A newspaper has quietly retracted the claim that murderer Ian Huntley identifies as transgender, which had been repeatedly cited by anti-transgender campaigners.
The Daily Star Sunday newspaper published claims in April 2018 that Huntley, who was jailed for the 2002 murders of 10 year olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, was transitioning behind bars.
The article by Isobel Dickinson claimed that Huntley had begun wearing a wig and make-up while serving his life sentence in Frankland Prison, and asked fellow prisoners to address him as “Nicola.”
Daily Star Sunday retracts Ian Huntley transgender claims
However, the Daily Star Sunday has now admitted the story was untrue.
A correction published by the newspaper on February 10 says: “In the article ‘Sick killer Huntley’s wig stunt’, published on 8 April 2018, we reported that prisoner Ian Huntley had been wearing a blonde wig and asking fellow inmates to call him Nicola.
“We also reported that Ian Huntley intended to join the Transgender Pathway in order to become a woman.
“Ian Huntley would like to make it clear that he does not own a wig, has never asked to be addressed by any name other than his own and that there has never been a plan for him to change his gender identity.”
The original article has now been pulled offline.
False Ian Huntley story was ‘used to attack’ transgender rights
The unsubstantiated claim that Huntley is transgender has been widely cited by opponents of transgender rights and gender recognition reforms, with the group Fair Play For Women and controversial TV writer Graham Linehan frequently referencing Huntley.
The admission that the story is untrue led to a wave of criticism.
TV host Jeremy Vine said: “This correction may look ridiculous, but the Huntley ‘Nicola’ story has been used for the last year to make transgender people feel even more isolated.”
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Columnist Owen Jones added: “Anti-trans activists have been using Ian Huntley supposedly transitioning as a ‘gotcha’ to attack trans rights and trans people in general. And oh look, it was tabloid trash lies all along.”
Newspapers ‘fuelled moral panic’ on transgender issues
Newspaper coverage of transgender issues has been a controversial issue over the past few years, with some politicians accusing UK media outlets of fuelling a “moral panic” with misleading coverage.
Labour leader Ed Miliband likened the wave of interest in trans issues to anti-gay coverage seen in the 1980s.
He said: “A moral panic has broken out, not about Brexit or Boris Johnson or the government falling apart, but about ‘boys wearing tiaras’.
“It’s all sort of classically ranty-pants Daily Mail.”
He added: “Isn’t the truth about this that they’re playing on people’s ignorance?
“This is a relatively new issue for people to get their heads around because it’s been so hidden. The whole question of gender identity, and people who feel the sex they were born with doesn’t reflect their true identity – the tabloids are playing on people’s lack of knowledge about this to stoke up a kind of moral panic.”
Last month, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) ruled against a “misleading” article by the Sunday Times that suggested trans people were not free to use public toilets aligned with their gender identity.
In January 2018 the Sunday Times newspaper issued another correction admitting claims about transgender children’s charity Mermaids were untrue.