In a rare act of solidarity members of the "Professor Thrupiece Is 100% Certainly Alive" and rivals "Professor Thrupiece Is Definitely Not Dead" pressure groups united in anger, disbelief and condemnation of today's Mappowder Mirror's cover story suggesting that distinguished Professor of Culinary Bio-ethics Professor Brian Thrupiece is in fact no longer with us.
Though not stated explicitly, the banner headline "Imagine ... if Brian were still alive" exploits the opportunity of what would have been the Professor's 90th birthday in April this year to concoct a series of scenarios al of which contribute to "the clear impression" that he has "gone to sleep", "passed over" or otherwise "kicked the bucket". Though it is understood that several readers have welcomed the story - the first to relegate CONTRIK-69 reporting to second place since life as we know it was banned last April, many of the Professor's "culinary bio-ethical army" are outraged.
"Stories like this surface from time to time", says Professor Thrupiece Is 100% Certainly Alive founder and chairperson Alwys Lyte-McCandle "and you get inured to them to a degree. But this is not to say that it isn't upsetting, especially when you know that the whole thing has been concocted to sell newspapers. It's bad enough that the 80th birthday fell at the height of lockdown and that the best we could do was to post reverential pictures on social media ... but this just twists the knife."
"Professor Thrupiece Is Definitely Not Dead" spokesperson Con Trytothefacts agrees. "Keeping up morale whilst bungled Swiss investigations continue and the search goes on is hard enough without the naysayers wading in. We are all aware of the years we have lost - golden years - and all we want is to bring the Professor back and hope he will be well enough to continue his researches. We haven't had a new fluff-based comestible for nearly two decades and there's the tantalising rumour that he was working on a peanut-butter flavoured product in the days before he disappeared. This kind of casual negativity is just dispiriting".
Meanwhile Mappowder Mirror Editor Ivor Scoop stands by the cover story adding that the 9 page tribute to the Professor is merely an exercise in imagining an alternative reality. "We contacted dozens of people - experts of all kinds - several of whom had actually met the Professor and asked them to imagine both what the Professor might have achieved had he been active over the last 15 years and how different life might have been for all of us as a consequence. Quite why the fluff-hugging loonies all get their knickers in a twist is beyond me - you'd think that we'd done for him and not that FIFA lot in Geneva. Not that we are suggesting for a moment that he's dead. Just that he might be - and frankly for all the difference it's made, might as well be. Sorry I'm a bit overwrought. Forget I said the last bit. You won't print it will you?"
In an escalation of the crisis late this morning news vendors in Ferndown [which also features on the Mirror's cover] have been asked to withdraw all copies of the newspaper concerned and to refuse to sell future editions. It isn't yet clear whether all will comply, though an inquiry at W H Bone's in the High Street revealed that no copies of today's edition were currently available. It is also understood that Con Trytothefacts has invited bitter rival Alwys Lyte-McCandle to tea later today to discuss "harmonising strategies, aligning perspectives and streamlining activities" in the hope that yet more pressure can be brought to bear on the unrepentant news organ. The "Professor Thrupiece Is Definitely Not Dead" spokesperson was later seen leaving a branch of ThreadboneLocal with what is believed to have been a carrot cake.