No 'witch hunt' as Bailey draws line under Iraq hoax

Mirror acting editor Kelly is an obvious front-runner to succeed Morgan

The Daily Mirror does not plan to identify its sources for the Iraq torture pictures – even though they were apparently hoaxers – and there will be no staff “witch hunt” over the affair.

Senior editorial executives are understood to have been assured by Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey that she wants to draw a line under the matter.

One insider said: “When you lose your editor, there is no great appetite for pursuing other people. We don’t anticipate any more dismissals.”

The Mirror has been in discussions with the Royal Military Police since editor Piers Morgan’s sacking on Friday evening. A soldier was arrested in connection with the inquiry on Tuesday, but the paper denies having named him.

A Mirror source said: “There’s a lot of issues to consider – there’s a duty of care to the journalists here, does it set a precedent for the legal team? We don’t want to get in a position where the company is pressuring journalists to reveal sources.”

The paper has yet to reveal where it went wrong in deciding to publish pictures on 1 May that apparently showed members of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment torturing prisoners.

But it is thought that problems stemmed from the fact that a very small team was responsible for putting the story into the paper.

Neither acting editor Des Kelly nor Morgan are thought to know the identity of the sources, who have been identified only as soldiers A and B.

Commenting on Bailey’s decision to sack Morgan, one source at the paper said: “The reason Piers got the sack isn’t because he made the initial mistake – it’s because it just carried on and on and there didn’t seem to be a way out of it.”

All the senior editorial executives went in on Sunday to help put out Monday’s paper, as the Mirror set about rebuilding its reputation this week.

The paper was given a lift on Tuesday with a front-page exclusive about a foiled £100m robbery at Heathrow Airport. After months of planning, Mirror journalists were given exclusive access by Scotland Yard.

The paper plans to stick to its antiwar stance and remain pro-Labour “but holding Tony Blair to account where necessary”.

A source said: “Newspapers work in a Dunkirk spirit. When people are under pressure, they respond. There’s no air of despondency – it’s quite the reverse.”

Acting editor Kelly, 39, is an obvious front-runner to succeed Morgan. He began his career at Hayters sports agency and then joined Today, where he rose to chief sports writer.

Kelly was appointed football editor of the Sunday Express in 1994 and became sports editor of the Daily Express in June 1997, only to be poached by Morgan to become head of sport at the Mirror three months later.

Kelly became deputy editor in April 2001.

Other possibles for the top job at the Mirror include News of the World editor Andy Coulson, 35, and former NoW editor Phil Hall, who is currently editorial development director at MGN.

Staff have speculated that Hall would be seen as a “safe pair of hands” to act as editor-in-chief overseeing Mark Thomas, who is currently editor of Mirror sister paper The People. The pair have worked together before at the NoW.

By Dominic Ponsford

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