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'Backlash' over Sun's Ben Stokes story blamed for week delay in reporting face-grab pics

Pictures of Ben Stokes appearing to grab his wife’s face may have been sat on by national journalists because of the furore over an earlier Sun story about the England cricketer, for which the tabloid was heavily criticised.

The images of Stokes with his hand on his wife Clare’s face made the front and back pages of a number of UK newspapers today after they were first published by blogging site Guido Fawkes yesterday afternoon.

The couple has dismissed the suggestion on Guido Fawkes that they were evidence of a domestic dispute as “nonsense”, saying they had been “messing about”.

But while the pictures made headlines today, they had in fact been taken at an awards event on Wednesday last week by celebrity photo agency Backgrid – and had been available to the press since then.

Guido Fawkes editor Paul Staines told Press Gazette: “The pictures were out there last Thursday and nobody was running it because of the backlash about The Sun story.”

However, one journalist on the picture desk of a national newspaper said Backgrid had not mentioned the Stokes incident when offering images of him from the awards evening.

The Sun itself opted not to run the pictures on its front page today, despite rivals the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Daily Express and Daily Star all choosing to do so, instead putting them further back in the sports section.

The Telegraph used the images as its back-page lead.

The Sun website published a report about the images shortly after midnight, hours after it had been picked up by other online news outlets.

Stokes’ wife said in a statement on Twitter: “Unbelievable what nonsense these people will make up.

“Me and Ben messing about squishing up each other’s faces cos [sic] that’s how we show affection and some pap tries to twist it into a crazy story.”

Addressing the claims himself, the cricketer told the Mirror: “I have become used to people making stuff up about me, but of all the topics not to mess with domestic abuse has to be at the top of the list.

He dismissed reports about the images as “cheap headlines”, adding: “To falsify and spread these kind of allegations so willingly is totally irresponsible.”

The Sun faced a backlash after it ran a front-page story last month in which it revealed Stokes’ mother’s ex-partner had shot dead their two children three years before the 28-year-old was born.

The Sun defended the story as having been told with the full co-operation of a family member, but Stokes hit out on social media, labelling the article “immoral and heartless”.

He added: “To use my name as an excuse to shatter the privacy and private lives of – in particular – my parents is utterly disgusting.”

The Sun did not comment on its decision not to run the Stokes pictures on its front page today.

Picture: Reuters/Carl Recine

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