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Former reporter suffers fatal heart attack in Budapest

A former regional press journalist who left the industry just two years ago has died of a suspected heart attack in Budapest at the age of 65.

John Fletcher, left, a former reporter at Exeter’s Express and Echo, took up a role as a teaching assistant after leaving the title and died on a school trip while in the Hungarian capital.

He joined the Express and Echo in the late 1990s after previously working for the Birmingham Mail, Express & Star and as a freelance journalist in the South West.

Tributes have been paid to John after his death, which came just days before he was due to celebrate his 66th birthday.

Son Craig told the paper: “Our Dad was a true gentlemen, he was a dedicated grandfather to his six grandchildren. He always had a smile on his face and was truly loved by his family.”

Echo production editor Ed Oldfield said: “John was a journalist of the old school, charming, funny, down-to-earth, always cheerful and ready with a joke, even in the toughest circumstances, and relentless in pursuit of a good story.

“He never complained when he had a setback with his health and his good humour lifted the spirits of anyone who met him, in the newsroom and elsewhere.

“It was his disarming humour, genuine interest in people and calm reassurance that contributed to his success as a reporter, as people instantly warmed to him and found themselves telling him their stories.

“I met him regularly in Exmouth after he left the Echo, and John clearly delighted in his new job as a teaching assistant. He enjoyed working with the youngsters, passing on his love of writing and stimulating their desire to discover more about the world around them.”

After spending his whole career in journalism, John became a teaching assistant at the Beacon School in Exmouth, where he passed on his literacy expertise to young children.

News editor Rob Sims said: “An old school journalist, John cared deeply about his profession, and dedicated his working life to it.

“Fletch was a true character, in every sense of the word, and he will be sorely missed by all who knew him. He brightened everyone’s day.”

Features editor Sue Kemp added: “Fletch loved his job at the Echo, particularly when he was the Exmouth reporter. He was very proud to live there and wanted to support the town any way he could.

“As a work colleague he was good fun, always ready with tales of journalism in ‘the old days’ and sharing jokes. He was a lively character and left a big hole in the newsroom when he left.”

John leaves three children, sons Craig and Matthew and daughter Justine, along with six grandchildren.

The Express & Echo has gathered a series of other tributes from John’s former colleagues and these are reproduced below:

Shaun Campbell: “A great journo and a terrific bloke.”

Sarah Elliott: “He was the friendliest man with a cheeky glint in his eye!”

Thomas Bacon: “Exmouth has lost a great journalist and most importantly a top bloke.”

Gareth Williams: “Always liked a chat and a laugh and was always great fun to be around.”

Sylvie Bridel: “John was always such a happy chappy; always a big smile on his face.”

Marilyn Frankum: “Had many laughs over the years and loved winding him up. He was a good sport.”

Eleanor Hervin: “One of journalism’s great characters. I know he’ll be beaming that great big, infectious smile of his wherever he is.”

Naomi Harris: “A brilliant journalist and one of life’s true gents.”

Emma Slee: “He was one of journalism’s great characters.”

Tom Bevan: “Fletch would brighten up every working day with a joke. He was such a big character but also just a decent bloke right to the core.”

John Lewis: “John was such a cheerful and charming fellow that you could see the glint in his eye before he even turned to look at you.”

Hannah Hope: “Fletch was a warm and friendly colleague. He was positive and loved life. He loved Exmouth.”

Fran McElhone: “Fletch was a lovely person to be around, I was always happy to see his smiley face in the morning.”

Nick Warren “He was always having a smile on his face and seemingly taking everything in his stride.”


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  • October 24, 2013 at 8:47 am

    John Fletcher was my role model during the many years I worked with him at the Express and Echo. He had tenacity, a great sense of humour and a warm, down-to-earth and friendly manner with everyone he interviewed. He was a true ‘old school’ journalist who cared about the community he was writing about. He was also very charismatic, upbeat and known for his charming ways and sharp dress sense. I am remembering John with plenty of smiles as he was a great bloke.

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  • October 24, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Fletch was the soul of the Echo, with a heart as big as the city and a smile wider than the Exe. He would always help a colleague in need: if you were having trouble finding a contact, ask Fletch and he would set to thumbing through his tatty, well-thumbed contacts book (sometimes a long process…). A man full of knowledge and good humour, Fletch would always make you feel better for being in his presence. A true gent and one heck of a journalist, he embodied all that was best about the paper.

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  • October 24, 2013 at 10:40 am

    I worked with John in the early 1990s at Pulman’s Weekly News in East Devon (when it was part of the Western Gazette). At the time, he combined his role as the Seaton reporter with a fairly lucrative sideline as a freelance stringer for the bigger daily newspapers and occasionally the nationals. He used to get me to call him with any stories that broke in my patch in Honiton, and anything that came out of Honiton magistrates court. He was an infectiously friendly character – perfect for a reporter – and always used to say ‘thanks for that Pat, I’ll see you right, you’ll see’. As our salaries were not that great in those days (funny thing is they’re still not great, are they?), I looked forward to the day when the big cheque he promised arrived in the post. Eventually I got it. Barely able to open the envelope with excitement, I found inside a payment for the grand sum of – £50!
    The funny thing is I didn’t begrudge him it. He was a really nice guy, and taught me a huge amount about working in local newspapers and in so many ways that I didn’t recognise at the time paid me richly for my stories.
    Sorry to see you’re gone John – one of the old school for sure – and one of the best,

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  • October 24, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    Don’t add this to the comments but the quote from the son should say gentleman (singular) cheers

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  • October 24, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    So sad to hear Fletch has died after a short retirement from E&E, I’m sure his pupils will be too. We all knew him as a kind, friendly and forever cheerful member of the team. Thoughts with his family.

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  • November 10, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    I worked with John a lot when i was the Inspector at Exmouth Police station. He was a journalist who could be trusted to report a story factually. There was never a hidden agenda to get a story. He was the ‘old school journalist’ with a great sense of humour, We would ocassionally have a drink or two with Johns colleagues from the Exmouth Journal, including the late Andre Gibbons. John was a friend, and often we we would chat about the ‘good old days’ . My wife and son would also often see John and have a good chat with him.So sad to hear of Johns passing, a true gent and quality journalist. A sad loss. R.I.P. mate

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