Death, sex and copyright

My friend died at the start of the year. He was found in a hotel room a few days before his 42nd birthday. It was a big shock. We’d worked together for a number of years and although our paths had strayed a couple of years back, we still spoke from time to time.

So there was a lot of sadness when I learnt of his death. It seemed such a shame. More so to the many people that were closer to him than me, and no doubt to his close family and father who a year earlier had seen his wife, my friend’s mum, pass away due to illness.

At his funeral there were so many people that we had to stand outside. The service was relayed through the speakers, to the mourners who knew him as a friend or from school or work. Another mate and I had travelled down from Yorkshire to the service in Colchester. Both of us were moved by the number of people there. There were a few Japanese businessmen there, connected to his recently acquired business. One guy had flown in that morning from Germany to pay his respects.

It was probably a surprise for the family then that so many strange faces were there, for as was commented upon in the service, he liked to keep himself to himself. He probably wasn’t the smartest person you’d ever meet, or had the most business acumen, but what was obvious to everyone crowded around the grave was he was certainly very likeable.

At the time there was one question that no one knew the answer to, why or how had he died? The coroner’s report was apparently inconclusive and all his family wanted to say was, it wasn’t suicide and it wasn’t illness. To be honest, that was all I needed to know. The suddenness of it all meant it was still sinking in and what did it matter anyway? I was at the same time sad, annoyed and angry that whatever had happened, the daft bugger had done something that had led us all here.

A great tribute was paid to him online, via a huge raft of comments left on his facebook page, on forums associated with fans of his beloved Marina cars and in the trade magazine ShD. I’d looked through dozens of pictures too, and found a shot I’d taken of him for work which the magazine asked if they could use for their obituary. I was happy to oblige.

The whole experience just went to show how well liked he was and how tragic the whole episode was. Over the next few weeks and months, we all got on with our lives.

Yesterday, on April 4th, a story appeared on the Daily Mail website by Jill Reilly (‘Author’ of other such enlightening articles as ‘Mother-in-law drops dead before wedding’; ‘I’m too fat for work’ and ‘Lilli the six-limbed cow’) covering the newly released Coroner’s report.

The report concluded that my friend had appeared to have suffocated after a sex act that went wrong. Whilst it wasn’t 100 percent possible to rule out the involvement of anyone else, it seemed most likely that this was a tragic accident that was completely self-inflicted. He’d passed out faced down on his bed.

Jill’s article focused more on the nature of his death, the state of decomposition of the body, some nearby porn and the possibility that drugs were involved. The fact that he ran a company seemed also to add newsvalue, being repeatedly referred to as a ‘Boss’. His distraught dad was quoted but that was lifted directly from the Coroner’s report. The story was also accompanied by the photo I’d taken and sent to ShD, with a caption copyrighting the photo to ‘Central News’ (whoever they are, they don’t own that photo).

A few hours later and the Sun (‘Boss killed by kinky sex’) and Mirror (‘Boss found dead in hotel may have died in sex game gone wrong, inquest told’) websites also carried similar articles. And both with that same photo.

Of course, with the publishing of the articles comes the ability for the public to leave a comment. Some have been left by his closest friends and most are as uninterested in the ‘sex toys’ aspect as I am, the majority asking what purpose the story serves and if those details are totally necessary. Many, but not all.

Some see the idea that room service took four days to find the body (it was over the New Year) more noteworthy – ‘I’ll not be stopping there!’ kinda thing. One particularly unimpressive effort suggested that this was a good story to keep in mind “the next time you see your boss, lol”.

At first, I was very angry about the whole thing. That I’d somehow inadvertently had a hand in it and that they would use the photo that I’d taken to titillate and sensationalise what is a very sad story. Now, my thoughts are just with the family, who I hope haven’t been too traumatised by these thoughtless tabloid stories. (In any case, some lawyers will be contacting them about that photo shortly…)

And as for the comments, well whatever anyone else says, I’m taking comfort from the fact that the people that knew him couldn’t care less about the details. We remember him as thoughtful, friendly and a great bloke to be around. So fucking what, he was a flawed character – just like the rest of us. Put that in your headline if you like.

RIP mate.