THE Daily Echo's front page article (Pupil Takes Gun To School, September 26) was grossly misleading and sensationalist.

The image of a gun that you included in the report gave the impression that it was a real gun and not a plastic toy.

With breathtakingly callous disregard for sensitivity and the feelings of the victims' families, you mentioned the Colorado murders in juxtapostion to the Bellemoor incident, as if they were on a par.

You stated that the boy in question repeatedly pulled the trigger while the gun was still in his pocket. How come he did not seriously injure himself if the gun was loaded? In fact you went on to say that the head teacher later pulled the trigger and a ball bearing was discharged.

This is cheap, shoddy journalism designed to sell papers by banner headlines and you should be ashamed.

It has seriously damaged the reputation of a school which has gone from strength to strength since the arrival of its inspirational head teacher, Cassie Ellins.

Furthermore, there is the suspicion that the Daily Echo is running some kind of vendetta against Bellemoor School. Front page headlines when the school failed its OFSTED inspection - little paragraph buried on page whatever when the school was praised for getting back on track in record time.

Again, front page news about the gun incident with photo of what you obviously want readers to believe is a real gun - little paragraph acknowledging that the gun was a toy that fired plastic pellets buried again in the pages nobody reads.

Come clean. What have you got against Bellemoor? Or is it just that you will write anything for a cheap sensationalist headline?

I think we should be told.

PHIL HEARNE, Southampton.

l Editor's response: Mr Hearne is correct that the gun turned out to be plastic, although it did fire plastic ball bearings and was correctly identified by the head teacher as a BB gun.

The facts in the article were correct, and at the time of going to press we believed the gun to be more than a plastic toy.

However, the main points regarding the incident remain true and Mr Hearne fails to mention the fact a classmate was so struck with terror he had to go home sick through fear of the weapon.

A child was later suspended by the head teacher.

There are two additional truths: guns, whether fake or imitation, have no place in school, and of course this paper has no axe to grind against Bellemoor and wishes its staff and pupils well.