BreaKing StorieS froM around the World
Nicholas Witchell has been a journalist with the BBC for nearly 40 years, and has worked on major stories such as the assassination of Earl Mountbatten, the IRA hunger strikes, the Falklands conflict and Margaret Thatcher’s 1983 general election campaign.
In September 1984 he was, with Sue Lawley, one of the founding presenters of BBC’s Six O’Clock News.
During one bulletin the presenters were faced with a group of lesbian protesters who invaded the studio, with Mr Witchell attempting to muffle one who had handcuffed herself to the newsdesk by sitting on her.
He also presented the re-launched Breakfast News between 1989 to 1994, before returning to front line reporting for the BBC, for Panorama and then as a BBC diplomatic correspondent.
On August 31, 1997, he was the first journalist to broadcast the confirmed news of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and provided live radio commentary from outside Westminster Abbey at her funeral.
The following year he became the royal and diplomatic correspondent for the organisation, a title he still holds.
Speaking of his role, he said: “I’ve been doing if for 15, 16 years now, and I enjoy it.
“Doing the royal job gives you a peek behind the curtain of this hugely significant institution within the UK.
“What comes across quite strongly, increasingly in recent years, is the enormous respect that there is for the Queen.
“She has been on the throne now for 63 years, the oldest monarch and longest reigning monarch.
“As BBC royal correspondent I try to report it accurately and in a way that is going to be of some interest to the people at either end of the spectrum – the absolute avowed monarchist to those who are not supportive of the institution, who are a minority.”
He said the death of Princess Diana was one of the most memorable stories he has covered, adding: “I was the first journalist to be told that princess Diana was dead.
“I was with Foreign Secretary Robin Cook in Manilla, Australia, and his press secretary. We were just about to fly to Singapore when they heard from the hospital that she had died.
“So I gave that news to the BBC newsroom in London.
“It allowed them to prepare the way for the announcement of her death 40 minutes later.
“In the way that we all remember where we were when we heard the news of the death, that was certainly very memorable and shocking.
“It is extraordinary to think it was 18 years ago.”