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'I smell a rat'

London man's anger at Echo as super-rodent story goes global

Written by . Published on April 15th 2014.

'I smell a rat'

EXCLUSIVE: Mayor Anderson has become the hero of Liverpool by hiring the Pied Piper to rid the city of an invasion of Mutant Super Rats. 

The Piper, tin whistle in hand, has led an army of pitbull-sized rodents into the mouth of the Birkenhead Tunnel where they have been gobbled up by a giant French spider, slumbering in the disused dock exit. 

Meanwhile, confused graffiti artist Banksy has got wind of the giant rat tale and is on his way to Liverpool with a fresh supply of Dulux. 

The above “breaking-news story” is fetched from about as far away as the panic headlines in media all over the UK and beyond this week.

They inform the world that massive super rats are pounding the streets of Liverpool. 

The shock news all stems from one source: the Liverpool Echo, which broke the slumbers of Sunday by screaming: “MUTANT SUPER RATS INVADING LIVERPOOL”; sub heading “Giant rodents are immune to poison”. 

With the story was a man holding up a huge rodent, captioned underneath: “one of the giant rats”. 


But wait: Could this be the same super rat that appeared last year in popular London newspaper the Ham&High, with the headline “Giant rat discovered under Highgate dishwasher as bins overflow onto streets”?

It could indeed, taken by householder Adrian Whitaker who caught and killed the rat in his West London home. 

Today Mr Whitaker was once again in the Ham&High, this time wondering why a picture of him and his Highgate rat have suddenly been exported to Liverpool. It doesn't end there: as well as appearing in the ECHO, he and the rat have also made the front page of the Daily Mirror, the Daily Mail and at least one international news wire. 

Liverpool city council’s media department even received a call from a Paris-based news organisation asking about the city’s mutant rat invasion. 

Ham&High, owned by Archant Group, a rival to Echo-owners Trinity Mirror, have also contacted Old Hall Street to ask for an explanation. 

Giant RatDemading an apology:
Adrian Whitaker

Ham&High writer Tim Lamden said: “Adrian has received messages from friends asking him why him and his rat have moved 200 miles north to Liverpool.” 

To add to the muddle, it seems Liverpool's own civic rat catchers have never even glimpsed a big one. 

A statement produced by Liverpool City Council says: "Claims that Liverpool is being overrun by mutant super rats are not based in fact. The number of call-outs to deal with rats, although showing a slight increase in the last year, has remained relatively consistent over the last few years. 

“We have also not noticed that the size of rats has grown in recent years  There is also no evidence that the rats are immune to the bait we use." 

So where has it all come from?

Similar mutant super rat stories have been popping up in regional papers across the country. It seems it is down to a PR puff promoting a commercial rat catching business,  Whelan Pest Control, quoted extensively in the rat tale.

Mr Whitaker told the Ham&High: “It’s a bit of a shock, I wasn’t expecting it. 

“It just makes me realise how much more of this probably goes on in tabloids. It’s not really journalism if you’re making stuff up and sensationalising.”

820113149A rat's tale

Tim Lamden told Liverpool Confidential: “Many people will now be thinking Liverpool is being overrun with mutant giant rats.”

The Echo and its big brother, The Mirror, which splashed on the story, claimed the rat was caught in Liverpool by Sean Whelan.

Both have since taken the story down from their sites. Like Liverpool's only truly documented giant rat, on the White House pub, it has been airbrushed out of history.


UPDATE (April 16): The Mirror has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to Adrian Whitaker to make up for the error in using his picture.

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."

Pictures (mostly) Ham&High

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37 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Harry MillerApril 15th 2014.

Ha ha The Echo is now claiming it was duped. No it wasnt. The fact is the Echo in common with many other news organisation will simply reprint what someone tells them without checking the facts - that used to the the Golden Rule. Secondly, the Echo's Sunday edition has seen its initial sales figures fall like a stone so anything sensational to try and reverse that will do thankyou. A seventh edition of the Echo is not wanted and sales will plummet till it folds. The Echo, like many tabloids, treads this path time and time again. Anyone remember its front page story about scousers trying to tunnel into the cup final at Wembley, for instance?

