Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated 

LONDON — Topless women returned Thursday to Page 3 of Rupert Murdoch’s British tabloid The Sun, three days after they were dropped for the first time in 44 years.

“We’ve had a mammary lapse,” the U.K.’s top-selling newspaper announced on its front page, inviting readers to turn the page to see Nicole, 22, from Bournemouth under the headline “Corrections and clarifications.”

It was not immediately clear if the News Corp. title had reversed a decision to end the practice, or if the three-day absence of bare breasts had simply been a publicity stunt. The disappearance was widely reported by media including Murdoch’s other British newspaper, The Times, as well as by the BBC and NBC News.

“We would like to apologize on behalf of the … journalists who have spent the past two days talking and writing about us,” the picture caption said.

Thursday’s move was greeted with dismay by campaigners who had celebrated the demise of Page 3 and its daily topless glamor model — a continuous weekday feature since 1970.

“So it seems the fight might be back on,” the No More Page 3 group said on Twitter. “Looks like the party will have to wait a little longer.”

The newspaper’s spokesman, Dylan Sharpe, added fuel to the fire when he publicly Tweeted the picture of Thursday’s model to high-profile women including former Cabinet member Harriet Harman, who was the U.K.'s first minister for women.

Asked why the feature had been dropped, Sharpe told NBC News: “I'm going to let the paper speak for itself today,” adding that "we'll just have to keep you guessing." He had told journalists earlier this week that he could not be commenting about the changes to Page 3.

The Sun has long defended Page 3 as popular with its core blue-collar readership. Murdoch himself mused on Twitter last year that he thought the feature "old fashioned” but "readers seem to disagree."

- Alastair Jamieson