A regional newspaper has launched an investigation into modern child exploitation to carry on the work begun by a former editor who died aboard the Titanic.
The Northern Echo is replicating a campaign started by former editor William Thomas Stead, and is currently running a series of articles examining child exploitation. It claims children as young as ten are being trapped by gangs in the north east.
Writing in the Echo, deputy editor Chris Lloyd told of Stead’s passion against prostitution.
Wrote Chris: “In the early 1870s, he had been dismayed by the sight of women selling themselves on Newcastle’s Quayside, and he railed in the Echo against the rich men who paid for sex with someone else’s daughter
“Then, in 1879, late one night on his way home from the Echo’s offices in Priestgate, he came across a woman sobbing. She said ‘a scoundrel had attempted to outrage her’. So Stead gave her his arm and kindly walked her home.
“Stead wrote in his diary: ‘Before we got there she calmly proposed that I should complete the offense and I discovered that my desolate damsel was a common prostitute.”
He went on to try and expose the sex trade in London with headlines in The Pall Mall Gazette such as ‘The Violation of Virgin’, ‘Strapping Girls Down’ and ’Confessions of a Brothel-keeper’.
WH Smith refused to stock the paper because of the sexual nature of the articles so eager readers besieged the Gazette offices.
Stead was later prisoned for nine weeks for abducting a 13-year-old girl who he rescued from a brothel and taken to a Salvation Army safe house.
He was one of 1,500 people who lost their lives when the liner Titanic sunk after hitting an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean 100 years ago this week.
Editor of the Northern Echo Peter Barron is preparing to play the part of Stead in a musical telling the story of the Titanic. This week he rode on horseback to the newspaper’s head offices dressed in full stage costume.
He will appear in at least ten of the 11 performances of Titanic: the musical between 25 April to 4 May.
The Chartered Institute of Journalists is also honouring Stead on the 100th anniversary of his death on Sunday at a ceremony which will be attended by his great-grandson.
President Norman Bartlett will lay a wreath at the memorial to W.T Stead on the Victoria Embankment in London while he will also be remembered at the 11am service at nearby St Bride’s, the “Journalists’ Church” off Fleet Street.