UK

'Nun With A Gun Islamic State Bride' Image Has Fooled British Media Into Thinking It's Real

11/08/2015 14:53 BST | Updated 11/08/2015 15:59 BST

An image which appears to show a British-born jihadi dressed as a nun holding a gun in one hand and a dog in another is being used by national newspapers to illustrate the threat of Islamic State.

Yet despite its bizarre composition, British media don't appear to have questioned why the picture exists - or why they continue to use it.

On Tuesday, Times journalist Hugo Rifkind tweeted his annoyance at its use by the Daily Mail, pointing out its irrelevance to jihadism.

Yet the Mail is not the only British newspaper to run the image alongside stories. It has been used by London’s Evening Standard, which first carried the image, the Daily Express, Kent’s Messenger, and even The Times itself.

The image is thought to have originated from the Twitter account of Sally Jones, a 45-year-old mother of two from Chatham, Kent, who reportedly left Britain for Syria in 2013.

Jones was discovered by The Sunday Times newspaper in August 2014. The paper reported a white British woman had joined ISIS terrorists in Syria, and that she had revealed a desire to “behead Christians” in posts on Twitter.

Within a day, The London Evening Standard had uncovered and published the now ubiquitous image of her apparently dressed as a nun. Then a UK news syndicate picked up the image, providing it to media for a fee.

But rather than ‘proof’ of Jones’ radicalism and her threat to the UK, the picture is in fact a modified image from the cover of a 1995 edition of “Divorcing Jack” by author Colin Bateman.

sally jones nun with a gun

The comparison with the 1995 book cover shows the image is crudely modified

The book, which informed a film of the same name, appears to have no connection to Jones’ involvement with ISIS. The plot is a comically dark tale following a lecherous journalist and his vengeful wife.

Nonetheless, its apparent presence on her Twitter account has been enough for UK media to use the image to illustrate Jones’ story.

It is often carried in isolation, with little or no explanation of its original origins. In some articles, it is inferred that the image is real.

Last year, the Daily Express placed the image under the caption: “Sally Jones in her nun and gun outfit”.

In its report, the Evening Standard described the image as a “photo of Sally Jones” under the headline ”’Nun with a gun’”.

There’s been other suggestions too. In January this year, The Times ran a caption below the image that said it was an ISIS recruitment poster.

The most recent Mail article, published on Tuesday, uses the image to illustrate its story on the threats made by Jones in online conversations.

While Jones' reason for mocking up the image may never be known, its unquestioning use by national media outlets highlights the desire amongst the press to propel drama and threat into their reporting of ISIS and of its British sympathisers.

And while we can say for sure that the image isn't real and appears to be little more than a meme, it’s not clear if the media will stop using it to illustrate Jones’ story.