blunden down.
Coffey refused to put her name on the story but it was inserted by the back bench. The fallout was immediate as the Dame then went on 3AW and launched a scathing attack on the story in which she also named Blunden as being the responsible party. However her prime attack was on Coffey for allegedly bullying and tricking her into making the claims.
Blunden is the most thin skinned editor in the country so naturally he came storming out of his office and ranted and raved and then called Steve Price and dobbed the Dame in for coming in to his office.
That night Media Watch fired up on the story also, armed with documentation from the DSS which proved these women did not exist, something they appear to have told Coffey they could not do.
The following day Blunden took the extraordinary step of putting a letter up on the noticeboard explaining what had happened: it was one of the most bizarre notes Crikey saw in his time at the HUN. It was awfully kind to Coffey and explained exactly what had happened and said no one in the office was to assume that she’d been the person running the story; that he took full responsibility, and that Coffey had been unwilling to do it but, being professional, had agreed to do so and that littlemore was a dickhead.
Shortly after the note gets read out on 3AW and Blunden went completely berko, running round the office tearing down all the photocopies of it and cursing that some traitor could have leaked it like that.
The Courier Mail’s Order of Lenin fiasco
The Courier’s editor Chris Mitchell still defends this effort to the last but it does not have a lot of credibility five years down the track.
A QUESTION OF INFLUENCE
COURIER-MAIL, SAT 24 AUG 1996, Page 1
By Wayne Smith and Peter Kelly
PROFESSOR Manning Clark was awarded the Soviet Union’s highest honour, the Order of Lenin, according to evidence investigated by The Courier-Mail.
Professor Clark’s volumes on history helped shape the way Australians think about themselves and their country.
The Order of Lenin was given to him at the height of the Cold War when the USSR was regarded as an enemy nation. It is the communist world’s most prestigious decoration.
Professor Clark, the 1981 Australian of the Year, was the subject of an intensive Courier-Mail investigation over a year.
The most compelling evidence comes from Australia’s most celebrated poet, Les Murray. Mr Murray claimed in an interview that he had observed Professor Clark wearing the medal at dinner with poet David Campbell.
The dinner was at Campbell’s home in the Canberra suburb of Griffith in May 1970. “Many thoughts went through my mind,” Mr Murray said. “How could a mediocrity like Manning have one of those? That’s a high-order gong. Doesn’t he know how much blood is on it, I wondered.”
“What could he have done to be awarded one of those by a government which had been responsible for over 40 million deaths _ mostly of its own peoples?”
Mr Murray’s evidence is supported by information provided by senior Australian National University lecturer Geoffrey Fairbairn before his death in 1980.
Professor Clark’s widow, Dymphna, said last night her husband had been awarded a medal bearing the likeness of Lenin when he visited Moscow in 1970 to give a speech on the Bicentenary of Captain Cook’s discovery of the Australian east coast.
“It’s possible that it is the Order of Lenin but I don’t think so,” Mrs Clark said.
“Maybe it was a lesser decoration in the Order of Lenin, like there are various levels of awards in the Order of Australia.”
(Information provided by the Russian Embassy indicates the Order of Lenin is a single-class decoration. There are no “lesser” versions of it.)
Mrs Clark said she had never seen any documentation or parchment describing the significance of the medal.
“I don’t recall him mentioning receiving any such thing as the Order of Lenin,” she said.
“It couldn’t possibly be the Order of Lenin. There would have been a lot of hoo-haa.
“But if he was awarded it, it would only have been in association with him giving the speech in Moscow. If someone wants to beat up a story to suggest that he was given this medal for some services to the Soviet Union, they are welcome to it.”
The Clark home was burgled a few years ago and a number of Professor Clark’s decorations were stolen including the Companion of the Order of Australia _ subsequently returned.
The Soviet medal was not taken and subsequently was given to the Clarks’ oldest son, Sebastian, who lives in Melbourne. He could not be contacted last night and his wife was unable to locate the decoration. In the same year as he received the medal, Professor Clark himself confirmed to Australia’s unofficial poet laureat Les Murray that the decoration was the Order of Lenin.
News of the medal throws intriguing new light on the contents of files compiled by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation on Professor Clark who died in 1991.
His close relationship with the two External Affairs Department officers identified by the 1954 Royal Commission on Espionage as likely Soviet agents. One was Ian Milner, who in 1950 defected to Czecho slovakia where Professor Clark later visited him. The other was Jim Hill, who was transferred to London so that MI5 could keep closer watch on him. He sub-leased his Canberra home to Professor Clark.
