Cleo Smith: Man who was wrongly identified as suspect sues TV station

Terrance Flowers is suing an Australian news network for defamation after it wrongly identified him as suspect Terence Kelly

Thomas Kingsley
Wednesday 17 November 2021 12:46
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<p>Investigations continue in the Cleo Smith case  </p>

Investigations continue in the Cleo Smith case

An Australian man has launched a defamation case against a national news channel that that wrongly identified him as an alleged child abductor in the Cleo Smith case.

Police charged Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, with the abduction of Cleo Smith after the four-year-old went missing from a campsite in western Australia for 18 days.

However, hours after he was arrested, Australian TV station Seven Network, wrongly published photos of Terrance Flowers. Mr Flowers’ legal team filed a case with Western Australia supreme court on Tuesday after the network published multiple broadcasts, an online news article and social media posts with photos of Mr Flowers’ from his Facebook, used without his consent.

The network took four photos from his Facebook account - where he uses his mother’s maiden name Kelly. Posts from the network on 3 November - with headings such as “Pictured: The man accused of abducting Cleo Smith” - were some of the earliest photos of the suspect shown to the public in the high profile case.

Terence Darrell Kelly has been charged with the abduction of Cleo Smith

In a statement, Mr Flowers’ lawyers alleged he had “been gravely injured in his character and reputation, and has suffered substantial hurt, distress and embarrassment and has and will continue to suffer loss and damage.”

The statement added that given the “public interest” in the disappearance of Cleo Smith that allegations made about Mr Flowers in the publication would be “widely republished.”

After becoming aware of the mistake on the same day the posts were published, Seven Network issued an apology insisting that the images were “promptly removed.”

“Earlier on Wednesday 7NEWS wrongly showed images of a man that were incorrectly labelled as the person under arrest over the disappearance of Cleo Smith,” it read. “These were removed promptly but 7NEWS apologises for the error.”

Lawyers for Mr Flowers said the posts made him “the subject of hate around the nation and the world and resulted in him being hospitalised with a severe panic attack.”

“He had nothing to do with it and was never a suspect in the case,” his lawyers said.

“Mr Flowers recently became a father and like everyone else throughout Australia, and particularly being a parent himself, he was hoping for Cleo’s safe return. Being identified as responsible for her abduction and disappearance was extremely distressing to him and his family.”

The Independent approached Seven Network for comment.

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