News that Lord Lucan may have lived out his days in Goa gave The Sunday Telegraph one of its biggest sales of the year – the only drawback was that it wasn’t true.
The story, by former police detective Duncan MacLaughlin, featured on the front page of the Review section and was widely followed up in other Sunday papers and in the dailies the following day.
But by Monday, newsdesks were being flooded with calls to say that the man pictured in Goa who resembled an ageing Lord Lucan was in fact folksinger Barry Halpin who died in 1996.
Sunday Telegraph editor Dominic Lawson stood by his decision to publish the original story, pointing out that he had deliberately chosen not to run it on a news page.
He told Press Gazette: “We thought it was a rattling good yarn, we are the only paper that hasn’t carried a news story about it. We didn’t think it merited that treatment, it was in the review section.
“The publisher was keen we should run it as a news story – but once we start saying more than ‘here is this book that says this’, we are in a different sort of ball park.
“The headline was phrased intentionally as a question, which you might say was our only comment.”
The paper’s provisional sales were 10,000 up on the week before at 734,000, its biggest sale since January.