Balbir Matharu - A killing little noticed by the media

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The Independent Online

Two weeks ago Balbir Matharu, a delivery driver, saw thieves trying to steal the stereo from his white Mercedes van, which he had just parked outside his family's business in Stratford, east London.

He ran across the road and tried to block the thieves from escaping in their Ford Mondeo. They mowed him down, dragging him underneath the car for 40 yards. Mr Matharu, 54, who had a wife and two children, died from his injuries four hours later in hospital.

The Matharus all worked at a builders' yard - Mr Matharu was the driver while his wife, Sukhvinder, 51, and daughter, Baljinder, 28, worked in the shop. Their son, Inderjit, 25, and Baljinder also run a double glazing company at the back of the yard.

Ms Matharu said her father was a "gentle, caring man who lived and died for his family".

Although his murder attracted some coverage in the local weekly papers, it was nothing compared to the national newspaper space accorded to the killing of Tom ap Rhys Pryce, the lawyer stabbed to death in north-west London on the same day, 12 January.

There were, however, differences in the speed and quantity of information released by the Metropolitan Police, which affected media coverage. The first statement was sparse, indicating it may have been simply a road accident; it was four days before police disclosed that Mr Matharu had been dragged along by the car or released a picture of him. By contrast, full details of Mr Rhys Pryce's murder were available immediately, together with a photograph and a colourful quote from a detective. Over the following 10 days, 16 press releases were issued about his case, together with CCTV images, all of which helped propel coverage; only six releases were issued about Mr Matharu.

According to Jeff Edwards, chairman of the Crime Reporters' Association, that lack of information was crucial in determining the different coverage.

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