'Mirror' editor Morgan sacked over fake photos

BRITAIN: Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan was sacked last night as the newspaper's board finally accepted that pictures purporting…

BRITAIN: Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan was sacked last night as the newspaper's board finally accepted that pictures purporting to show British soldiers abusing an Iraqi prisoner were fakes.

Mr Morgan's position had become untenable after an extraordinary news conference yesterday afternoon at which the Queen's Lancashire Regiment (QLR) demonstrated the "overwhelming evidence" showing that the photographs were "staged" in an army truck of a kind not used by the regiment in Iraq.

"It is time the ego of one editor is measured against the life of a soldier," declared former commanding officer Col David Black as the regiment demanded an apology from the Mirror, branded Mr Morgan "a petty tyrant" and invited him to "consider his position." With the rival Sun newspaper offering a £50,000 reward for evidence leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the fake pictures, the QLR accused Mr Morgan of unjustly sullying its reputation and endangering the lives of British troops in Iraq.

And within hours the Board of Trinity Mirror issued a statement accepting that the paper had been the subject of the biggest press hoax since the Hitler Diaries.

The statement said: "The Daily Mirror published in good faith photographs which it absolutely believed were genuine images of British soldiers abusing an Iraqi prisoner.

"However there is now sufficient evidence to suggest that these pictures are fakes and that the Daily Mirror has been the subject of a calculated and malicious hoax.

"The Daily Mirror therefore apologises unreservedly for publishing the pictures and deeply regrets the reputational damage done to the Queen's Lancashire Regiment and the Army in Iraq."

Confirming that the newspaper would co-operate fully with the ongoing inquiry by the Royal Military Police, the statement continued: "The Board of Trinity Mirror has decided it would be inappropriate for Piers Morgan to continue in his role as editor of the Daily Mirror and he will therefore be stepping down with immediate effect."

Des Kelly, the paper's deputy editor, stepped in as acting editor.

Yesterday's press conference at the QLR headquarters in Preston was called to demonstrate to reporters aspects of uniform and equipment supporting the government's earlier claim that the pictures were almost certainly fake and could not have been taken in Iraq.

Brigadier Geoff Sheldon said the stark differences between two army trucks - only one of which had been used by the QLR in Basra - were a "key ingredient" in showing that the photographs were staged. "We are quite clear and it is quite clear - I don't think any serious commentator disputes this - that the evidence is overwhelming.

"Those photographs are fakes and all the damage that has been done are the result of fake pictures being produced . . . the time has come for those who produced those photographs to acknowledge the game is up."