Case Number: 689

Council Meeting: MARCH 1998

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Ruling Categories: Suicide Reports

The New Zealand Press Council has declined to uphold a complaint by Audrey Lewis against the New Zealand Herald.

The complaint concerned a short report, published on 3 November 1997, about a couple found shot on their remote farm. The police investigation accepted it was apparently a domestic dispute resulting in a murder-suicide. No one else was sought in connection with the deaths.

The report comprised five sentences. The first - “Two people found shot dead on a farming property, south of Auckland, were constantly arguing, locals say,” - was the subject of the complaint.

Ms Lewis said the couple “got on well together. We have yet to talk with anyone that has heard them argue,” she wrote. She felt that the newspaper’s informant, if he existed, was wrong.

The newspaper expressed confidence in its source, who was adamant that there had been discord in the household.

The Press Council notes the use of the word “locals” when it appeared only one local had offered his opinion, was questionable. However it was entirely possible for friends and neighbours to have a different view of the couple. Any of those opinions might be published provided they were identified as such.