My Greatest Mistake Bill Hagerty, editor, 'British Journalism Review'

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The Independent Online

When I was assistant editor in charge of news at the Daily Mirror in the early 1980s, I was turned over by Joe Flynn, the con man who took a delight in fooling the press. Flynn had successfully hoaxed several papers, but few knew what he looked or sounded like.

John De Lorean, the dodgy motor-industry entrepreneur, had taken out a libel writ against us over a damning series we had run, and a phone call from Flynn, under an assumed name, had me and another executive scampering to San Remo on the promise of evidence that would torpedo De Lorean's case.

We met him at San Remo railway station, and he was utterly plausible. So much so that we parted with cash - "no cheques" was part of the deal - on the promise of documentary proof. How dumb!

I realised it was a scam before the Mirror published anything, and it didn't even cost the paper much financially - Flynn wasn't in it for the money; he just loved the charge a successful hoax gave him. But I was left with a red face, although De Lorean's writ eventually went away.

Earlier, in the mid-1970s, when I was writing mainly show-business interviews for the paper, I had lunch with Alan Price, the singer-songwriter, who had become a friend of mine. Talk turned to movies and that morning's story that a sequel to Michael Caine's Alfie was to be filmed. Who was going to get the title role in Alfie Darling, I wondered.

"I am," Alan said. I laughed. I thought that he was making a bad joke - which is what most critics thought the film was when it came out. I have to admit that when news of his casting broke a few days later, I didn't advertise the fact that he had given it to me exclusively. I did still claim the lunch on expenses, though.

'Read All About It!', Bill Hagerty's centenary history of the 'Daily Mirror', is published today by First Stone, priced £19.95

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