- July 29, 2004

Retailer Drops Manhunt After Media Frenzy Over Teen Murder

Grand Theft Auto makers causing media trouble again.

British electronics retailer Dixons has removed Rockstar's Manhunt title from stores, after newspapers and TV news shows reported allegations that the title had influenced a teenager found guilty of the murder of a younger boy. According to reports in a number of British tabloid newspapers and TV news shows, 17 year old Warren Leblanc, who yesterday pleaded guilty to the brutal killing of 14 year old Stefan Pakeerah with a claw hammer and knife, was "obsessed" with Manhunt.

The title, which was released in the UK last Christmas, is a "Running Man" style game where players take on the role of a convict given a chance to escape death by killing opponents in a run-down cityscape - with extra bonuses being awarded for particularly gory or sadistic deaths. The game is rated with an 18 certificate by the British Board of Film Classification. No media source has yet commented on how Leblanc, a 17 year old minor, was able to acquire or allowed to play the game.

Speaking outside Leicester Crown Court yesterday, Giselle Pakeerah, mother of the murdered boy, said that "I think that I heard some of Warren's friends say that he was obsessed by this game. If he was obsessed by it, it could well be that boundaries for him became quite hazy." "I can't believe that this sort of material is allowed in a society where anarchy is not that far removed," she continued. "It should not be available and it should not be available to young people."

Despite the allegations now being made about the influence of the game on Leblanc, the actual motive given for the killing by prosecutor Peter Joyce QC was a rather more obvious one; the teen had lured his friend to a deserted car park with the intent of robbing him to pay a drugs-related debt. A spokesperson on behalf of British game publisher trade body ELSPA today commented on the affair, stating that "we sympathise enormously with the family and parents of Stefan Pakeerah. However, we reject any suggestion or association between the tragic events in the Midlands and the sale of the video game Manhunt".

"The game in question is classified 18 by the British Board of Film Classification and therefore it should not be in the possession of a juvenile," the statement continued. "We would also add that simply being in someone's possession does not and should not lead to the conclusion that a game is responsible for these tragic events."

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