In the media empire of Rupert Murdoch, few things are sacred and the cremation of Frederick West, the self-confessed mass murderer, was certainly not one of them.
As West, 53, was sent on his way, pictures were taken inside the crematorium chapel, harsh words exchanged and blows struck by rival tabloid teams.
But what made the scenes at Canley Crematorium, Coventry, even stranger was that the rivalry was between a team from the Sun, Mr Murdoch's main tabloid daily, and its Sunday stablemate, the News of the World.
On Monday, West's body,which had lain in a Birmingham morgue since he hanged himself in his remand cell on New Year's Day, was removed by undertakers acting for his son, Stephen, and his daughter, Mae. Both have contracts with the News of the World and suspicions grew that the Sunday newspaper had stolen a march.
The cremation was booked secretly for Wednesday, the day Ronnie Kray, the former London gangster, was being buried in a high-profile ceremony certain to divert attention. However, on Tuesday night the Sun had a telephone tip-off from a friend of one of the four West mourners. At 8.30am on Wednesday, two Sun reporters and a posse of photographers turned up at the crematorium well before the mourners, escorted by a team from the News of the World, arrived.
Crematorium officials ban-ned photographers from the chapel but failed to notice that Andrew Parker, a Sun reporter, had a small automatic camera. Pictures of Stephen West, his wife, Andrea, Mae, and Tara, one of their younger sisters, standing in front of the coffin ran in the Sun yesterday.
As mourners emerged from the chapel, strong words were exchanged, scuffles broke out and Mark Giddings, a Sun photographer, is alleged to have been punched by one of the News of the World team. One onlooker said: "It wasn't exactly dignified."
Stuart Higgins, editor of the Sun, refused to comment yesterday. Piers Morgan, editor of the News of the World, said he had heard the service was "very civilised".