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Journalist who covered Kennedy killings dies aged 87

A former regional newspaper journalist who went on to cover some of the biggest stories of the 20th century has died at the age of 87.

Jeffrey Blyth, who started his career as a cub reporter on the Shields Gazette, died in New York on Saturday following a remarkable career in which he covered news stories and wars across the globe.

In 1963, he was standing behind President Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, when he was shot and killed in the Dallas Police headquarters by nightclub boss Jack Ruby.

Earlier, he had a ‘scoop of the year’ when in 1956 he persuaded Prince Rainier to give an exclusive interview on the eve of his wedding to Grace Kelly.

Jeffrey Blyth covered some of the biggest news stories of the 20th century

Two years later, he rode into Havana in Fidel Castro’s jeep after the ousting of Batista in Cuba.

He was also on hand to cover the killing of presidential hopeful Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles in 1968, and his brother Teddy’s ‘Chappaquiddick’ misadventure a year later.

Jeffrey also covered the Hungarian revolution, the Suez Crisis, Vietnam and the building of the Berlin Wall, as well as accompanying President Eisenhower on his ‘peace trips’ to the Middle East and Asia.

His cousin Elma Capstick, from South Shields, said: “Jeffrey was a typical journalist. He was always inquisitive and refused to take ‘no’ for an answer.

“He was always in the hotspots, wanting to know what was happening. That was why he was so successful, he never held back.”

Jeffrey, who enjoyed a 40-year career with the Press Gazette, was born in South Shields in 1926 and was on a salary of seven shillings a week during his early days with the Shields Gazette.

Later, he moved to the Newcastle office of the Northern Echo and during the Second World War he was a soldier journalist, working for the British Army newspaper Union Jack in Italy under editor Hugh Cudlipp.

After the war, he was appointed shipping correspondent for the Daily Mail in Southampton.

It was there he scored his first big scoop — discovering the car in which the famous runaway spies Burgess and MacLean had fled London and then abandoned in Southampton docks.

His overseas years began when he was appointed the Daily Mail’s roving European correspondent, based in Paris.

In 1957, he was sent to New York, where he was the Mail’s chief US correspondent for almost 15 years.

After the Mail, he worked as a New York correspondent for the BBC and the South African Broadcasting Company, filing daily radio reports before joining the Press Gazette, virtually from its inception in 1966.

Jeffrey is survived by his wife Myrna, an American journalist and author.

They have two sons, Jonathan and Graham, and two grandchildren.

A memorial service is to be held for Jeffrey in New York.