Ms Teresa Esmonde and www.the

By admin
Friday, 31st May 2024
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The Press Ombudsman has decided not to uphold a complaint by Ms Teresa Esmonde about a report in

Ms Esmonde complained that an article published in January 2024 breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy), Principle 2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment), Principle 3 (Fairness and Honesty) and Principle 4 (Respect for Rights) of the Press Council’s Code of Practice.

The article, by the publication’s crime editor, is based on a telephone interview with a named man who spoke from a Lithuanian prison where he was being held on remand in connection with a murder. In the course of the interview, the man discussed various matters relating to gangland figures and their activities. The publication asked him why, after he was arrested in Ireland in 2017, he had pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of another man. Among other reasons, the publication quoted him as saying: “I was also told that if I didn’t plead guilty Eric Fowler would testify against me”.

Mr Fowler was murdered in 2018. Ms Esmonde is his mother.

All of Ms Esmonde’s complaints of breaches of the Code of Practice are based on the quoted statement by the prisoner about her late son.

On Principle 1 she asked if the statement had been fact-checked.  She said it appeared an allegation of coercion was being made publicly, “if it is true”.  She said her son had never been arrested or questioned in regard to the attempted murder in question.

On Principle 2 she said comment, conjecture, rumour, and unconfirmed reports should not be published as fact, and again asked if the comment had been fact-checked for accuracy.

On Principle 3 she asked if it was fair “to print a statement as fact” about a person who had been murdered and could not defend themselves.

On Principle 4 she said that she was defending her late son’s rights and his family’s rights “to not have outrageous accusations published about him”.

The publication stated that it had been “clear at all times” that this article was an interview, and that specifically the part of it about which Ms Esmonde had complained was stated by the interviewee and attributed to him and was not presented as a matter of fact.  The publication expressed condolences to Ms Esmonde, and, while denying breaching the Code, offered her a right of reply to be included as part of the online article.


The Press Ombudsman finds that this article is presented as an interview, with the statement about Ms Esmonde’s son attributed in quotation marks to the interviewee, whose credibility is by no means asserted by the publication. (The headline describes him as a “notorious hitman”, a designation he clearly rejects.) The publication does not claim that the late Mr Fowler was arrested or questioned about the attempted murder.  

This is not an investigative report in which the publication might challenge statements or seek to prove their veracity or otherwise.  It is an interview, and as the complained of statement is not published as a matter of fact, the Press Ombudsman finds that Principles 1, 2 and 3 of the Code are not breached. The assertion made by the prisoner, and not endorsed by the publication, is an unsubstantiated claim that a third party told him that the late Mr Fowler would testify in unspecified ways against him. This does not justify a claim that published “outrageous allegations” about Mr Fowler.  The Press Ombudsman finds that Principle 4 was not breached. 

13 May 2024