AnonymousApril 15th 2014.

Billy Butler was talking to Roger Philips on Radio Merseyside about the Echo's big fall in circulation, especially the Sunday Echo. I stopped getting the Echo years ago as it seems to have become more like a tabloid and reporting shootings and bad news. Stories like the one above about mutant rats don't do them any favours. If such sloppy reporting didn't harm the image of our city it would be funny. As it is, I think it is just sad. The Echo will eventually disappear and few people will even care.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Phillip LawlerApril 16th 2014.

I couldn't agree more. I refer to the Echo as the 'Gotham City Times' now because it seems obsessed with making celebrities out of small time gangsters and teenage thugs. You have to rifle past a few pages of negative news before you can read anything positive. There is a motto in the world of journalism 'Bad news sells' which is true but the editors of the Echo are confusing this motto with just writing bad things and writing them badly. I will start buying the newspaper again once they consign these minor turf wars to the minor columns and start to promote the good things going on in the city to encourage positivity and pride.

John BradleyApril 15th 2014.

It is all kicking off twitter.com/…/455716983749627904…

AnonymousApril 16th 2014.

Did the echo ask the council to comment on Liverpool being 'invaded by giant mutant rats'. You'd have thought somebody in Dale Street might have noticed. Or was it a case of, if we ask the council, the story will fall. God knows what really has happened here, and as the Echo won't report adverse stories about itself we'll have to make up our own minds.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleyApril 16th 2014.

I think it is time for Alastair Machray to go. If he isn't replaced with a decent editor the Echo will be gone within 5 years. I had a look at the MEN website and it is basically the same mix of stabbings etc. I suspect all of TrintyMirrors local titles are now governed by a central editorial policy that is set in London and reflects Londons view of the regions as neo barbarians. Shows the incompatibility of Trinty and Mirror groups.

Sly BaileyApril 16th 2014.

Absolutely love.

Old hall StreetApril 16th 2014.

This all harks back to the day when news was manufactured and papers got away with it because readers generally existed in a vacuum and were none the wiser - and if they were they had only the cat or the spouse to discuss it with. Nowadays, with collective online scrutiny being what it it, there are still a few hard wake-up calls for the old guard. You could almost excuse the Sunday Echo (who knew?) for its naivete in not understanding the difference between a press release and a genuine story, and it is to be hoped nobody gets sacked because of it. The Daily Mirror, The Grauniad and all the others who dutifully reported it as fact have no such recourse to the plea of gullibility.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 16th 2014.

I'm sorry, but surely in an age when spin doctors run riot, it is up to writers and editors to check their facts. I mean somebody calls the Echo to say hey the city is crawling with mutant rats. You'd have thought it may well have dawned on somebody long before this. has anybody actually spotted one of these mysterious giants. The Daily Star made it seem like the city is overrun with these monsters. The harm such lazy journalism does to the city's image overseas is high. Shame on all the papers who report this work of fiction as fact. It's just another nail in the coffins of newspapers who ought to realise no longer can readers be duped or taken for a ride.

Wet EchoApril 16th 2014.

Employing young simpletons to copy spurious rubbish off the internet is a lot cheaper than employing proper journalists to research and write up real news.

Sly BaileyApril 16th 2014.

Absolutely love

Colm InchesApril 17th 2014.

So don't bother buying The Echo; you can dredge the same rubbishy non-stories from the Web yourself without paying for a "newspaper"

Harry MillerApril 16th 2014.

Apparently the Echo editor isnt around to firefight this issue and deal with the feedback cos its his day off. Spose the golf course at Royal Liverpool is more enticing that a bollocking for cocking up.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Phillip LawlerApril 16th 2014.

When you make a story up the tactic is to head for the hills and hope no-one chases after you!

AnonymousApril 16th 2014.

much more of this and the Mirror will be hated in Liverpool. www.pressgazette.co.uk/questions-mirror-over-2009-picture-crying-us-child-front-page-british-poverty-story…

J NewtonApril 16th 2014.

Yea I won't be happy until all local papers have gone and the journalists are all on the dole.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Colm InchesApril 17th 2014.

