Newspapers accused of ‘stirring up hatred’ as they remove false claims child murderer was transgender

Some of Britain’s biggest newspapers have removed false claims they published about a child murder being transgender.

Ian Huntley, who was jailed in 2003 for murdering 10-year-old girls Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells, was said to be transgender according to reports by the Daily Star Sunday.

A correction published by the newspaper on February 10 says: “In the article ‘Sick killer Huntley’s wig stunt’, published on 8 April 2018, we reported that prisoner Ian Huntley had been wearing a blonde wig and asking fellow inmates to call him Nicola.

“We also reported that Ian Huntley intended to join the Transgender Pathway in order to become a woman.

“Ian Huntley would like to make it clear that he does not own a wig, has never asked to be addressed by any name other than his own and that there has never been a plan for him to change his gender identity.”

The false claims were spread across the national after being picked up by almost every national newspaper, including The Sun, The Mirror, The Telegraph, The Guardian, Mail Online and Metro.

One campaigner accused the newspapers of “creating outrage” that could risk the safety of trans people.

The story first appear in The Star in January 2017, citing an anonymous source, said to be a former inmate, who claimed Huntley was now going by the name ‘Nicola.’

TV host Jeremy Vine said: “This correction may look ridiculous, but the Huntley ‘Nicola’ story has been used for the last year to make transgender people feel even more isolated.”

Columnist Owen Jones added: “Anti-trans activists have been using Ian Huntley supposedly transitioning as a ‘gotcha’ to attack trans rights and trans people in general. And oh look, it was tabloid trash lies all along. “

Articles by The Sun, The Mirror, Daily Mail and Metro have all been deleted following the news that the claims are false. However stories remain online from The Telegraph, Cosmopolitan , Lad Bible and one article remains live on the Daily Star website.

Speaking to iNews, Jane Fae, a trans writer who works with campaign group Trans Media Watch, accused the papers of “stirring up hatred against minorities”.”

Ms Fae told i: “It doesn’t get much more irresponsible than this. Papers need to be far more careful with minorities in stirring up social outrage.”

She added: “Newspapers saw this story as a mixture of freak show and outrage – suggesting the most hated man in England is transgender, then spinning it to suggest he would get cushier treatment because of that.

Last month, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) ruled against a “misleading” article by the Sunday Times that suggested trans people were not free to use public toilets aligned with their gender identity.

In January 2018 the Sunday Times newspaper issued another correction admitting claims about transgender children’s charity Mermaids were untrue


Queer News supports the efforts of Trans Media Watch, a charity dedicated to improving media coverage of trans and intersex issues.

Trans Media Watch helps people in the media to understand these issues and produce clear, accurate, respectful material. It also helps trans and intersex people who are interacting with the media to get results they are comfortable with.

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