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War zone journalist and spy expert dies aged 87

A former regional journalist-turned-foreign correspondent and espionage expert who once interviewed Colonel Gaddafi has died, aged 87.

Ronald Payne (pictured) started his career as a journalist at the now-defunct Reading Mercury, which went out of print in 1985, after spending his student years writing for University of Oxford student magazine Isis.

He went on to work at the Evening Standard and then the Daily Telegraph, where he earned his stripes in overseas reporting and earned a reputation for cheating death.

For around 20 years he reported on the French wars in North Africa, and also covered conflicts in Lebanon, Cyprus, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, becoming notorious for his ability to narrowly escape life-threatening situations.

In one such incident, his car broke down while crossing a pontoon bridge over the Suez Canal during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and had to be rescued by an Israeli officer under heavy fire.

He also managed to secure an with Colonel Gaddafi after he came to power, and was made to wait 10 days before finally being seen.

In the early 1960s, Ronald became the diplomatic correspondent on the Sunday Telegraph, continuing to work abroad covering Middle Eastern Wars and the rise of Col Gaddafi.

He also spent 19 months working with short-lived news magazine NOW!, during which time he became well acquainted with Soviet espionage and smuggling.

Alongside his journalism portfolio, he wrote 11 books, including several books on the art of spying as well as historic examinations of the Falklands War, Israel’s secret service, and a best seller called The Carlos Complex which investigated Venezuelan criminal Carlos the Jackal and the global terrorism network.

He is survived by his wife, Celia, and step-daughter.

A full obituary has been published by the Oxford Times.