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Shoreham couple Brian and Nelli Hitchen killed in Spanish road accident
10:01am Tuesday 3rd December 2013 in News
A former national news editor Brian Hitchen and his wife Nelli have been killed in a road accident in Spain.
The couple were struck by a car yesterday while crossing a road in Altea, on the country's east coast. Mrs Hitchen died at the scene, while Mr Hitchen was taken to hospital but later died from his injuries.
Mr Hitchen, 77, was editor of the Daily Star from 1987 to 1994 and sister publication the Sunday Express in 1995.
He had also spent time working at the Daily Mirror and the National Enquirer in the United States.
A spokeswoman for Northern & Shell, the Daily Express and Daily Star's parent company, confirmed the deaths.
"We can confirm the sad news that Brian Hitchen, former Editor of the Daily Star and the Sunday Express, and his wife, Nelli, have died after being been involved in a serious road accident in Spain," she said.
"Brian was taken to a hospital in a very grave condition and doctors were not able to save him.
"Nelli very sadly died at the scene. Our thoughts are with their family at this time."
Brighton media commentator Roy Greenslade, who worked in Fleet Street at the same time as Mr Hitchen, paid tribute to him on his blog.
He said: "Even though Brian's muscular right-wing politics were very different from mine I enjoyed his company whenever possible. And we agreed a great deal about journalism and about press regulation.
"He rescued the Star from public ignominy in 1987 after a terrible quasi pornographic period. And he was not responsible for its current celebrity-obsessed agenda.
"We often bumped into each other on the train from Brighton - he had a house in Shoreham - and shared journeys that were punctuated by his laughter. He was, quite simply, a great guy to be around."
Daily Express Editor Hugh Whittow, who had worked with Mr Hitchen, said he was struggling to come to terms with the tragedy.
"Brian was one of my very best friends and I am deeply, deeply saddened by this tragic news," he said.
"Brian was talented, funny, generous, full of mischief and everyone loved him.
"He was devoted to Nelli and she was devoted to him, and they both adored their children and grandchildren.
"This is tragic news. There are so many people on Fleet Street and in many other walks of life who owe so much to him. He was a brilliant journalist and an absolutely fantastic man."
British broadcaster Piers Morgan also expressed his sadness via Twitter.
"Horrendous news about Brian Hitchen and his wife Nelly (sic)," he wrote.
"Great editor, and wonderful character. Gave me my 1st shift in Fleet Street. RIP."
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was in contact with the Hitchen family.
"We are aware of the death of two British nationals following an incident on 1 December in Altea, near Benidorm, in Spain," a spokeswoman said.
"We are providing consular assistance to the family at this difficult time."
The respected news man is expected to be honoured tonight at the British Journalism Awards in London.
Express Newspapers' Digital Content Director Gareth Morgan tweeted: "I will raise a large glass to Brian Hitchen tonight at the British Journalism Awards. Tomorrow I'll have a Hitch-sized hangover.
"It's a black day for journalism. RIP Brian Hitchen. Still the Boss."
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