Friday 16 March 2012

From the Mike Sullivan archives

Yesterday, the Leveson Inquiry heard from Mike Sullivan, crime correspondent at the Sun and one of those recently arrested by officers from Operation Elveden.

During his evidence, journalist Samira Ahmed tweeted:

Ahmed had reported on the murder of Rochelle Holness at the time, and had interviewed Rochelle's mother for Channel 4 News.

The Sun's article, written by Sullivan, Alex Peake and Tony Bonnici, was untrue. It said (and still says):

The claim that the victim was 'STILL ALIVE' came from an anonymous source:

One source said: "The flat was covered in blood, which points to the fact Rochelle was alive when her body was cut up."

The anonymous source does not say anything about Rochelle being 'strapped to a table' however.

It wasn't just the Sun - the Daily Star also claimed:

"murdered schoolgirl Rochelle Holness was cut up with an electric saw while she was still alive — it was feared that she was dismembered while her heart was still beating."

Yet Rochelle was already dead when she was dismembered, according to the post mortem. 

Speaking in May 2006, after John McGrady was given a full life sentence for Rochelle's murder, her family:

criticised two tabloid newspapers which published lurid and false details about the case...

"We hope those responsible for causing us so much unnecessary pain will today feel the shame that has so far been absent, for their behaviour has been as inhumane as John McGrady's."

The Press Gazette reported:

The Holness family's lawyer, Andre Clovis, told Press Gazette that two stories in the red-tops had been particularly disturbing for the family. He said they appeared after Rochelle's body was found, but before the family had received details of the post-mortem findings.

He said: "Before they had received any feedback from the pathologist via the police, there were these articles written by these two papers."


Clovis said that the pieces caused a rift between the family and the police — because they wanted to know why they were not being told this information first. He added the family found the stories extremely upsetting — not least, because the information was not true.

He said that the post mortem found that Rochelle had been dead for at least 15 hours when her body was mutilated and that there was no evidence that blood had been splattered over the flat.

He said: "When you are reporting about these issues you have got to report them sensitively because there are people involved. The family were devastated because they believed these stories."

Clovis added:

"We've sent in 30 other press cuttings from various other newspapers to the PCC to show that the rest of the reporting has been extremely sensitive. The question is why these papers felt they had to go a step further. The others reported the graphic details but didn't invent things and didn't try to make it any more gruesome than it was."

Mike Sullivan was also partly responsible - along with Anthony France - for a 27 April 2007 Sun article headlined 'Bondage killing of Muslim mum' which began:

A mum of four found murdered in her car boot was wearing rubber bondage gear, cops revealed yesterday. Last night they were investigating whether Muslim divorcée Janet Hossain, 32, was killed in a kinky sex session which got out of hand. She was wearing just the fetish outfit, which included belts and chains, and there were no obvious signs of injury.

This was almost completely untrue. Three months later, The Sun admitted:

Further to our article Bondage Killing of Muslim Mum of April 27 we would like to make clear the body of Ms Janet Hossain, of Manor Park, East London, was not discovered wearing bondage clothes as we stated. We apologise to her family for any distress caused.

So there was no bondage gear, no fetish outfit, no chains, no kinky sex session.

Are those two sentences really enough to atone for the 'distress caused'?

Remember the words of Sullivan's colleague Trevor Kavanagh, in his infamous 13 February rant about the situation at News International?

It is important that we do not jump to conclusions.


(Hat-tips to Samira Ahmed and septicisle)


  1. I don't really have words to respond to this. The Nationals do think they are kingmakers though, and he probably convinced himself that Rochelle's family would be pleased that what happened to her was receiving media attention. See Richard Desmond on Maddie McCann in his evidence to Leveson. That or they don't give a shit.

  2. I wanted to find out the outcome to the PCC complaint from the family but can't find anything online. does anyone know?

    1. Samira did not believe the complaint came from the family. Might be worth checking with the PCC.


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