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The late Sean Hoare: the News of the World whistleblower

January 2, 1989: I was at my desk on my first day as a junior reporter with the Watford Observer confronted by a stationary green-screen cursor. To my left was a brief to write a golden wedding report involving the last in a line of three sisters who had all, now, celebrated 50 years of happy marriage. It would be my first story ever published in the 125-year-old weekly and that milestone, and the resultant humiliation/glory, was at the forefront of my mind. Fear had dictated inactivity and the inevitable writer’s block. To the right of me sat a Roman-nosed character in corduroys, loafers and a jumper draped over his shoulders. He wasn’t wearing socks. Sean Hoare never wore socks, even in January.

He slid across on his roller chair – the Watford Observer’s office was lino-floored then – looked at the story, wrote a brief introduction for me, and then I completed the rest within the allotted 15-minute deadline. The report appeared on page one. Not a word had been changed.

Six months later, I arrived at the office of the St Albans Observer – the sister and snotty cousin of the Watford title.

I had learned of a story concerning Nick Berry, the actor well known for his portrayal of Eastenders’ Lothario Simon Wicks. Berry had been sent off during a charity football match after he had pushed over an adversary and then kicked him in the head. It was a good story featuring celebrity and violence – the lifeblood of tabloid newspapers.

Within an hour I received a call from Sean at the Watford office. “Mate, are you going to sell this story?” I replied that I wasn’t because I didn’t know how. “Tim, if you don’t sell it, I will. Tell you what, I’ll put in a call.”

Ten minutes later the phone rang again. It was Piers Morgan, a freelancer from The Sun newspaper. Morgan asked me a couple of questions about the story, asked for my address and politely thanked me for my help.

Sean was back on the phone. “Did Piers call?” I responded that he had. “Tim, if ever you get a sniff of a story like this, let me know. I’ll see you alright.” Then he hung up.

The next day the page five lead on The Sun featured a story about an Eastenders actor who had been sent off in the final throes of a heated charity football match. Two weeks later a cheque for £300 arrived in the post.

Sean Hoare was a charming, memorable rogue and a lovable one. If nothing else, he started the ball rolling for me and I subsequently enjoyed a career in newspaper journalism. For that I am extremely grateful.

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