AddThis SmartLayers

Tributes to journalist who pursued 'Wearside Jack'

Tributes have flooded in for an award-winning former press journalist turned university lecturer known for his pursuit of hoaxer Wearside Jack.

Patrick Lavelle’s constant badgering of police led them to reopening the case of John Humble, who sent fake tape recordings in the late-1970s to officers investigating the Yorkshire Ripper murders.

The 50-year-old, left, died in the early hours of Monday morning after battling cancer with past and present colleagues lining up to pay their own tributes.

Despite having a young family, Patrick attended night school in order to qualify as a journalist.

Rob Lawson, editor of the Sunderland Echo where Patrick started his journalism career, said: “Pat was one of the most passionate and dedicated journalists I’ve ever worked with.

“He was also one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever met. It was comforting and reassuring to know that Pat was training the next generation of journalists at Sunderland University and I know he was thoroughly enjoying his time there.”

The Sunderland native also worked at The Northern Echo and later rejoined the Sunderland Echo in 1998 for seven years as news editor before leaving to teach at Sunderland University.

He was crowned investigative journalist of the year three times at the North East Press Awards and chronicled his five-year investigation into Wearside Jack in the book ‘Shadow of the Ripper’, published in 2003.

Northern Echo editor Peter Barron wrote on his blog: “I first got to know Patrick when he was our Sunderland reporter and he later became crime correspondent.

“Patrick was a stubborn bugger. He wouldn’t give up – like a dog with a bone – and that’s what made him stand out from other journalists.

“I’ll remember him as a great journalist and a down to earth person. He is a sad loss to the world of regional journalism.”

Chris Rushton, former Sunday Sun editor and now head of journalism and PR at Sunderland University, said: “Patrick was a formidable journalist who, despite his stern demeanour, was a great mentor to many young reporters.

“A lot of the region’s best-known journalists owe their success to him.”

Former Northern Echo editor Peter Sands added: “I remember Patrick turning up to an interview for a trainee’s job at The Northern Echo in the mid-80s and being bowled over by his determination.

“He had a young family and a day job but had put himself through night school to get the qualifications.

“He came armed with cracking story ideas and an astonishing instinct for news.”

Patrick was married with children and founded the Sunderland First political group to challenge what he perceived to be the failings of party politics.

He had planned to field candidates in this year’s local and national elections.

  • Patrick’s funeral is at 10am on Monday at St Cecilia’s Church, in Sunderland.
  • Comments

    John Knighton (24/03/2010 13:32:46)
    I am stunned by such sad news. I had the immense privilege to work with Patrick at the Sunderland Echo. He was a consummate journalist and a guiding light to others in the newsroom. A truly great bloke who will be sadly missed by all who knew him.

    Neil Hodge (25/03/2010 11:24:24)
    I met Patrick some years ago at an investigative journalism conference in London. You could tell within a minute of talking to him that he was a real news hound. My sympathies for his family.

    Nic Outterside (25/03/2010 13:16:16)
    So very, very sad.
    Pat was a truly great journalist and a lovely guy too.
    Sincere condolences to his family.

    Brian Tilley (26/03/2010 16:13:04)
    Purely because he was such a stickler for accuracy, I feel I should point out that Patrick in fact started his journalistic career with the Hexham Courant, not the Sunderland Echo.
    He was a trainee with us from 1988-90, and it is a measure of the man that 20 years after he left, he is still remembered with great affection.