The Daily Star is to pay “substantial” libel damages to a teenage girl it falsely claimed had called the killer of schoolboy Rhys Jones a “hero”.
Kelly Marshall, an 18-year-old student from Croxteth in Liverpool, sued publisher Express Newspapers over a front-page story in the Daily Star on 18 December, headlined: “You’re scum. Rhys killer is my hero says girlfriend”.
The story continued on page seven of that day’s paper, and also appeared on the dailystar.co.uk website.
In a statement read to Mr Justice Eady in London’s high court this morning, Helen Morris from David Price Solicitors said Marshall had been “very distressed” by the story.
“The articles alleged that the day after the conviction of Sean Mercer for the murder of 11-year-old Rhys Jones, the claimant publicly praised him in a television interview as a hero,” Morris said.
“The articles also alleged that she is a member of the Croxteth crew criminal gang and that she had declared a loyalty to the gang following Sean Mercer’s conviction.”
Mercer, 18, was jailed in December for a minimum of 22 years for shooting and killing Jones as he walked home from football practice in August last year.
“The truth is that, contrary to the article, the claimant did not make any public statement following the conviction of Sean Mercer,” Morris added.
“The claimant does not regard Mercer as a hero and would certainly never have made such a claim or sought publicity for it in the aftermath of his conviction for such an appalling murder.
“The claimant is not and has never been a member of the Croxteth crew or any other gang. She has never been Sean Mercer’s girlfriend.”
Kate Wilson, acting on behalf of Express Newspapers, said the Daily Star accepted that the allegations it had made were false.
The paper will publish a summary of today’s statement and has also undertaken not to repeat the allegations at the centre of the libel claim.
Morris said that Marshall would be donating the damages to the Rhys Jones Memorial Trust.