Ray Chapman, for many years a News of the World investigative reporter, died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 71 after retiring from the paper only last September.
Determined to quit at the top, the last story he brought in to the News of the World, that month, was an expose of X-Factor judge Sharon Osbourne – a splash and spread which said to have been a circulation booster.
Ray never had any doubts about what he wanted to do in life – to write. He was sending scripts to Hollywood at the age of 16. But his father insisted that he first learn a trade and Ray became a hairdresser.
Yet the urge to travel took over and he spent some years doing just that – in Canada as a barber on an Indian Reservation and later at sea with the United States Mercantile Marine.
Back home in the 60s he set up a hairdressing salon, but the determination to get into journalism was still there.
One of his first cheques was from Tit Bits, the magazine where many of Fleet Street’s stars had their first break. Ray’s piece, loosely based on the confessions of a hairdresser, earned him 15 guineas.
In 1970 he met Don Arden, the promoter dubbed the Al Capone of Rock and Roll and Sharon Osbourne’s father. Their friendship lasted for life.
Ray had the gift of making friends with most of the people he came across and consequently had a wide circle of contacts.
As a result, he joined the News of the World in 1981 and embarked on a long career of investigative journalism, exposing much of the seamy side of life. One of his first front pages was an expose of a paedophile ring inside the Socialist Worker’s Party – a double victory .
But he never lost the urge to be a writer and found time to publish two novels and a number of short stories, one of which appeared in a Christmas edition of the News of the World.
When he picked up a novel by Jeffrey Archer he immediately spotted a host of errors and pointed them out to the author, who gracefully accepted the criticisms, and asked Ray to vet his next book.
In recent years he suffered a number of health problems but was determined to continue making a contribution to the paper. His experience as an investigative reporter stood him in good stead and he offered his skills to all the paper’s journalists – and lawyers.
His funeral, attended by many old friends, was held at Hendon Cemetery on Tuesday.