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Thursday, April 30, 1998 Published at 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK


Press leads the hunt for Bell
image: [ British press: Dominated by the Mary Bell row ]
British press: Dominated by the Mary Bell row

The British press has become the focus of the growing row over the Mary Bell book controversy, with accusations of hypocrisy and fears that some newspapers are close to revealing the child killer's new identity.

Gitta Sereny tells the BBC's Jeremy Paxman the press have persued Mary Bell with "enormous offers" (1' 06")
Editions of British national newspapers are dominated with the continuing row over the book.

As some of the newspapers printed alleged photographs of her partner, there were claims that Bell and her 14-year-old daughter are at the centre of a witch-hunt.

Gitta Sereny, author of the controversial Cries Unheard book, Bell's life story, accused tabloid newspapers of hounding Bell into hiding while at the same time offering large sums for her story.

Blanket coverage

[ image: Sereny: Accused press of hypocrisy]
Sereny: Accused press of hypocrisy
Almost without exception, broadsheet and tabloid newspapers are running stories revealing that Mary Bell has been taken into protective custody.

Many of the titles carry what they say are interviews with Bell's partner, with The Sun claiming an exclusive on the story.

The Sun led coverage on Wednesday when it said it was the first newspaper to track down Bell.

Devoting two of Thursday's pages to the story, it prints an alleged photograph of her partner, his identity disguised.

Other photographs, seemingly of the same man, appear in other newspapers, with The Mirror giving his first name.

On the run

[ image: Bell as a child: Now in protective custody]
Bell as a child: Now in protective custody
The actions of the press has led to a sharp divide between the newspapers.

The Guardian leads condemnation of tabloid newspapers in what it calls the "Hounding of Mary Bell".

It calls on the tabloid newspapers to call off the hunt, saying the case once again raises questions about the ethics of British journalism.

John Silverman Home Affairs Correspondent : It's almost become a bloodsport (2'35")
"There is nothing new about tabloid hypocrisy," says a Guardian editorial.

"Few things are more nauseating than their regular bouts of specious moralising."

Injunction under threat

BBC legal correspondent Joshua Rozenberg:'Mary's official solicitor is concerned about the coverage' (2'07")
A question mark now hangs over the injunction taken out to protect Bell's daughter from harassment, by banning publication of her mother's name or whereabouts.

Newspapers and broadcasters say they are sticking to the order.

But they could fall foul of law through "jigsaw identification" which happens when a reader picks up enough information to piece together the whole.

Late on Wednesday evening the Official Solicitor sought a fresh injunction against the media.

However the original order could collapse because the 41-year-old former inmate voluntarily broke her silence for the book.


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30 Apr 98 | UK
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