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Monday, April 6, 1998 Published at 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK


Fleet Street goes hunting for released paedophile
image: [ Jason Swift ran away from his home in Hackney, east London, but fell into the clutches of Cooke's gang ]
Jason Swift ran away from his home in Hackney, east London, but fell into the clutches of Cooke's gang

The release of Sidney Cooke marks the start of a cat-and-mouse game with two tabloid newspapers appealing to readers to ring them with sightings.

Both The Sun and The Mirror claim they are acting in the public interest by warning communities, and especially parents of young children, of Cooke's whereabouts.

But there are fears the inflammatory language in some articles could encourage a lynch mob mentality despite warnings by the police and the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, for people not to take the law into their own hands.

'Features are evil'

The Sun published a full-page picture of Cooke on Saturday under the headline "New face of the beast" and warned he could turn up in any community.

[ image: Sidney Cooke has changed his name to Lomas]
Sidney Cooke has changed his name to Lomas
The paper adds: "If you spot him, ring our hotline so you can expose his whereabouts". It also quotes the father of his victim, Jason Swift, as saying: "Nobody will fail to recognise his features. They are evil."

Monday's Mirror published a similar appeal and accompanied it with a double page spread in which Jason's brother, Steve Nurcombe, describes his anger and says: "I'd like to break every bone in Cooke's body."

The broadsheets take a more reflective view but all give due prominence to the story.

The Guardian claims Cooke is a "very frightened man" who realises he could face some form of attack and will be lying low.

The Independent points out Cooke will have to register his new name, Sidney Lomas, and address at his nearest police station.

Offenders lack supervision

The Daily Telegraph highlights a number of legal loopholes that the case of Cooke and Robert Oliver have exposed.

It points out changes in the law cannot be made retrospectively. This means hundreds of paedophiles who committed offences before 1991 will be released without any supervision.

The Telegraph says public notification is one of the thorniest issues involved.

The police have the right to notify communities if a known paedophile moves into the area but are often loathe to do so for fear of driving them to ground.


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