Euromillions winners sue newspaper over 'monkey puzzle tree' story

Winners: Colin and Chris Weir won £161m in EuroMillions.
Lottery winners: Colin and Chris Weir celebrate their good fortune.SWNS

Euromillions lottery winners Chris and Colin Weir are suing Scotland's biggest newspaper over an article which they claim was defamatory.

The couple, who won a £161m jackpot in the European-wide lottery in July 2011, have raised an action against the Sunday Mail at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Mr and Mrs Weir claim that an article published in the newspaper about the alleged resiting of a monkey puzzle tree in their garden was “unbalanced and carried an inference of wrong-doing or dishonourable conduct”. This was because, the couple say, the paper “failed to consult” them prior to publication.

Neil Murray QC, senior counsel for the couple, will argue that the article "Residents Confused as Monkey Puzzle Tree Disappears Before Turning Up in Lottery Millionaires' Garden" was "false and calumnious".

The Summons contends that "the ordinary reader would have concluded that the Pursuers had obtained the tree by way of theft, reset or other dishonest or dishonourable means".

The couple are seeking £40,000 in damages and say, if successful, the will give the money to charity.

A spokesman for Mr and Mrs Weirs said: “Scots Law has always placed a high regard on an individual’s right to reputation and provides a remedy where that right is impugned unjustly or unfairly.

“This is an action of last resort about a matter which, to the Weirs, is one not of damages but of principle. In failing to contact Mr and Mrs Weir about their story, the Sunday Mail and its editor denied them their basic right to be consulted in advance of publication.

"The failure to do so resulted in an article that Senior Counsel acting for the Weirs, Neil Murray QC, concludes is defamatory. That could not go unchallenged. The thought that others might believe they had behaved in the way the newspaper implied has caused Mr and Mrs Weir great distress.

“There is no special treatment being sought. It is a matter of defending an important principle that, irrespective of who you are, you have a right to be treated fairly by the media and to be consulted about a story that concerns you. You must have the opportunity to correct it before it appears, not afterwards, once the damage to your reputation is done.”

See also: Extract from the court summons served on the publishers of the Sunday Mail

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