Sydney man Benjamin Cohen wrongly named as Bondi Junction killer by Channel Seven seeks damages

<span>Lawyers for a Sydney student wrongly named on air by Channel Seven as the Bondi Junction killer have issued a concerns notice to the TV network.</span><span>Photograph: Steven Saphore/AAP</span>
Lawyers for a Sydney student wrongly named on air by Channel Seven as the Bondi Junction killer have issued a concerns notice to the TV network.Photograph: Steven Saphore/AAP

The Sydney man Benjamin Cohen, who was wrongly named on air by Seven News as the Bondi Junction killer, has hired a lawyer and is seeking damages from the network.

The university student has engaged defamation lawyers and issued a concerns notice to Seven, his solicitor Patrick George of the law firm Giles/George has confirmed.

Related: False claims started spreading about the Bondi Junction stabbing attack as soon as it happened

Early on Sunday morning Seven’s breakfast show Weekend Sunrise and its YouTube channel named Cohen as the perpetrator without confirmation from the police.

During a live cross from Bondi Junction to the studio, the Sunrise co-host Matt Shirvington said the killer was “40-year-old Benjamin Cohen, dressed in a Kangaroos ARL jersey”.

Another reporter repeated the claim a few minutes later.

“The attacker, 40-year-old Benjamin Cohen, is known to police, his motives are not yet known, he was working on his own,” another reporter said. On YouTube a caption referred to Cohen as the attacker.

Several hours later New South Wales police named the man, now deceased, as Joel Cauchi, a 40-year-old from Queensland.

Seven has not revealed where its newsroom got the name from.

A Seven spokesperson said the network “sincerely apologises” for the error: “It was escalated immediately and rectified,” the spokesperson said.

On Saturday night Cohen’s LinkedIn profile was shared on X by accounts falsely claiming he resembled the attacker.

“It’s extremely disappointing to see thousands of people mindlessly propagating misinformation without even the slightest thought put to factchecking or real life consequences,” he said in a statement to Guardian Australia on the weekend.

“But what’s even more disappointing to me is a major news network doing this, using my name without waiting for a statement from police to verify this or going out to try to verify it themselves.”

On Sunday afternoon a Seven News reporter apologised on air: “Earlier this morning reports of the incident incorrectly named the perpetrator as 40-year-old Benjamin Cohen. It was later confirmed that the name of the 40-year-old is Joel Cauchi from Queensland. Seven apologises for any distress caused by our earlier reports.”

In 2022 another man was wrongly identified as Cleo Smith’s alleged kidnapper by the Seven Network. He reached a confidential settlement in the supreme court of Western Australia.

Cohen’s name was still trending on X on Sunday, with more than 70,000 posts linking the name to the attack.

The antifascist research group White Rose Society tracked many of the misleading claims made about the attack over the weekend, including those from neo-Nazis’ accounts claiming the offender was non-white “to fit into their anti-immigration narrative”.