Daily Mail inquiry into 'Knox guilty' blunder

The Daily Mail has launched an internal inquiry after mistakenly publishing a story on its website claiming Amanda Knox had lost the appeal against her conviction for murdering British student Meredith Kercher.

The same mistake was made on The Sun website, Sky News and The Guardian's live blog, but the Mail appears to be the only news outlet that ran a full-length article.

Under the headline 'Guilty: Amanda Knox looks stunned as appeal against murder conviction is rejected', the Mail Online story claimed Knox had 'sank into her chair sobbing uncontrollably while her family and friends hugged each other in tears'after the verdict was read out.

Knox was in fact cleared of murdering Kercher, but she was announced to be guilty of the first charge which was read out of slander.

The story was highlighted on a blog post by SEO consultant Malcolm Coles. He quoted the following extract from the Mail Online story:

'Following the verdict Knox and Sollecito were taken out of court escorted by prison guards and into a waiting van which took her back to her cell at Capanne jail near Perugia and him to Terni jail, 60 miles away.

'Both will be put on a suicide watch for the next few days as psychological assessments are made on each of them but this is usual practice for long term prisoners."

The Mail also quoted prosecutors saying 'justice has been done'but adding that a ''human factor it was sad two young people would be spending years in jail".

Coles claimed the Mail, and other media outlets that got it wrong, were caught out by Knox being found guilty of slander and 'at the sound of the word 'guilty', they hit publish on a story about her appeal being rejected".

A spokesman for the Daily Mail told Press Gazette that the erroneous article was only been online for 90 seconds – and that an inquiry was underway to find out what had gone wrong.

According to a Mail insider, the quotes from the prosecutor were obtained in advance and were put in a pre-prepared story which was ready to go live in the event that Knox was found gulty of murder.

The Mail said in a comment alongside its Knox piece: "It is common practice among newspapers to prepare two versions of an article ahead of a court verdict and these are known as 'set and hold' pieces.

"The quotes were obtained from various parties in the event of either a guilty or not guilty verdict.

"We would like to make it clear that Nick Pisa [the journalist who wrote it] had no involvement in the decision to publish his set and hold piece on MailOnline.

"We apologise for the error and have launched an enquiry to examine our procedures."

Sign up for our free weekly digital magazine, Press Gazette Journalism Weekly, and daily newsletter
To contact Press Gazette with a story call 0207 936 6433
or email pged@pressgazette.co.uk
To advertise, please call 0207 936 6764.