Steve Dennis: "loyalty rewarded with stunning coup", said Piers Morgan
The surprise triumph for the Daily Mirror in securing the royal butler’s story is down to one man, according to editor Piers Morgan.
The Mirror’s Manchester reporter, Steve Dennis, has built such close contact over the years with Paul Burrell — "he is almost like a third brother", said Morgan – that it paid off handsomely when the paper was able to secure the buy-up for £300,000, a third of the reported £1m offered by News International and half that tendered by Associated Newspapers. There was also believed to have a been a late bid by the News of the World, going it alone, for £2m.
"I was quietly confident because our Steve Dennis has cultivated a very special relationship with Paul Burrell and his family," said Morgan.
Even the fact that the son of Richard Kay, the Daily Mail’s royal reporter, is Burrell’s godson did not shake Morgan’s belief that Dennis would come through with the deal.
"Everyone would assume that the Mail would hoover this up with its usual vast chequebook but Paul Burrell realised it may have allegiances to other camps, whereas Steve Dennis has always been completely loyal to Paul Burrell," Morgan explained.
"I think he had his loyalty rewarded and I congratulate Steve on a stunning coup. All I did was agree the money."
Dennis had told Morgan he always felt the Mirror would get the story for less than others were offering because Burrell had an affinity for what the paper stands for and felt its readers loved Diana more than most newspapers’ readers.
"And he trusted Steve implicitly," said Morgan. "It’s a great lesson in what I have always said about contacts. Steve could have run countless front-page exposÅ½s at any stage in the past five years. But he has lived and breathed the Burrell family and when the big one came, Dennis landed the biggest fish of all. I take my hat off to him for brilliant, brilliant journalism."
In his introductory piece about Burrell for the Mirror on Tuesday, Dennis said he had "shared his ordeal, seen him cry and heard him believe he was losing his mind".
Each day of the Old Bailey trial, Burrell had telephoned him "morning, noon and night".
By Jean Morgan