A former national newspaper editor who started his career on a regional daily has died along with his wife in a road accident in Spain at the age of 77.
After leaving the Chronicle, he carried out national service with the Parachute Regiment then joined the Daily Mirror, working in its Manchester office then later on its London news desk, before joining the Daily Express.
Brian and his wife Nelli were crossing a road near Alicante when they were hit by a car. She died at the scene, while he died later in hospital.
A spokeswoman Northern & Shell, the Star’s owners, said: “We can confirm the sad news that Brian Hitchen, former editor of the Daily Star and the Sunday Express, and his wife, Nelli, have died after being been involved in a serious road accident in Spain.
“Brian was taken to a hospital in a very grave condition and doctors were not able to save him. Nelli very sadly died at the scene. Our thoughts are with their family at this time.”
After editing the Star and Sunday Express, Brian set up Brian Hitchen Communications and also became chairman of the Kerry Life and Irish Country Life publications. He was awarded a CBE in 1990.
A tribute has been paid by current Daily Express editor Hugh Whittow, who said: “Brian was one of my very best friends and I am deeply, deeply saddened by this tragic news.
“Brian was talented, funny, generous, full of mischief and everyone loved him. He was devoted to Nelli and she was devoted to him, and they both adored their children and grandchildren. This is tragic news.
“There are so many people on Fleet Street and in many other walks of life who owe so much to him. He was a brilliant journalist and an absolutely fantastic man.”
Matt Bell, chairman of the National Association of Press Agencies, said: “Brian Hitchen was truly a legend in his own lifetime and his death marks a very sad day for the British newspaper industry.
“He was much admired as a man of the utmost integrity, a highly-talented editor who was completly in tune with the readers of his newspapers.”