'Mirror' editor sacked in row over fake photos

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The Independent Online

Piers Morgan was sacked as editor of the Daily Mirror yesterday after his employers said he had fallen victim to a "calculated and malicious hoax" in publishing fake pictures of British soldiers abusing Iraqis.

Piers Morgan was sacked as editor of the Daily Mirror yesterday after his employers said he had fallen victim to a "calculated and malicious hoax" in publishing fake pictures of British soldiers abusing Iraqis.

The dramatic development was the culmination of a two-week stand-off in which Mr Morgan had attempted to "brazen out" growing claims that the photographs, supposedly depicting members of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment (QLR), were staged. But last night the owners of the paper, Trinity Mirror, said in a statement it would "be inappropriate" for Mr Morgan to continue in the post that he has occupied for the past nine years.

The company, which had come under pressure from its shareholders to take action, made an unreserved apology for printing the pictures. It said: "The Daily Mirror published in good faith photographs which it absolutely believed were genuine images of British soldiers abusing an Iraqi prisoner.

"However there is now sufficient evidence to suggest that these pictures are fakes and that the Daily Mirror has been the subject of a calculated and malicious hoax. The Daily Mirror therefore apologises unreservedly for publishing the pictures and deeply regrets the reputational damage done to the QLR and the Army in Iraq."

Mr Morgan was fired and escorted from the Mirror's headquarters in Canary Wharf, in London's Docklands, following a board meeting at Trinity Mirror. The meeting, which followed expressions of concern from two significant shareholders, was attended by the company chairman, Sir Victor Blank, its chief executive, Sly Bailey, and several non-executive directors. An insider said: "Sly was determined that he should go."

The board meeting came after Trinity Mirror received a demand from one of the shareholders, Isis, that the publishing company should meet it to discuss its concerns.

The Armed Forces minister, Adam Ingram, denounced the photographs as fake on Thursday after an investigation by the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police concluded that the scenes had been staged in a lorry in the car park of a Territorial Army barracks near Manchester.

Colonel David Black, a former QLR commanding officer, reflected the mood of vindication at the regiment. "It's time that the ego of one editor is measured against the life of the soldier," he said. A Defence minister, Ivor Caplin, said: "His decision to resign will be welcomed by the Queen's Lancashire Regiment and it will be welcomed by the Army as justification of their innocence."

However, the conduct of members of the QLR remains under the spotlight. A number of unnamed soldiers have made allegations to the Mirror about abuse of Iraqis.

Cabinet ministers were said to have been delighted on hearing of the demise of Mr Morgan, who led the Mirror in a strident campaign against the war in Iraq. One Cabinet minister said: "I knew as soon as the regiment said that soldiers were being killed because of the Mirror that his position was untenable. A lot of a us will be saying about time too.''

To the last, Mr Morgan was defending his position and claiming that the Government was questioning the veracity of the photographs to divert attention from the more important issue of the abuse of Iraqis by British troops. Yesterday afternoon he told the ITV News Channel: "All I want to say is we published the truth. We have revealed a can of worms. If the Government chooses to ignore that, it is entirely a matter for them."

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