Nigel Morris, investigations producer for BBC London died just before Christmas from cancer aged 44.
Nigel’s career in print and broadcast was marked by a passion for investigative journalism – working on programmes including Panorama, Dispatches, The Big Story, and most recently BBC London TV on specialist investigations.
During his career he had worked in Bosnia, Iraq and researched for John Pilger, and he approached every story with a fierce journalistic tenacity that earned the Halifax-born journalist the nickname “Yorkshire terrier” from many of his colleagues.
His freelance career saw him work across a wide range of TV programmes and production companies over the years, as researcher, associate producer and producer – but his specialism was investigative journalism, using the talents that came to him so naturally; getting people to talk openly and honestly; and always thinking of the next angle or direction that could take a story on.
But he also brought a natural empathy and humanity to his journalism, and had a deep respect for the people who were often the victims of the scams or abuse he was investigating. He was instinctively on the side of the underdog or the exploited. For the last three years he was investigations producer for BBC London – heading up the team’s award winning investigations coverage which saw it twice win the Prix Circom, the European award for best regional news programme.
His work included an exposé of the former head of Albania’s secret service, wanted for torture and kidnap, and found living under an assumed name in London; along with immigration scams at a London hotel and revealing how banned dangerous dog breeds could still be bought on the streets of London.
“Nigel was an old fashioned news journalist who just loved the story”, says BBC London editor Antony Dore. “He did some outstanding stuff for us in investigative journalism. Nigel brought something to the team that we’d never had before and his skills and experience were behind many of the best stories we’ve done over the last few years. We won awards for stories we would never have got without Nigel”.
Morris started his journalism career in local newspapers working in Hitchin on the North Herts Gazette and Express series before moving on to the Grimsby Evening Telegraph in summer 1988 as a news reporter.
Former colleague Dominic Kennedy, now at The Times, recalls: “Nigel quickly became very popular. He stood out with his shock of blond hair, boyish looks and spectacles. Whenever he found something odd he would loudly say in the newsroom in his broad Yorkshire accent: “It’s bananas!” From this he earned his nickname Bananas which many of his friends from Grimsby still called him.
“He quickly made an impact as a reporter who would get great hard news stories from run-of-the-mill assignments. His most spectacular was when he was sent to cover the rescue of a child who had got into trouble in the sea at a resort on the Lincolnshire coast. This was almost a daily event for the paper and usually only warranted a few lines. On this occasion, however, Nigel found some witnesses who said that they had seen the child being pushed safely back to shore by a seal. The story of the kindly life-saving seal made the splash in the Evening Telegraph and was, I believe, the first story that he sold to the national press, which loved it.”
After only a few months Morris moved on to join The Star in Sheffield, where one of his early jobs was to work on the paper’s award-winning coverage of the Hillsborough disaster.
Eventually Morris moved into freelancing as an investigative journalist writing for the Sunday Express including looking at student grants before moving into television journalism, first on ITV programme Speakeasy, a ground breaking discussion programme for 11-16 year olds, with Nigel brought in to give the programme a harder edge. It was on Speakeasy that he met his future wife Marie who was also working on the show.
Morris went on to join the production team for Twenty Twenty’s Big Story for ITV in the mid-90s, completing three series of the successful current affairs and investigative journalism programme.
He then joined Ray Fitzwalter Associates and spent 1998 working on a number of investigative documentaries for Channel 4’s Dispatches strand.
During the next few years Morris worked on a range of TV programmes from ITV’s House of Horrors to Sunday Morning with Gloria Hunniford.
Among Morris’ many other broadcast credits include work To the Ends of the Earth: The Real Bravo Two Zero for Fulcrum in 2001/2002.
Between 2003/2004 he worked on Panorama, returning to the programme in 2007 to work with director Andy Bell on a Bafta-nominated film about dog fighting.
He also worked on John Pilger’s 2004 RTS winning feature documentary Stealing a Nation, the story of the US occupation of Diego Garcia, produced by Granada for ITV.
But just as he was enjoying a run of successful stories and investigations he became ill.
Morris was an experienced marathon runner and after completing last year’s London Marathon in April and raising money for the charity War Child he felt unwell. He visited the doctor and was told he had stomach cancer. He underwent chemotherapy for several months keeping in touch with many of his friends in journalism and broadcasting. But the disease spread and his condition rapidly deteriorated.
He passed away peacefully on 15 December with his family at his bedside. Nigel leaves a wife Marie and two children, Amelie and Noa.
Nigel’s funeral takes place on Wednesday 5 January at 12.15pm at the Church of Our Lady, Brixton, followed by a service at the West Norwood Crematorium at 2pm.