Stokes anger over family tragedy story
England star says report of murders ‘heartless’ ECB slams ‘intrusion’ as tabloid defends actions
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