England and Arsenal player Ashley Cole has received an apology and damages following a series of newspaper articles that wrongly claimed him to have been involved in a gay orgy.

The News of the World and the Sun published a series of articles between the 12th and 19th of February 2006 accompanied with pixelated photographs of Mr Cole and the radio DJ Masterstepz (Ian Thompson) although neither party were named.

The following week, PinkNews.co.uk published an unedited version of the photographs that confirmed that the newspapers were alleging that Mr Cole and Mr Thompson were the parties involved in the alleged orgy.

Following the publication of the photographs on PinkNews.co.uk, Mr Cole and Mr Thompson began legal action against the News of the World and the Sun but not against PinkNews.co.uk.

Solicitors for the newspapers then wrote to PinkNews.co.uk stating that they reserve the right to commence third party proceedings against the site in relation to the libel claims of Mr Cole but not Mr Thompson. The letter claimed that the newspapers had not intended to name either party and that their identity was only known through the publication of photographs on PinkNews.co.uk, something that the publishers of this website denied.

An apology printed on page three of the News of the World states: “‘Although the photograph was pixellated some readers have understood Mr Cole to be one of the footballers and Masterstepz to be the DJ concerned.

‘We are happy to make clear that Mr Cole and Masterstepz were not involved in any such activities.

‘We apologise to them for any distress caused and we will be paying them each a sum in the way of damages.

‘We wish Mr Cole the very best of luck in today’s match against Ecuador.’”

Following the apology, PinkNews.co.uk editor, Benjamin Cohen said: “The publication on PinkNews.co.uk of the original, unedited photographs allowed Ashley Cole and Ian Thompson to begin their legal action against the News of the World and the Sun.”

“Music Figure A” and “Player A” (Source: News of the World)

MasterStepz and Ashley Cole (Source: Choice FM)

Both photographs superimposed on each other

“PinkNews.co.uk did not publish the photographs in order to allege that either party were gay but rather to uncover the newspapers’ tactics in attempting to out celebrities. Particularly, when the celebrities involved were clearly not gay.”

PinkNews.co.uk was represented by Stock Fraser Cukier.