England cricket star Ben Stokes has described The Sun as despicable, immoral and heartless after the tabloid ran a story about a family tragedy more than 31 years ago. 

The 28-year-old, who inspired England to win the World Cup earlier this summer before shining during a compelling Ashes series against Australia, issued an angry response to a story about the fatal shooting of his half-brother and sister in 1988.

Tracey, eight, and Andrew, four, were killed in 1988 before Stokes’s birth, the newspaper reported.  

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Responding with a statement posted to Twitter, Stokes said: “Today The Sun has seen fit to publish extremely painful, sensitive and personal details concerning events in the private lives of my family, going back more than 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.”

The all-rounder, who writes a column for The Sun’s rival, The Mirror, added that his family had “worked hard to deal with the private trauma inevitably associated with these events and has taken great care to keep private what were deeply personal and traumatic events”.

He said that a reporter had been sent to his parents’ home in New Zealand “to question them, out of the blue, on this incredibly upsetting topic”.

He added: “If that wasn’t bad enough, The Sun think it is acceptable to sensationalise our personal tragedy for their front page. To use my name as an excuse to shatter the privacy and private lives of – in particular – my parents, is utterly disgusting.

“I am aware that my public profile brings with it consequences for me that I accept entirely. But I will not allow my public profile to be used as an excuse to invade the rights of my parents, my wife, my children or other family members. They are entitled to a private life of their own.

“The decision to publish these details has grave and lifelong consequences for my mum in particular. This is the lowest form of journalism, focussed only on chasing sales with absolutely no regard for the devastation caused to lives as a consequence.” 

Stokes, who was acquitted of affray last year after he knocked out a former soldier and Afghanistan veteran during a street brawl in Bristol, said The Sun’s story was “totally out of order”.

He added that the article contained “serious inaccuracies which has compounded the damaged caused”.

He said: “We need to take a serious look at how we allow our press to behave. Despite the fact that this has now been made public, I do please ask all concerned to respect my family’s privacy and right to home life.”

Ben Stokes celebrates after hitting the winning runs against Australia in Leeds last month (Getty)

The chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board also condemned the story. Tom Harrison said: “We, like the wider sporting world, are disgusted and appalled at the actions taken in revealing the tragic events from Ben's past.

“We are saddened that an intrusion of this magnitude was deemed necessary in order to sell newspapers or secure clicks. Ben's exploits this summer have cemented his place in cricket's history - we are sure the whole sport, and the country, stands behind him in support.”

A spokesperson for the newspaper 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 cooperation 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.”

No complaints have yet been made to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, which regulates The Sun, about the story.

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