PCC rejects harassment claims from Neil Entwistle parents

The Press Complaints Commission has rejected a series of complaints from the parents of convicted murderer Neil Entwistle against their local paper the Worksop Guardian.

The pair claimed the Guardian had harassed them (clause four of the editors’ code), intruded into their grief (clause five), breached their privacy by photographing one of them in a private place (clause three) and used subterfuge (clause 10). None of their complaints have been upheld.

Worksop man Entwistle was found guilty in June of shooting dead his wife and baby in Massachusetts in 2006.

The Entwistles complained that after the verdict, the Worksop Guardian published a series of hostile letters which were insensitive to their grief.

The letters followed a statement from them which said: “We know that our son Neil is innocent, and we are devastated to learn that the evidence points to Rachel murdering our grandchild and then committing suicide. I know Rachel was depressed. Our son will now go to jail for loving, honouring and protecting his wife’s memory.”

The pair claimed that publishing the readers’ letters was an attempt to “bully them” into elaborating on the statement. They said there were three separate visits by a reporter to their home, that an email asking them for comments was sent after they had told the newspaper not to contact them and that reporters had ‘hounded’parents and children at the school where Mrs Entwistle worked.

Mrs Entwistle also complained that she had been secretly photographed by the newspaper while on school property.

In response, the Worskop Guardian said it had published a representative sample of the letters it had received.

It stated that its reporter had visited the Entwistles on two occasions, both before the trial, and then emailed Mr Entwistle for comment over another unrelated story.

The newspaper said that a reporter had attempted to speak to parents at the school where Mrs Entwistle worked on the day of the verdict, but denied that anyone had been hounded.

The Guardian said that the photograph in question of Mrs Entwistle was taken discreetly from a car on a public road at a distance of 20-25 yards when she was on the pavement by the main entrance to the school.

The PCC said: “The complainants had been caught up in a high profile news story through no fault of their own. But the newspaper was entitled to cover the many different angles of the case, including the local context and the public’s reaction to Mrs Entwistle’s statement suggesting that Rachel Entwistle had murdered her child before committing suicide.

The commission said that he did not believe the Entwistles were unduly hounded by the paper and on the issue of the photograph, it said: “Given that the complainant was adjacent to the pavement and in public view, the Commission did not consider that she was somewhere where she had a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Worksop Guardian editor George Robinson said: “I’m very pleased with the PCC ruling as we have worked extremely hard to maintain a fair, even and balanced coverage throughout the whole story.

‘We were acutely aware throughout of the sensitivities involved. It was a very difficult story to cover locally and I’m pleased that the PCC has officially confirmed that we have acted professionally throughout.”

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