The journalists ARE on the dole. THey've mostly been sacked. It's the low-paid, low-skilled and the unpaid "interns" who present this sort of stuff as news.

Broken BritainApril 17th 2014.

Consider this, J Newton: if the journalists were any good (and if the publishers didn't give their content away for free) then people would be compelled to buy the papers. You don't see the Murdoch corporation going under.

Tab LloydApril 17th 2014.

They aren't journalists. They are rewriting press releases from commercial companies and passing them off as fact. A child could do this. You do not need three years at a university to qualify for this.

John BradleyApril 16th 2014.

Seems all the papers are getting Rat Scratch Fever. twitter.com/…/1… www.youtube.com/watch…

J NewtonApril 17th 2014.

ps the above was a response to some of the comments, not the story.

J NewtonApril 17th 2014.

Wow. There's bitterness here. No names, I see. I agree with your point about free content, Broken Britain, but not that everybody who works for Trinity Mirror is automatically rubbish. Enjoy yourselves.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Broken BritainApril 17th 2014.

No bitterness. The hard and unpalatable truth is that it is a tough game and either the best will survive and make the world a better place or the whole industry will go under at the hands of unqualified bloggers and hysterical facebook posters. It is not an easy career choice any more and anyone who thinks it is will quickly end up out on their ear along with their editors.

J NewtonApril 17th 2014.

Couldn't agree more.

John BradleyApril 17th 2014.

Part of the problem is that journos are unqualified in what they write about, beyond human interest stories. A Journos idea of truth is what they cannot be sued for printing. The mission of publishing is to make money not to put the world to rights, that is just the excuses. The Echo is basically only long pieces and Polemic, devoid of neutrality and interested only in rabble rousing. It feeds the facebook rants. You can often find more sober better researched pieces on the net.

Harry MillerApril 17th 2014.

There are many fine journalists at the Post and Echo who are hamstrung by the narrow wham bang editorial viewpoint of its editor Ali Machray who clearly wishes he edits The Scum. What they supposed to do, resign on principle?

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Tab LloydApril 17th 2014.

They could try standing up for what they believe in, "Harry", otherwise they might as well go and work in Pound Land.

John BradleyApril 17th 2014.

principles are not without cost. If you cannot bear that cost, then you haven't got the principles.

RamseyApril 17th 2014.


John BradleyApril 17th 2014.

Did the Echo pay for the pics and the story, in which case it could be fraud? We should be told.

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyApril 17th 2014.

Oh and while we are at it, did anyone check the Geo Tag data in the image? en.wikipedia.org/…/Geotagging… Most phones bury it in the file.

AnonymousApril 17th 2014.

Let's hope the Echo goes the same way as the Daily Post and Radio Miseryside follows shortly after, we're not living in the 1950's amymore

SaladDazeApril 17th 2014.

The Wire. I rest my case.

scouse690April 17th 2014.

The "Liverpool" Echo has NO connection whatsoever with our City,anymore. Not only were the pictures nothing to do with Liverpool....to then name areas like Garston Docks and Kensington (and one other, was it Croxteth?), as being the major areas "for this outbreak"....was absolutely ludicrous! The Editor , should be reported to the Press Complaints Commission (for what it's worth) for fraudulent misrepresentation, false reporting and basically...LYING! Sack him! In any other business (even Banking) this would not be allowed. Trinity Mirror Group and Liverpool Echo, need to go bust....and let the honest journalists (I'm sure that you are all out there), bring back the LIVERPOOL Echo....

AnonymousApril 18th 2014.

Ought not the teachers of tomorrow's meeja people teach them the number one commandment, check yer soddin facts. It may seem simple, but it is a fact of life. There are only two types of stories, those wot is true and those wot isn't.

AnonymousApril 20th 2014.

Thought the Sunday Echo might have mentioned to its readers today that the Invasion of Mutant Rats (reported last Sunday)wasn't true. Not even a plague of little rats. There was a headline in today's paper, OK,SO WE TELL A FEW WHITE LIES, but no mention of rats, nothing to do with rodents at all. But please spread the word around to family and friends around the world, we don't have an invasion of these giant rats here in our city, you are safe to come here. You can't always believe whath you read in the papers these days.

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