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Irish Daily Star publish topless Kate photos

Report by Sarah Johnston

The joint publishers of the Irish Daily Star have both denied they had sanctioned publication of topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge, leaving confusion over who gave the go-ahead for the pictures to appear.

The tabloid, whose future has now been left in question, is jointly owned by Northern and Shell and Independent News and Media, both of whom issued statements denying prior knowledge of publication and expressing regret.

The Irish Daily Star editor Michael O'Kane was unavailable for comment after earlier appearing on television to defend publication, saying the Duchess was no different from Rihanna or Lady Gaga, and acknowledging he wanted to sell more newspapers.

"I'm absolutely stunned that Kate Middleton would think, her being the most photographed woman in the world, I think one of the most famous people in the world, that she would expose herself topless outdoors and not expect the world to take notice of it," argued a defiant O'Kane.

Media tycoon Richard Desmond, chairman of Northern and Shell, said he was taking immediate steps to end the partnership.

"I am very angry at the decision to publish these photographs and am taking immediate steps to close down the joint venture," said Mr Desmond.

"The decision to publish these pictures has no justification whatever and Northern and Shell condemns it in the strongest possible terms."

It comes as the Royal couple launched legal action against French magazine Closer, who first published the photos.

Lawyers for the Royal family will go to court in Paris on Monday seeking damages and an injunction against further publications.

"It is the first airing and we will be seeking an injunction from them using the pictures and it will lead to a longer court case where damages will be sought," said a palace spokesman.

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