Editor ignores Kent Police Crimewatch embargo on murder witness pictures

Free newspapers the Kentish Saturday Observer and Kent on Sunday broke a Kent Police embargo by publishing pictures on their website of potential key witnesses to a murder which were due to be broadcast exclusively by the BBC's Crimewatch.

Kent journalists claim the CCTV images could have instantly helped officers investigating the murder of 18-year-old Christopher Alaneme and the attempted murder of a second man to track down the potential witnesses.

At 1.35pm on Tuesday, Kent Police sent a press release with a strict embargo for 24 May 2006 00:01hrs. The email said: "Kent Police is releasing CCTV of potential witnesses officers would like to speak to who may have valuable information which can help officers investigating the murder of 18-year-old Christopher Alaneme and the attempted murder of another man.

"BBC's Crimewatch will release CCTV pictures in tonight's (23 May 2006) programme at 9pm urging potential witnesses to come forward."

Within half an hour of Observer editor Gary Wright receiving the email he posted the CCTV pictures on his paper's website and called on fellow journalists across other local media to do the same.

Kent Police issued another release at 5pm reversing its decision and allowing all the media to use the images.

It read: "CCTV images released of potential witnesses. Kent Police has released CCTV of potential witnesses officers would like to speak to who may have valuable information which can help officers investigating the murder of 18-year-old Christopher Alaneme and the attempted murder of another man."

Wright told Press Gazette: "After talking to other newspaper editors in the county and the newsdesks at Meridian and ITN, we decided the embargo was an unreasonable request by the police and in this case we just went ahead and put it on our website.

"After those discussions and my email to around 40-odd newsdesks that received the original email, there was enough pressure on the Kent Police press office to recognise they had misjudged the situation.

"They made a mistake by trying to look after the BBC and they shouldn't cherry-pick who gets information, especially not in such a tragic case."

Jon Parker, media services manager for Kent Police, said: "If Gary Wright had spoken to us directly we would have resolved the matter far sooner.

Ultimately what we did do was work very hard yesterday so that all media had access to the CCTV pictures without embargo so they could publicise the appeal for the potential witnesses to a tragic murder."

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