TV programme libelled murder victim's husband

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The Independent Online
The husband of a murdered woman was given a public apology and "substantial" agreed libel damages yesterday over a television portrayal of him as an uncaring man who let his wife go out at night when he knew a serial killer was on the loose.

George Puttock told the High Court that Granada Television's In Suspicious Circumstances, broadcast on 23 March last year, included a dramatised reconstruction of events leading up to the unsolved murder of his wife, Helen, in 1969.

"It portrayed me as a man who had allowed his wife to go out to a dance hall on the night she was murdered, condoning her actions by making no attempt to dissuade her, by agreeing to look after our two children and by providing her with the taxi fare home, nothwithstanding that I knew a serial killer was loose in the area," said Mr Puttock, who represented himself in court. It suggested he did not even wait up for her return.

But Mr Puttock, 53, of Wokingham, Berkshire, told Mr Justice Drake that he did try to stop his wife going dancing - they had a two-hour argument - he waited up all night for her, and gave her sister money to ensure that they got a taxi home.

Granada agreed to withdraw the slur and to pay compensation for the pain and distress he had suffered as a result of the broadcast. It said, through its solicitor, that it intended to portray Mr Puttock as a good and loving father and caring husband but accepted that the impression the programme gave might have been misleading.

After the hearing, Mr Puttock, a clerk with a heating company, and his second wife, Mavis, said that their lives had been "hell" since the television broadcast.

He urged people to bring their own libel actions, saying: "If only people would stand up and say `you are not going to do this to me', they can win."