Editor digs in as rivals go on attack

Piers Morgan, the editor of the Daily Mirror, thought he had the perfect scoop when the images of torture from Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad were first broadcast in America 10 days ago.

Piers Morgan, the editor of the Daily Mirror, thought he had the perfect scoop when the images of torture from Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad were first broadcast in America 10 days ago.

Locked within the newspaper's safe in Canary Wharf, London, was a set of pictures that purported to show two British soldiers abusing a terrified Iraqi. Their publication a week ago yesterday caused a sensation. As first General Mike Jackson, Britain's most senior soldier, and then Tony Blair condemned the apparent abuse, the tabloid's billing of a "world exclusive" seeming, for once, entirely justified.

Within 24 hours the newspaper's scoop was buried beneath an avalanche of doubts over the pictures' authenticity. The BBC led a charge of sceptics questioning almost every aspect of the stills, from the soldiers' webbing to the make of the truck in which the alleged assault of the prisoner took place.

This weekend Mr Morgan must be reflecting on a week in which he went from triumph to near disaster in a bout of extraordinary tabloid in-fighting.

The editor was given a taste of what was in store on Monday when The Sun and the Daily Express gleefully reported the doubts of "military experts" over the photographs.

"WE TOLD THE TRUTH" was his defiant riposte as the paper made a "point-by-point rebuttal" of claims that the pictures were faked.

The effort left its rivals unimpressed: "LIARS" was the considered response of the Daily Express on its front page on Tuesday, while The Sun showed its readers how easy it would have been to mock up the abuse pictures.

As investigators from the Royal Military Police arrived on the editorial floor at Canary Wharf to question the reporter who wrote the story that morning, heat was building on the editor.

There were calls for his resignation in the Commons and accusations he had needlessly placed serving soldiers at risk from a backlash prompted by the untrue story.

He said that he had "nothing to hide" and was "relaxed". "Not one new fact has emerged that exposes our story or pictures as a fake."

The editor's confidence appeared to be borne out by authoritative briefings from inside the military investigation that the pictures may be impossible to verify. In the absence of a confession from the men involved - and the newspaper refuses to reveal its sources - it is left to the sceptics to disprove the images by other means, and no definitive technical evidence has yet been advanced.

Nevertheless, Mr Morgan has subtly prepared a second line of defence should they be proved fakes. In an interview that appeared in The Daily Telegraph, he said: "Although I absolutely understand that it's very important that the veracity of these photographs is seen to be established - ie: as an accurate record of events that happened - what I would say is that the bigger issue is the fact that we have brought to public attention the allegations of ill-treatment of detainees by British troops."

His chosen standard of veracity as "an accurate record of events" leaves open the possibility that the pictures were staged to show a prior, unrecorded, incident.

To underline the second point, that the pictures served a greater truth of abuse in Iraq, the paper printed first the testimony of a third soldier involved in beatings and then what it presented as another "trophy" picture, yesterday.

Compared with the genuinely shocking pictures from Abu Ghraib, the slightly bloodied mouth of a handcuffed Iraqi captive is tame and inconclusive as a condemnation, however.

Lieutenant Colonel Mike Glover, who served with the accused regiment, the Queen's Lancashire, told the BBC yesterday it was a "typical image" and proved "conclusively that the original set of photographs are false".

Senior officials in the Ministry of Defence said last night that the RMP investigation was likely to take weeks. Too much is at stake for the final answer to be fudged.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Sales Engineer - Cowes - £30K-£40K

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Sales Engineer - Cow...

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor