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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 August, 2005, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
When murder makes the news
Two murders, both on the same day, but both receiving very different levels of coverage. The question so many of you have asked this week is why?

One O'Clock News presenter Anna Ford
Walker was covered on Tuesday's One O'Clock News; Whelan was not

The BBC has given a lot of national coverage to the murder of Anthony Walker, the 18-year-old boy killed with an axe in Merseyside last Friday.

It made the One, Six and Ten O'Clock News bulletins; there were constant live updates on News 24; and it led the UK index of the BBC News website.

The other murder, however, that of 28-year-old Richard Whelan, stabbed to death on a London bus, failed to make any of the national television bulletins, even in the immediate aftermath.

On the BBC News website, while the Walker murder continued to lead the UK index on Tuesday, the Whelan murder warranted a small headline at the bottom of the England index.

Terrible murders

"Double standards", "politically correct nonsense" and "unbalanced" were just some of the accusations you threw at the BBC this week.

But R Joslyn, of Kent, summed up the 80-plus complaints and questions, simply asking: "Over recent days two young men lost their lives by terrible murders. Anthony Walker in Liverpool and Richard Whelan in London.

"Since their murders, your national news has given excellent reports of Anthony's death but nothing on national news about Richard's. Why not?"

NewsWatch asked the editor of the Six O'Clock News, Amanda Farnsworth, who led with the Walker murder on Monday evening, to explain the BBC's position:

The tragic murders of Anthony Walker and Richard Whelan on the face of it have similarities.

Both were young men, in the prime of their lives, much loved by family and friends, cruelly and viciously murdered.

Both were murdered by men who were not of their own ethnic group. Anthony was a black man murdered by white men. Richard was white, murdered by a black man.

But in fact the two murders are very different.

Six O'Clock editor Amanda Farnsworth
I think, however, we should have mentioned the Whelan murder, however briefly

As far as I know, from reading the Press Association wires, listening to the police and reading newspaper coverage, the police are not suggesting there was any racial motive in the killing of Richard Whelan.

On the contrary, Detective Chief Inspector John MacDonald, who is in charge of the investigation into Richard Whelan's murder, said: 'This was a totally unprovoked attack by someone who obviously carries a knife as a matter of course. Anybody could have been the victim of this crime.

'The worst thing about this is that the couple could have been anyone, any one of us on a night out.'

Whereas Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Lawson, of Merseyside Police, said of the murder of Anthony Walker: 'What we're dealing with here is an unprovoked and vicious attack on a young, black man, which we believe to be racially motivated.

'We believe the offenders are local. We believe it is the responsibility of the local communities to give these people up.'

Shocked communities

It is this racial element to the crime that makes it different.

Racially motivated murders, I'm sure we are all glad to say, are rare events. They are unheard of in this area of Liverpool.

Unfortunately, senseless murders in London are comparatively more common.

In addition, there was a planning and premeditation in the murder of Anthony Walker that was also particularly shocking.

Anthony had walked away from the man racially abusing him but the man appears to have gone to find his friends, and an axe, and chased and killed the 18-year-old.

I think, however, we should have mentioned the Whelan murder, however briefly.

It has clearly shocked his community and, tragically, his friend had been killed in the tube bombings of 7 July.

However, News 24 have been covering the case and, of course, BBC London too.




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