Violent video game sells out after being blamed for murder

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The Independent Online

A video game blamed by a 14-year-old murder victim's parents for his death has sold out across much of the country following publicity about the brutal murder. The Dixons Group last week withdrew the violent game Manhunt from its Dixons, Currys and PC World stores, while Virgin Megastores also withdrew it in the wake of media coverage about the murder of Stefan Pakeerah, who was killed by his friend, Warren Leblanc, 17 in Leicester in February.

A video game blamed by a 14-year-old murder victim's parents for his death has sold out across much of the country following publicity about the brutal murder. The Dixons Group last week withdrew the violent game Manhunt from its Dixons, Currys and PC World stores, while Virgin Megastores also withdrew it in the wake of media coverage about the murder of Stefan Pakeerah, who was killed by his friend, Warren Leblanc, 17 in Leicester in February.

But HMV are still stocking it and revealed yesterday that it had to restock after running out of the game at many of its stores. An HMV spokesman, Gennaro Castaldo, said: "Interest in Manhunt has significantly increased for all the wrong reasons. It's flying off the shelves.

Leblanc savagely beat his friend with a claw hammer and stabbed him repeatedly after luring him to a local park to rob him. Claw hammers and knives are used by combatants in Manhunt - a game Leblanc was said to be obsessed with.

Stefan's mother Giselle Pakeerah said yesterday that she was "saddened" by news that the game's sales were up.

Ms Pakeerah, 36, said: "It doesn't really come as surprise. But I must say I'm saddened and disappointed.

"The content of this game is contemptible. It's a societal hazard and my concern is to get it off the shelves as there's enough violence in society."

HMV, one of the few major high street retailers now selling Manhunt, said demand for the game had "significantly increased" at its 200 stores. The game was sold out yesterday at the chain's branches in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Belfast.

Mr Castaldo added: "People who had never heard of the game now want to buy it. Many think it's going to be banned and that lends a certain cachet." Mr Castaldo said that HMV had not followed Dixons' example in withdrawing the game because it did not believe that it should act as a censor.

But the chain's bosses have warned staff at its branches throughout the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to be aware of its 18 certificate.

Sales of the game, which retails for between £19.99 and £39.99 on PlayStation 2 and Xbox, have also been brisk at the online auction house eBay.

Many vendors on the website mistakenly claim Manhunt, which is made by Edinburgh-based Rockstar Games, has been banned. Mr Castaldo said banning Manhunt would only divert sales to the internet or unscrupulous market traders.

Mr Castaldo said: "If you ban the game, all you do is increase its appeal among the very people you are trying to dissuade from playing it and to drive sales underground via the internet or illegal market traders.

"The difference is that they won't care who they sell it to and can't be relied on to enforce its 18 certification."A spokesperson for Rockstar Games was unavailable for comment.

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