Professor Clark’s removal “for security reasons” in 1953 from the External Affairs Department committee which selected diplomatic cadets.
His role as a teacher of English to Soviet ambassador Nikolai Lifanov, a diplomat who spent his youth in England and, according to a number of sources, spoke fluent English.
The complaint lodged with ASIO in 1961 by two senior RAAF officers, Staff College commandant Group Captain Dalkin and Wing Commander Hurdich _ both students of Professor Clark at the ANU _ that Clark was “communistically inclined”.
ASIO’s assessment in 1960 that Professor Clark was an “undesirable nominator” of a 19-year-old Englishwoman seeking assisted passage to Australia.
The revelation that Professor Clark was honoured by the USSR is certain to trigger a re-evaluation both of the man and his writings, specifically his monumental six-volume A History of Australia.
It begs the question: What service did Professor Clark render the Soviet Union to merit receiving its most prestigious award?
Brian Crozier, the Australian-born, British-based world authority on intelligence agencies, told The Courier-Mail in an interview in London that if the award was the Order of Lenin, it indicated Professor Clark was an overt and conscious agent of influence.
However, Oleg Gordievsky, a British double agent and the highest ranking KGB officer ever to defect to the West, believes that for Professor Clark to have received the Order of Lenin strongly suggested something more . . . “a very, very important agent” of the Soviet Union.
No other Australian is known to have received the Order of Lenin.
“For Australia, I think it would be unique,” Mr Gordievsky said when interviewed in a town in the south of England.
“In the context of the KGB, only the best agent, loyally co-operating over a lengthy period of time would have been considered for it,” he said.
Retired Colonel Mikhail Lyubimov, the deputy department head of the KGB’s Australia-Britain-Scandinavia desk in the mid-1970s, said from Moscow this week he was unaware of any Australian having received a major Soviet decoration.
Since the Order of Lenin was established by the Presidium of the Soviet Central Executive Committee on April 6, 1930, it has been awarded about 400,000 times _ but almost exclusively to Soviet nationals.
(Other Soviet awards were handed out in even more profligate fashion _ the Order of the Red Banner of Labour 800,000 times, the Order of the Red Banner 600,000 times).
However, according to Mr Gordievsky, few Orders of Lenin were conferred on non-Soviet citizens.
“There was a reluctance . . . by the bureaucratic machinery in Moscow to give it to foreigners,” Mr Gordievsky said.
“They regarded it, first of all, as entirely a Soviet decoration.”
Among the handful of foreigners known to have received it are Cuban Communist leader Fidel Castro; Nicolae Ceausescu, the Romanian Communist boss overthrown and killed in 1989; and Kim Philby, the most famous of the so-called Cambridge Five spy network which undermined British intelligence during and after World War II.
That Professor Clark wore his medal in the company of his close friends, Mr Campbell and Mr Fairbairn, almost certainly would have placed the KGB in an awkward situation, according to Mr Gordievsky.
“He (Clark) did something they would not have liked because they probably told him: ‘Be careful’,” Mr Gordiecksy said.
“Sometimes the people in the KGB have great respect for their illegal agents. They say, the man is a sophisticated Westerner.
“He knows better than we. It’s silly of us to treat him as if he is a schoolchild, telling him how to behave.
“So my interpretation is that they would have handed out the Order but they didn’t instruct him to hide it away.”
Ironically, Professor Clark dramatically misjudged Mr Fairbairn’s reaction to the medal.
Before his death, Mr Fairbairn told Peter Kelly _ one of the two journalists involved in this investigation _ that he saw Professor Clark wearing the decoration at private “drinks” with the ambassador at the Soviet Embassy in Canberra.
Professor Clark had telephoned Messrs Fairbairn and Campbell to invite them to meet him at the embassy, requesting that his two close friends each wear their own military decorations.
Mr Fairbairn said later that Professor Clark then swore him to secrecy.
It is quite likely the Order of Lenin was conferred on Professor Clark on that night.
Mr Fairbairn, the son of a former federal aviation minister and a one-time Geelong Grammar student of Clark’s who later worked alongside him on the ANU history staff, arrived slightly late.
By the time he joined the small gathering, Professor Clark was wearing the decoration.
So distressed was Mr Fairbairn when he realised his mentor had been honoured by the totalitarian Soviet regime that he abruptly left the embassy function.
“It’s Manning! It’s bloody Manning! He was wearing the Order of Lenin at the embassy,” a distraught Mr Fairbairn told Mr Kelly later that night.
Asked how he knew it was the Order of Lenin, Mr Fairbairn replied: “Look, I recognised it and it was clear from the conversation. It was no joke!”