Legendary Midlands journalist who covered the country's biggest stories dies aged 77

A legendary former Black Country journalist who covered some of the biggest stories in the last 50 years has died aged 77.

Alan Wallcroft
Alan Wallcroft

Alan Wallcroft was working at ATV Today in Birmingham during the evening of November 21, 1974, when two bombs exploded at two city pubs, killing 21 people and injuring 182.

Alan reported from the wreckage of the Birmingham pubs, informing viewers about the worst terrorist attack in mainland Britain during the Troubles.

Twenty years later, working for BBC Radio Gloucester, Alan was at the centre of the coverage of Fred and Rosemary West's exposure as serial killers and sentencing.

When searching for the remains of 12 young women killed by the sadistic pair the police began digging up a stretch of land where Alan had walked his dog during the time of the murders.

Due to his insight and contacts, Alan coordinated the BBC's entire radio and television coverage of what would become one of the UK's biggest stories of the 1990s.

Alan John Wallcroft was born in Sparkhill, Birmingham, on May 25, 1944. He left school aged 16 and began working as a copy boy in the newsroom of the Birmingham Evening Mail.

From there, he moved to the Oldbury News, then the Warley News, Raymonds News Agency in Stoke on Trent, and the Stoke Sentinel, before joining BBC Radio Stoke as a sports reporter.

From ATV he moved to the Worcester Evening News as deputy news editor and then in the early 1980s he joined Peterborough-based Radio Hereward and then became sports editor of the Malvern Gazette, before moving to BBC Radio Gloucester.

He was later appointed editor of the Gloucester News and then editor of the Bromsgrove Advertiser. He retired in 2010 but continued until last year writing reviews from The Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Malvern Theatres.

An enthusiastic exponent of the pun and practitioner of practical jokes Alan is remembered fondly by colleagues who praised his ability to perform under immense pressure with a smile on his face.

David Chapman, a former deputy editor and news editor of the Worcester Evening News, said: "Alan joined the paper in the mid-1970s as my deputy on the news desk and we hit it off straight away. He was a brilliant all-rounder, hard-working and thorough. Alan had the gift of seeing stories from a different angle. He was kind and considerate. He encouraged the younger members of staff and he could always be relied upon to turn a story in on time."

He added: "Added to all of that, Alan was good fun. The newsroom was never a dull place when he was around."

Fellow journalist and friend John Phillpott said: “Alan belonged to a generation of journalists the like of which we will never see again. Starting on a newspaper back in the early 1960s was very much a school of hard knocks, an era when chief reporters and news editors pushed their staff to their limits in the name of a good story.

"Miss out a fact or two, and you'd get an ear-bending. You weren't allowed to carry work over, hacks back then had to start the day with an empty notebook. As for sloppy, typo-riddled copy that would come hurtling back to its originator accompanied by an escort of expletives.

"This would have been the environment which either made or broke you, in Alan’s case the former. Imagine that sort of regime in today’s brave new world of wafer-thin sensibilities. Alan was a consummate journalist who could turn his hand to anything."

Mr Wallcroft died at his home in Powick, near Worcester, on Wednesday. He is survived by his wife, Val - whom he met when she won a beauty contest and he was one of the judges - son Ben and grandson Theo.

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