'Heartless': Ben Stokes lashes out over family murders story

Ben Stokes. Photo: Reuters
Ben Stokes. Photo: Reuters
England's World Cup hero Ben Stokes has condemned a British newspaper for running a front page story about a past family tragedy.

The Kiwi-born allrounder has called The Sun's decision to run the story as "utterly disgusting" and the "lowest form of journalism" in a social media post.

The Sun reported that Stokes had a half-brother and sister who were both murdered in New Zealand by his mother's former partner in 1988 – three years before Stokes' birth.

Tracey, 8, and Andrew, 4, were shot in Christchurch by their father Richard Dunn before he turned the gun on himself.

"Today The Sun has seen fit to publish extremely painful, sensitive and personal details concerning events in the private lives of my family, going back more than 31 years.

"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," Stokes said in a statement.

"For more than three decades, my family has worked hard to deal with the private trauma inevitably associated with these events and has taken great care to keep private what were deeply personal and traumatic events. On Saturday, the Sun sent a 'reporter to my parents' home in New Zealand to question them, out of the blue, on the incredibly upsetting topic. If that wasn't bad enough, the Sun think it is acceptable to sensationalise our personal tragedy for their front page.

"To use my name as an excuse to shatter the privacy and private lives of – in particular – my parents, is utterly disgusting. 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. The decision to publish these details has grave and lifelong consequences for my mum in particular.

"This is the lowest form of journalism, focused only on chasing sales with absolutely no regard for the devastation caused to lives as a consequence. It is totally out of order.

"The article also contains serious inaccuracies, which has compounded the damage caused. We need to take a serious look at how we allow our press to behave.

"Despite the fact that this has now been made public, I do please ask all concerned to respect my family's privacy and right to home life."

The Sun told the BBC it had received the co-operation of a family member.

Coverage at the time describes a "double murder and suicide" in Christchurch after the bodies of the two children and their father were discovered.

The children's gravestones describe them as the "much loved and loving children of Deborah".

Stokes was born and raised in New Zealand before moving to the UK aged 12 to settle in Cumbria where his father was offered a job as a rugby coach.

His international debut came in 2011 after playing school and club cricket but Stokes' reputation ran into trouble in 2017 when he faced a possible prison sentence over his role in a late-night brawl outside a Bristol nightclub.

The incident also saw him dropped as England vice-captain and he missed the 2017-18 Ashes series in Australia.

Having recently redeemed himself and his career, Stokes played a starring role as England won the Cricket World Cup for the first time earlier this year.

Last month he played one of England's greatest innings ever to pull off a stunning comeback victory over Australia in the third Ashes Test.

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