A former regional press journalist who won £21,000 in damages after being unfairly dismissed has died after a long battle with alcoholism.
Paul Gray, of Stockton, Teesside, died on Tuesday at the age of 44 after suffering a massive internal haemorrhage.
A self-confessed alcoholic, he lost his job as chief sub-editor of the Hartlepool Mail in 2008 after sending text messages to a female colleague that were deemed inappropriate by the company.
But Mail publishers Northeast Press- part of Johnston Press – were ordered to pay him £20,971 in damages after an employment tribunal ruled he had been unfairly dismissed.
Described as a “loveable rogue” by one of his former editors, Paul continued to live in the North-East and still kept in touch with friends from his newspaper days.
As well as the Mail, he also worked for his local paper, Teesside’s Evening Gazette, for two years in the 1990s.
Paul’s sister Linda Morgan told the Gazette that despite his problems, his love of journalism and his family always shone brightly.
She said: “We were thrilled when he started working at the Gazette, really proud of him – and he loved it. He loved his job and the people he worked with – and they loved him.
“He had a lot of papers at home, either ones he was proud of, or ones where he thought they were good headlines or well designed.”
“Before he was poorly and even after that, he was Teesside’s best storyteller. He’d tell a story and his old editor would say to him ‘how do you remember all this?
Gazette senior desk editor Ian McNeal said: “Paul was a talented and skilled sub-editor who helped produce some excellent journalism during his career.
“His sense of humour and warm personality will be much missed by those who had the pleasure of knowing him.”
Paul’s former Hartlepool Mail editor, Harry Blackwood, said: “Grayzie was a key member of a loveable bunch of rogues that I had to try to control. He contributed to making every day fun. He was generous in spirit and generous in deed.
“Although his forte was design, he had a nose for news and knew how to treat a good story. If you were a reporter who’d written a good story you knew you were onto a winner if ‘the kiddie’ gave it the treatment.”
The tribunal hearing in 2008 ruled that had Northeast Press followed its own policies on alcohol and drugs, Paul would have had the chance of receiving treatment for his alcoholism instead of being dismissed.
However management had claimed they were not aware that Paul was an alcoholic until the disciplinary hearing.