Stokes anger over fam­ily tragedy story

Eng­land star says re­port of mur­ders ‘heart­less’ ECB slams ‘in­tru­sion’ as tabloid de­fends ac­tions

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport - By Tom Mor­gan

The Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board ral­lied be­hind Ben Stokes last night after he launched a strongly worded at­tack on The Sun for re­veal­ing how tragedy struck his fam­ily 31 years ago.

The stand­out player of Eng­land’s World Cup and Ashes cam­paigns said re­ports of his half-brother and half-sis­ter be­ing killed by his mother’s for­mer part­ner were “im­moral” and “heart­less”.

The de­tails of the mur­ders were in part con­firmed by Jac­qui Dunn, 49, the daugh­ter of the killer, Richard Dunn, from a pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ship. She had told The Sun how her fa­ther mur­dered the eight-year-old daugh­ter and four-year-old son after sep­a­rat­ing from Stokes’s mother, Deb. Richard Dunn re­port­edly had week­end cus­tody of the chil­dren and shot them both be­fore turn­ing the gun on him­self in April 1988. Stokes was born four years later after Deb met hus­band Ger­ard, a for­mer rugby league player. In a state­ment pub­lished on so­cial me­dia, the Eng­land all-rounder at­tacked The Sun for pub­lish­ing “ex­tremely painful, sen­si­tive and per­sonal de­tails about events in the pri­vate lives of my fam­ily go­ing back 31 years”.

“It is hard to find words that ad­e­quately de­scribe such low and de­spi­ca­ble be­hav­iour, dis­guised as jour­nal­ism,” he said. “I can­not con­ceive of any­thing more im­moral, heart­less or con­temp­tu­ous to the feel­ings and cir­cum­stances of my fam­ily. For more than three decades, my fam­ily has worked hard to deal with the pri­vate trauma in­evitably as­so­ci­ated with these events and has taken great care to keep pri­vate what were deeply per­sonal and trau­matic events.”

Re­spond­ing to Stokes’s com­plaints, The Sun said he had been con­tacted prior to pub­li­ca­tion and “at no stage did he or his rep­re­sen­ta­tives ask us not to pub­lish the story”. How­ever, the ECB also poured scorn on the de­ci­sion to pub­lish. “We, like the wider sport­ing world, are dis­gusted and ap­palled at the ac­tions taken in re­veal­ing the tragic events from Ben’s past,” a spokesman said. “We are sad­dened that an in­tru­sion of this mag­ni­tude was deemed nec­es­sary in or­der to sell news­pa­pers or se­cure clicks. Ben’s ex­ploits this sum­mer have ce­mented his place in cricket’s his­tory – we are sure the whole sport, and the coun­try, stands be­hind him in sup­port.”

Stokes, who moved from New Zealand to Cum­bria with his par­ents at the age of 12, crit­i­cised the news­pa­per for send­ing a re­porter to his par­ents’ cur­rent home in Christchur­ch to ask them about the tragedy. He added: “I am aware my pub­lic pro­file brings with it con­se­quences for me that I ac­cept en­tirely. But I will not al­low my pub­lic pro­file to be used as an ex­cuse to in­vade the rights of my par­ents, my wife, my chil­dren or other fam­ily mem­bers. The de­ci­sion to pub­lish these de­tails has grave and life­long con­se­quences for my mum in par­tic­u­lar. This is the low­est form of jour­nal­ism.”

Stokes claimed there were “se­ri­ous in­ac­cu­ra­cies” in the story, but did not clar­ify. His state­ment was shared on­line by Eng­land cap­tain Joe Root and Manch­ester United’s Marcus Rash­ford. A spokesman for The Sun said: “The story was told with the co­op­er­a­tion of a fam­ily mem­ber who sup­plied de­tails, pro­vided pho­to­graphs and posed for pic­tures. The tragedy is a mat­ter of pub­lic record and was the sub­ject of ex­ten­sive front page pub­lic­ity in New Zealand at the time.”

Edi­to­rial com­ment: News page 17

Con­tempt: Ben Stokes de­liv­ered a with­er­ing at­tack on The Sun over its re­port

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