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November 21, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 8:38am

Sky News pulls story wrongly identifying Kenyan plane fall victim after reporter was ‘misled’

By Freddy Mayhew

Sky News has removed a story in which it claimed to know the identity of a stowaway who fell to his death from a plane over London after finding its “conclusions were mistaken”.

The broadcaster identified Nairobi airport cleaner Paul Manyasi, 29, as the victim after months of investigation by Africa correspondent John Sparks, but said it was “now apparent [he] was misled”.

A Kenyan news outfit revealed today that the man pictured by Sky News in its report is in fact a prison inmate who is currently alive and behind bars.

Sky News has now issued a correction and pulled the report, which was published online last week, but the story has been picked up by other news outlets where it remains visible.

The stowaway’s death in June after falling 3,500 feet from the landing gear of a Kenya Airways plane and landing in a garden in Clapham, narrowly missing a sunbather, was widely reported at the time.

Sky News said Sparks had carried out his investigation “diligently and in good faith” and had no reason not to believe corroborating interviews with friends, relatives and colleagues of the man they believed to be Manyasi.

Kenyan newspaper the Daily Nation has reported that a man thought by Sky News to be the victim’s father did not want to reveal to the broadcaster that his son was alive and in jail when questioned.

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Sky News said: “Since the broadcast and publication of our investigation into the identity of the stowaway who fell from a Kenya Airways plane in June this year, information has come to light that casts doubt on our conclusions.

“A Kenyan newspaper report this morning indicates that the man who our Africa Correspondent John Sparks was led to believe was the stowaway is not.

“In light of that evidence we no longer believe that the man identified as Paul Manyasi was the stowaway.”

The broadcaster went on: “Given that we believe our conclusions were mistaken we have removed the story and will not republish it in its current form.”

Sky News said it approached the Kenyan Airports Authority and cleaning company Colnet, where it believed the stowaway was an employee, four days prior to publication but neither responded until after it went public.

It has now also removed an article about Kenyan authorities disputing the identity of the plane fall victim, and apologised to Colnet.

“Sky News regrets that our reporting was founded on misleading information,” the newsbrand said in its correction issued today.

It added: “Sky News has built a reputation on accuracy and therefore when our reporting does not meet that standard it is important we fully acknowledge to our viewers when new information is uncovered.”

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