A Sunday Mirror story revealing the fiancée of murdered soldier Lee Rigby was in a new relationship was inaccurate but not a breach of privacy, press regulator IPSO has ruled.
Aimee West (pictured on ITV's This Morning) and Major Paul Draper both made separate IPSO complaints over a story about them headlined “Murdered soldier Lee Rigby’s fiancée ‘finds happiness’ with his army pal”, which was published on 12 April.
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She claimed it breached four clauses of the Editors’ Code: accuracy, privacy, harassment and intrusion into grief or shock.
The article claimed West had “found happiness” with Major Draper, a friend of Drummer Rigby who had attended his funeral.
They said the story was intrusive and an invasion of privacy as friends and family had not known about their relationship at the time.
West said a reporter representing the newspaper had approached her at home, by email and on social media on the Friday before the article was published. She said she was away at the time and only found out late on Saturday evening.
Major Draper said the journalist had sent him five messages, called and left voicemails and also waited for him at his Army Cadet Force detachment. He said he had met with West in order to call the journalist back.
The pair said that the reporter’s approaches constituted harassment, in breach of the Editors’ Code.
They said the article’s claim that it was “common knowledge” they were dating was inaccurate and said they had not , as claimed, attended cadet functions or a memorial service to soldiers killed in Afghanistan at St Paul’s Cathedral together.
The cited the other following inaccuracies:
- West said she had not lost friends during the conflict in Afghanistan
- She had not tried to contact Drummer Rigby in Manchester
- She was not a Staff Sergeant, but a Colour Sergeant Instructor
- Major Draper was 50, not 51
- Drummer Rigby had not been attached to a cadet unit led by Major Draper’s ex-partner
- And Major Draper and his partner had separated in August, not November.
Major Draper had spoken to the reporter on Saturday night, with West present, and said that none of the details that would later be published were put to him for his comment. He considered this to be a breach of clause 2 of the Editors’ Code (opportunity to reply).
The Sunday Mirror provided a transcript of the conversation, which stated that the reporter had asked if they were “in a relationship”, and Major Draper had replied: “I wouldn’t call it [a] relationship, I would say that we are very good friends and we enjoy each other and we enjoy each other’s company”. It said the story had not alleged that the complainants had a “relationship”.
The newspaper said its source and Major Draper had given the impression that their socialising was public knowledge within their work community.
It also noted that, in conversation with the reporter, Major Draper had appeared to suggest an intention to go public in the future when he said “well you’re not the person I’m going to ring when I finally do get to speak to Aimee and I say let’s go out and get an interview done and some pictures done”.
The Sunday Mirror offered to publish the following correction:
On 12.04.2015 under the headline "Lee Rigby's fiancée finds happiness with his army pal" we published an article about Maj Paul Draper and Ms Aimee West. We would like to clarify the following: Maj Draper is not 51, he is 50. Ms West and Maj Draper did not attend a service to honour fallen soldiers in Afghanistan at St Paul's Cathedral together. Ms West denies that she and Maj Draper have been on several dates. Ms West is not a staff sergeant with 19 Company of the ACF. Mr Rigby was not in Manchester when Ms West tried to call him and was not attached to a cadet unit led by Maj Draper's ex-partner.
The IPSO committee said that although the article discussed the private lives of Major Draper and Ms West, it “contained little in the way of detail about the nature of that relationship, or other private information”. Due to this, and the fact that Draper had “engaged with the reporter’s questions” about his relationship with Ms West while she was present, it said there was no breach of clause 3 (accuracy).
However it upheld the complaint about accuracy, saying the reporter should have taken the opportunity to verify the claims made in the article – particularly the false assertion that they had attended a memorial service at St Paul’s together.
The newspaper’s offer to publish a correction meant there was no breach of clause 2 of the code (right of reply).
The harassment complaint was rejected because “there was no suggestion that the reporter had persisted with questioning once asked to desist”.
IPSO said that the accuracy complaint could be resolved by publishing the correction which was offered during IPSO’s investigation of the complaints.
The complaints were received on 16 April and resolved on 5 October.