HOURS before Bristol sees six leading media figures discuss the future of press regulation, media journalist Roy Greenslade has challenged the Leveson Inquiry to investigate how the Sun got some of its ‘exclusives’ during the Jo Yeates case.
It is already common knowledge that several newspapers blackened the name of Jo Yeates’ landlord, Christopher Jefferies, who is due to speak about his ordeal at the 2012 Benn Debate at the Arnolfini in Bristol tonight.
Jefferies told the Leveson Inquiry last year:
“They embarked on a frenzied campaign to blacken my character by publishing a series of very serious allegations about me, which were completely untrue, allegations which were a mixture of smear, innuendo and complete fiction.”
The Sun was among the papers which paid damages to Mr Jefferies in 2011 for libelling him.
Now Roy Greenslade has drawn attention in his Guardian blog to two stories which appeared in the Sun – and challenged the Leveson Inquiry to ask Avon & Somerset’s police chief if he can account for how the newspaper obtained its information.
Chief constable Colin Port is to appear before the Leveson Inquiry in two weeks’ time.
Mr Port can already expect to be asked how the press learned of police interest in Mr Jefferies.
Mr Jefferies has said that the day before he was arrested, he was surprised to be questioned by a large number of reporters about a statement he had made to police.
Now Greenslade draws attention to the Sun’s lead story of January 5th, 2011, headlined ‘Jo’s body was missing one sock’.
The fact that Ms Yeates was found without one of her socks is understood to be a vital piece of evidence which detectives wanted to keep secret. Greenslade says the officers were astounded and upset when the information appeared in print.
The second Sun story, on January 17, was headed: ‘Joanna: Ikea pair in police quiz’. It said that two Ikea drivers who had made a delivery to the Yeates house were to be questioned by police.
BBC West reporter Steve Brodie – who is also on the panel at the Benn Debate tonight – discovered that the two Ikea staff could not understand how the Sun got their names and contact details, including a mobile phone number.
One, James Alexander, told Brodie that being the subject of intense press interest was “horrible”.
The other, James Crozier, was amazed that the Sun had his address. He told BBC Points West: “We went to see two senior detectives and told them the papers had our names and addresses. We were told they were under the impression they had been eavesdropped.”
Steve Brodie’s story for Points West will be shown at the Benn Debate tonight.
Roy Greenslade says: “Several questions about this matter must be raised by Lord Justice Leveson when Colin Port appears before him.
“How does the chief constable explain the publication of the confidential information such as the missing sock episode?
“How does he explain the paper obtaining the identities and addresses of the Ikea delivery men?
“And why, when one of the men complained to his police force, was he told that detectives were under the impression that the investigative team had been eavesdropped?”
Mr Jefferies, who is in a legal dispute with Avon & Somerset police, is not expected to make any comment on police matters tonight.
ALSO SPEAKING AT THE BENN DEBATE: Hacked to bits – Restoring public trust in journalism
Arnolfini, Bristol, 7.30pm, Friday March 16th; 0117 917 2300
Organised by Bristol NUJ and Bristol Festival of Ideas with MediaAct and MediaWise
Thais Porthilho-Shrimpton, co-ordinator, Hacked Off campaign
Lord Hunt, chair, Press Complaints Commission
Richard Peppiatt, ex Daily Star reporter
Chair: Donnacha DeLong, NUJ President
PAGE ONE – Inside the New York Times: 5.30pm Friday March 16th, Arnolfini, Bristol. Tickets £6.50 and £5.00 concessions and NUJ members
First showing in Bristol of this remarkable fly-on-the-wall film about one of the world’s great newspapers as it faces up to the challenges of a revolution in the needs of media consumers.
ATTEND BOTH EVENTS FOR £11.50 or £8.50 concessions and NUJ members