Former British Press Awards reporter of the year Frank Thorne has died aged 72 follow complications from a kidney transplant.
Thorne started his Fleet Street career under Daily Express news editor Brian Hitchen when he was in his mid twenties.
Notable scoops included reporting a confession by Lady Lucan revealing that she would name the killer of her nanny on the day the inquest was due to begin (she later said the killer was Lord Lucan).
After a year Thorne moved to the Sunday People where he stayed as a senior investigative reporter for the next 12 years, before spending three months on the Today newspaper in Pimlico. He then joined the Daily Mirror under editor Richard Stott, and later Roy Greenslade.
He won reporter of the year in 1990 for an investigation into the financial dealings of miners’ leader Arthur Scargill, alongside the then industrial editor Terry Pattinson and the late Ted Oliver.
Thorne took redundancy in the early 1990s and moved to Australia where he continued to write for the UK tabloids as also worked investigative journalist Roger Cook.
Speaking to Press Gazette in 2014 he said: “Suffice to say, my move to Australia has been a spectacular success. I like to feel I brought Fleet Street to Australia and loved going up against Richard Shears of the Daily Mail in particular, who is still working – now against his own Australian Mail Online staff. Incredible.
“We always gave each other a run for our money. We’ve had the best of times.
“Now online is killing the business of journalism we so loved and enjoyed.”
Among those making tributes on the Association of Mirror Pensioners website were for Daily Mirror political editor Alastair Campbell: “That is so sad. The last time I saw him – at a funeral, which alas is where too many meetings happen these days – he was on amazing form considering all the health challenges he had faced. Such a lovely guy and such a terrific reporter who taught so much to others.”
Jeff Edwards said: “A warm and often hilarious character and a peerless professional.”
And Roy Greenslade said: “Frank and I first met in the mid-1970s, when he was working for The People and I was a casual sub on the Sunday Mirror, and we stayed friends ever after. He was irrepressible, always cheerful and optimistic. Those qualities were to the fore in the way he went about his reporting and the way he treated people. During my short and difficult stint as Daily Mirror editor, he proved to be a wonderful colleague and often lifted me out of my gloom.
“I set him and Ted Oliver a tough task (the Arthur Scargill story) and told them they must drink moderately during their investigation and that, if they were found worse for drink in the office, they’d be fired. They agreed and behaved well for a couple of weeks until drink got the better of them one night and they rolled into my office, singing and shouting. They were only standing up because they were leaning against one another other but, inevitably, one made a false move and they collapsed backwards on to the floor in front of my desk.
“Frank, red-faced and smiling broadly, asked from his supine position: ‘Are you going to sack us now?’ I didn’t of course and they went on to win awards for their exclusive. Despite later differences of opinion in the aftermath of that story, our friendship remained steadfast. Indeed, when I revealed my Irish republican sympathies earlier this year, I received a lengthy, warm and supportive email from Frank.
“I’m aware of the clichés that follow, but they do sum him up. He was a one-off; a character; an old-school reporter, hard-working and hard-drinking. A Fleet Street legend, if you like. But we shouldn’t overlook the skills he employed, and the intelligent way he used them. He never forgot what he learned while under the tutelage of that doyen of investigative journalists, Laurie Manifold at The People. Raise a glass or three to Frank Thorne, the man who smiled through adversity right up to the end.”
Former Sunday Mirror deputy editor Nick Owens said: “He was, is and always will be the best journalist I’ve ever met. More importantly he was an even better grandfather, dad and friend. Thinking of his beautiful family who were with him right up until the end.”