- The Sun published a story on two murders in Stokes's family that happened in 1988
- Stokes reacted with a statement on Twitter, criticising the paper
- Tweeps reposted old news of how the reporter of the story is an ex-convict sentenced to a three-month jail term
- The cricket fraternity responded with overwhelming support for the all-rounder
England cricket chiefs on Tuesday rallied round star all-rounder Ben Stokes after he lashed out against a British newspaper on Tuesday. The Sun, on Tuesday, published an exclusive report on three chilling deaths in Stokes’s family from 31 years ago. The deaths were those of his two half-siblings, born to his mother Deb and her ex Richard Dunn.
As reported after the events 1988 Dunn, in a fit of jealous rage, shot dead his and Deb’s children - Tracey, eight, and Andrew, four - before killing himself.
Stokes, who was England’s hero in World Cup 2019 which they won in dramatic fashion, was born to Deb and Gerard Stokes in 1991 – three years after the tragedy.
What was The Sun’s story?
In their report, The Sun credits Dunn’s daughter as the source for new aspects of the case as well as pictures of Stokes’s deceased half-siblings. The murder had garnered major media attention at the time of the events and Dunn’s daughter, who spoke to The Sun, was only 18 at the time.
The report also mentions another family source who said that Deb, the children’s mother, had a very hard time coping with the tragedy of losing her children and that Stokes’s birth three years later “gave her something to live for”. The report includes pictures of the children and their marked graves, along with one photo of Dunn’s daughter.
The story published on Tuesday added: The couple [Deb and Gerard Stokes] and Ben declined to comment on the family tragedy.
Ben Stokes’s reaction
The cricketer posted a statement on Twitter to respond to what he called “the lowest form of journalism.” He said, "It is hard to find words that adequately describe such low and despicable behaviour, disguised as journalism. I cannot conceive of anything more immoral, heartless or contemptuous to the feelings and circumstances of my family.”
Addressing his public profile and status, Stokes wrote, “I am aware that my public profile brings with it consequences for me that I accept entirely. But I will not allow my public profile to be used as an excuse to invade the rights of my parents, my wife, my children or other family members. They are entitled to a private life of their own.”
Hours later, #BenStokes started trending on Twitter. England Test skipper Joe Root was one among the 40,000 who retweeted his statement saying: "Please take the time to read this and respect it".
The Sun’s response
In response to his Twitter statement, a Sun spokesperson reportedly said, "The Sun has the utmost sympathy for Ben Stokes and his mother but it is only right to point out the story was told with the co-operation of a family member who supplied details, provided photographs and posed for pictures. The tragedy is also a matter of public record and was the subject of extensive front page publicity in New Zealand at the time.”
The news company added, "The Sun has huge admiration for Ben Stokes and we were delighted to celebrate his sporting heroics this summer. He was contacted prior to publication and at no stage did he or his representatives ask us not to publish the story."
#BoycottTheSun and Nick Parker
Tweeps posted largely against the publication with the hashtags #BoycottTheSun and #dontbuythesun which were trending in the United Kingdom for some time.
Online users also reposted old news about the reporter who filed the story for The Sun.
In 2014 Nick Parker, chief foreign correspondent at The Sun, was found guilty of handling a mobile phone that had been stolen from Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh. He was sentenced to a three-month jail term, suspended for 12 months, for the offence.
England and Wales Cricket (ECB) Chief Executive Tom Harrison has now said Stokes has the full support of “the whole sport and the country”.
“We, like the wider sporting world, are disgusted and appalled at the actions taken in revealing the tragic events from Ben’s past,” BBC Sport quoted Harrison as saying in an ECB statement.
“We are saddened that an intrusion of this magnitude was deemed necessary in order to sell newspapers or secure clicks. Ben’s exploits at Lord’s and Headingley cemented his place in cricket history this summer - we are sure the whole sport, and the country, stands behind him in support.’’
Earlier, England and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford also came out in support of Stokes and tweeted: “Disappointing to see this. Ben Stokes has been huge for sport this summer. He and his family deserve better.”
Who is Ben Stokes? The “Special One”
Benjamin Andrew Stokes was born on June 4, 1991 to Deb and Gerard Stokes in New Zealand. Born in Christchurch with Maori ancestry, Stokes moved to Britain at the age of 12 when his father – a former Kiwi rugby league international – got a job as a coach for Workington in northwest England.
His parents eventually moved back to Christchurch along with his brothers in 2013 – and as a schoolboy, Stokes had considered following in his father’s footsteps and pursuing a career in rugby. Instead, England is where that Stokes learnt the game and began playing club cricket for local teams at the age of 15 and becoming an all-rounder who bowls right-arm fast-medium pace and bats left-handed.
He was soon playing for the county side Durham, making his debut as a teenager and later appearing for England at Under-19 level. His aggressive batting as a left-hander, the lively pace of his bowling and the heroics on the field all became a delight for his home team – and Stokes finally made his debut for England in August 2011.
After a stunning performance in the 2019 Cricket World Cup, Sir Ian Botham hailed Stokes as English cricket’s “Special One” and told the all-rounder that his miraculous innings at Headingley will change his life forever.
Since his debut, Stokes has broken several cricket records in a mere eight years.
An attacking middle-order batsman, he holds the record for England’s fastest ever Test double-century, the fastest Test match 250, and the highest score for a Test batsman batting at number six. He also holds the record for the most runs scored by an individual batsman in the morning session of a Test match. Stokes also became the highest-paid overseas player in the history of the Indian Premier League in 2017, fetching a record contract of more than $2 million.
With inputs from agencies