A former regional press reporter who later blew the whistle on phone-hacking at the News of the World has been found dead.
Sean Hoare began his career in journalism as a trainee on the Watford Observer in the late 1980s.
The 47-year-old, who had a history of drink and drug problems, was found dead at his flat in the Hertfordshire town yesterday morning.
Last September, he reignited the phone-hacking scandal by claiming that his former editor at the now defunct Sunday tabloid, Andy Coulson, had encouraged him to intercept voicemail messages.
He told both the New York Times and BBC Radio Four that phone-hacking was “endemic” on the NoTW and that Mr Coulson was “well aware” of the existence of the practice.
Mr Coulson, who was Prime Minister David Cameron’s press secretary at the time Mr Hoare made the allegations, has always denied the claims.
Last week, Mr Hoare was back in the spotlight after telling the New York Times that NoTW reporters were able to use police technology to locate people using their mobile phone signals in exchange for payments to police officers.
Watford Observer editorial manager Frazer Ansell, who worked with Mr Hoare, today praised his “courage and conviction” in speaking out about phone hacking.
“Sean joined us as a trainee and from the outset his ambition was to work for the News of the World, something that, of course, he went on to achieve with some distinction,” he told HTFP.
“He was a quiet and modest character who spoke in barely a whisper but his views came across loud and clear in the words he used and the stories he wrote.
“I spoke to him just a few weeks ago when he was inquiring about freelance work. Journalism was in his blood and despite the blows it had dealt him from time to time, he was still hungry for the excitement of a good story and a buzzing news room.
“He had a wide and loyal circle of friends who will miss him but his real legacy could be the result of the courage and conviction he showed in speaking out about the News International phone hacking scandal.”
Police were called to Mr Hoare’s home in Langley Road, Watford yesterday morning after concerns were raised about his whereabouts.
Hertfordshire Police said the death was being treated as “unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious”.
A neighbour of the ex-journalist, who did not want to be named, said he was “paranoid” and had looked increasingly unwell in recent weeks.
“He talked about all sorts of problems that he had in his life. A lot of it was alcohol-related. His passage through life has not been an easy one. It’s really, really sad news. It’s a shame.”
Mr Hoare was dismissed from his job as a showbiz reporter at the News of the World by Mr Coulson in 2005 as a result of his drink and drug problems.
He was interviewed by police last autumn following his accusations of phone-hacking, but declined to make any comment to officers.