England cricket hero Ben Stokes attacks 'immoral and heartless' newspaper story about his tragic family past

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia

England cricket hero Ben Stokes has branded The Sun newspaper "immoral" and "heartless" after it published a story of tragedy to hit his family more than 30 years ago.

The all-rounder, who guided England to an extraordinary World Cup victory this summer, issued a blistering statement saying he was finding it hard to put into words how "low and despicable" the article was.

Today, the cricketer - who was England's standout performer in the just concluded Ashes series - said the tactics employed by the paper were "utterly disgusting".

Ben Stokes has hit out 'despicable' stories of a family tragedy more than 30 years ago. Credit: PA

He wrote: "Today The Sun has seen fit to publish extremely painful, sensitive and personal details about events in the private lives of my family going back 31 years.

"It is hard to find words that adequately describe such low and despicable behaviour, disguised as journalism.

"I cannot conceive of anything more immoral, heartless or contemptuous to the feelings and circumstances of my family."

He went on: "To use my name as an excuse to shatter the privacy and private lives of - in particular - my parents, is utterly disgusting."

The newspaper sent reporters to New Zealand, where Stokes' family live, to interview his mother and father.

A spokesperson for The Sun said: "The Sun has the utmost sympathy for Ben Stokes and his mother but it is only right to point out the story was told with the co-operation of a family member who supplied details, provided photographs and posed for pictures.

"The tragedy is also a matter of public record and was the subject of extensive front page publicity in New Zealand at the time.

"The Sun has huge admiration for Ben Stokes and we were delighted to celebrate his sporting heroics this summer. He was contacted prior to publication and at no stage did he or his representatives ask us not to publish the story."

Ben's parents, Gerard and Deb, watched his World Cup heroics in New Zealand. Credit: PA

Stokes, a hot favourite to be BBC Sports Personality of the Year, is considered a hero of English cricket after a hugely successful summer.

He pulled off a one-handed "Superman" catch in England's World Cup opener against South Africa and delivered a never-say-die innings which dragged the hosts back from the brink in a thrilling final against New Zealand.

Then he hit an unbeaten 135 to turn what looked like certain defeat into a memorable one-wicket third Ashes Test win over Australia at Headingley.