A man who says he was mistakenly branded an attempted murderer has launched a legal battle for libel damages against the Daily Star.
Antiques dealer Michael Phelps, from Coleford, Gloucestershire, says that although he helped save the life of his former girlfriend Allison Phelps, the Daily Star wrongly published a photo of him instead of the man given a life sentence for trying to kill her.
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Phelps was himself stabbed as he tried to save Allison from Charles Henson.
Henson went into their house while the Phelps were sleeping, turned the gas rings on, and then tried to force a latex glove into Allison’s mouth, knowing she had a latex allergy. Henson and Allison had married only months before, but Allison had moved in with Phelps and changed her name to his by deed poll.
Since the Star published the wrong photo, Phelps says he has lived in fear of vigilante attacks and people in Coleford stop him in the street and say, ‘Shouldn’t you be in prison?’and ‘I see you’ve got parole,’he claims.
His children have been taunted and questioned by friends and acquaintances who wrongly believe he was guilty of attempted murder, and his daughter Amy, who works at a pub in Coleford, has been asked whether her father was jailed.
Phelps says his other business, Sam’s Removals, has also suffered as a result of the story, headed ‘Sex slave wife tells of rubber love hell”. The story was accompanied by a photo of Allison MacPhee, also known as Allison Phelps, captioned ‘Horror: Allison was whipped and beaten two or three times a week’and a picture of Phelps, captioned ‘Life: husband Charles Henson”, according to a High Court writ.
The story meant that he was labelled a perverted and highly dangerous sadomasochist who subjected Allison to persistent and grotesquely humiliating physical, mental and sexual abuse. Phelps and Allison separated in June 2006.
Henson was given a life sentence, minimum 12 years, at Bristol Crown Court after he was convicted of attempted murder and wounding. The judge warned he might never be released. Phelps, who also runs a memorabilia shop called Memories, needed 35 stitches after Henson stabbed him during the attack.
He is seeking aggravated damages, and plans to rely on the profound gravity and deeply offensive nature of the imputations of the Star’s words.
The writ states that it was his bravery which saved Ms Phelps and her children from being murdered. He evacuated them from the house before confronting Henson, who was armed with two knives, the court will hear. Phelps says he has suffered embarrassment and distress since the story appeared on 21 December 2006.