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It's rude to point

Don Hale has spoken to HoldTheFrontPage about the excitement of winning the top award of Journalist of the Year in Granada Television’s What The Papers Say Awards.

The Matlock Mercury editor was honoured for his relentless investigative work into the conviction of 17-year-old gardener Stephen Downing for the murder of Wendy Sewell.

Don said: “It was quite a surprise. I thought I was just making up the numbers. I knewI had a nomination but couldn’t believe the announcement. I was thrilled anddelighted. It’s the first time in the 45-year history of the awards that an’outsider’ has won a carrot.

“It was also most rewarding to see my editorial staff present at the ‘do’. Wehad the odd shandy afterwards back at my hotel…and later came back FirstClass on the train where the train manager insisted we had free drinks, freefood and were treated like VIPs.

“It was a fantastic time for me. Quite unbelievable!I had to tell my staff not to point! It was a star-studded occasion. JeremyClarkson, Michael Beurk, Matthew Parris, Ann Leslie, and had Polly Toynbee,and Alan Rushbridger – editor of Guardian on my table, together with Granadachief.”

Don said he watched the highlights of the ceremony on TV, but it has still not sunk in yet.

“The previous night, I had several callers from national newspapers all eagerfor me to tell my personal story. Plans are afoot to work on the Trevor McDonaldTonight programme with Martin Bashir; Ruby Wax and others,” said Don, who was also interviewed for American TV.

He has now signed a five-figure deal for TV drama rights and hopes to have a book deal signedin mid-January.

The judges for the What The Papers Say Awards said: “Hale waged a lonely and dangerous crusade for six years. He did not have the might of a Fleet Street organisation behind him and the story wasn’t a glamorous one.

“Hale has doggedly pursued the truth…He sifted through court records and newspaper cuttings, knocked on doors and lobbied ministers, including the then Home Secretary, Michael Howard. He obtained a court order forcing police to release documents, which they had previously denied existed.”

As a result of Don’s investigation, Downing has now had his case referred back to the Court of Appeal.

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