I was saddened to read that my former Cambridge News colleague Michael Deaves has died. When I first started at the News, Michael appeared rather a daunting and aloof figure, he was the paper’s university correspondent.
His sister sums him up nicely by saying: “He had a slightly macabre sense of humour. His coffin will have a lid attached to it that was made by his grandfather in the 1960s.”
Michael left the News to hold senior press officer positions at Scotland Yard and at the Home Office. And it was while he was at the Home Office that he gallantly dished me up with an exclusive story. I was working at the News one Saturday, it was almost time to go home when we heard there had been an IRA breakout from Whitemoor Prison in March. I was sent there to report on it by my editor, Robert Satchwell. Six prisoners including London gangster Andy Russell, Paul Magee and other IRA members, had escaped from the prison’s Special Secure Unit after smuggling a gun into the prison. All were later recaptured.
When I arrived at the prison my name, as well as other journalists arriving, was phoned through to the Home Office, picked up by Michael Deaves. He told the prison officer to look after me and, as a result, I was given an exclusive interview with the guard who had chased the fugatives. It was real cloak and dagger stuff as I interviewed the heroic guard in the ladies loos, just feet away from other journalists longing for such a chance themselves. The Press Association was the only media offered an interview.
As I sauntered off, having filed my report to the News, I shared my notes with a former News colleague who had just arrived for The Guardian.
While working at the News, Michael secured a big scoop himself, an interview with the Duke of Edingburgh, then Chancellor of Cambridge University.
There’s no other feeling like getting a scoop, that rush of adrenalin and quickening heartbeat.