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Daily Mirror to pay Highgate man ‘undisclosed fee’ for false rat story, as paper claims: ‘We were deceived’

PUBLISHED: 08:00 16 April 2014 | UPDATED: 08:36 16 April 2014

Adrian Whitaker holding the rat he caught and killed.

Adrian Whitaker holding the rat he caught and killed.

Archant

The Daily Mirror has paid a Highgate man an undisclosed fee to compensate for publishing a front page picture of him holding a giant rat and falsely claiming the image showed a pest controller in Liverpool.

Adrian Whitaker with a copy of the offending Daily Mirror. Picture: Polly Hancock. Adrian Whitaker with a copy of the offending Daily Mirror. Picture: Polly Hancock.

Software developer Adrian Whitaker, 35, reported the discovery of a 2ft rat at his home in Milton Park, Highgate, to the Ham&High last May, providing the newspaper with a shocking picture of him holding the giant rodent.

But on Monday, almost a year after the story was published in the Ham&High, the Daily Mirror ran a front page story about giant rats invading Liverpool and accompanied it with the photo of Mr Whitaker holding the Highgate rat.

The Mirror claimed the rat was caught in Liverpool and that the photo depicted pest controller Sean Whelan holding the dead animal.

It has since been established that the false story originated in the Sunday edition of the Liverpool Echo, owned by publisher Trinity Mirror plc, which also owns the Daily Mirror.

Adrian Whitaker and the dead rat appeared on the Liverpool Echo website. Adrian Whitaker and the dead rat appeared on the Liverpool Echo website.

Yesterday, a Trinity Mirror spokesman said: “We were deceived about the picture of the giant rat. We were led to believe that it had been taken recently on an industrial estate in Liverpool.

“It has since become clear that it was taken in another part of the country last year. We will be clarifying the position with our readers tomorrow.”

The Ham&High contacted Mr Whelan about the photograph purported to be of him holding the rat but the pest controller initially claimed it was “one of the guys that work for me” who “found it in an industrial unit in Liverpool”.

He later called the Ham&High back to insist the Liverpool Echo had “pulled” the image off Facebook of their own accord.

"We were deceived about the picture of the giant rat. We were led to believe that it had been taken recently on an industrial estate in Liverpool."

Trinity Mirror spokesman

Last night, Mr Whitaker received a phone call from Daily Mirror editor-in-chief Lloyd Embley apologising for the newspaper’s mistake and agreeing to pay the father-of-one an undisclosed fee to make up for the error.

Mr Whitaker told the Ham&High: “It just makes me realise how much more of this probably goes on in tabloids.

“I used that picture as a means to lobby the council on a issue, not to sensationalise it and put it on the front cover of a tabloid.”

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