Family demand answers following journalist's death

By Kevin Unitt Friday 26 October 2012 Updated: 01/11 08:45

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Buy photos » Russell Joslin, who has died at the age of 50. (s)

THE FAMILY of a BBC Coventry and Warwickshire journalist believed to have taken his own life have called for an inquiry into how his complaints about alleged sexual harassment at work were handled by corporation bosses.

Police were this week reported to be investigating the allegations following the death of Russell Joslin, a reporter in Stratford district for many years, in hospital on Monday October 22. The BBC has also launched an external investigation.

He had been hit by a bus three days earlier and admitted to Warwick Hospital and then to nearby St Michael's psychiatric hospital, before being readmitted to Warwick Hospital as an emergency patient.

An inquest into his death was opened and then adjourned at Warwickshire Justice Centre in Leamington on Thursday October 25. Coroner Sean Patrick McGovern revealed a post mortem had been carried out and the preliminary indication was Mr Joslin had died as a result of asphyxiation.

His father Peter Joslin, a former chief constable of Warwickshire Police, said his son had made complaints about sexual harassment, by a female colleague, five years ago.

Mr Joslin said he did not blame the BBC “but management did not save him”, having had “plenty of opportunities” to intervene.

Reading out a statement on behalf of the family, Russell Joslin's brother-in-law Dan Barnard said: "We do not think that the BBC is solely to blame for Russell's death. This is too simplistic and factors to explain motives for suicide are usually complex.

"It's true that we believe there are questions that need answering by the BBC to explain how it could be that Russell formally expressed his very significant concerns about several things going on at work and yet ultimately was not taken seriously.

"Tragically the stress caused through this, we believe, is a significant contributing factor in understanding what brought Russell to the brink of feeling no other option than to take his own life.”

The 50-year-old Kenilworth resident was a journalist for most of his working life, with the BBC in Coventry and Birmingham after spells as a freelance reporter for several national newspapers.

BBC Coventry and Warwickshire's news editor Sue Curtis, who had known him for nearly 20 years, said he had brought "considerable talents to the BBC" and added the station had been "inundated" with kind messages about the reporter.

A BBC spokesperson said: "Our thoughts and condolences are with Russell Joslin's family at this sad time.

"This is a difficult time for everyone who knew him. The BBC is committed to working constructively with the family to ensure that their concerns are vigorously addressed.

"It would not be appropriate to comment further until the facts are established."

Remembering Russell

IT'S all too easy in these Leveson times to accept the lazy stereotype of the journalist as nothing more than a gutter-trawling pariah interested only in tittle-tattle, gossip, and digging the dirt. For every bad penny there are of course many more good guys. People dedicated to the profession, and with a passion for the profession. Russell Joslin was the epitome of the good guy journo.

I knew Russell for 20 years, all my journalistic career, and it was always a pleasure to bump into him, whether in the street, the pub, or as seem to happen quite often, in the local record shop, as music was another of Russell's great passions. A warm greeting was often accompanied by an equally warm chuckle as he invariably started with "Have you heard..." or "Did you know...".

Russell was very much an old school journalist, one whose every waking hour meant the possibility of finding a story, a tale he could share with readers/listeners, for that was his raison d'etre.

It was no good expecting Russell to sit in an office all day staring at a computer screen. He was a get on his bike (literally) and get out on patch man, where he could talk face to face with people, an increasingly rare happening in the age of the mobile and email, but still by far the best way.

I remember often calling into BBC CWR's Stratford office - a rather conspicuous cubicle based for a time in the town's library - on the off chance of catching him when he was working as the station's South Warwickshire correspondent. I soon realised I was wasting my time. He was never there. He was always out meeting contacts old and new, and having a chat. It didn't matter to Russell if you were an MP, mayor, butcher, baker, or candlestick maker, he always seemed to operate on the premise everyone had an interesting story in them, and whether for publication/broadcast or not, it didn't really matter, he wasn't going to pass up a possibly interesting chat.

He might have looked like he was the last one at the jumble sale, but that was just a part of his enormous character, a character which will be missed by many, reaffirmed by the hundreds of family and friends who attended his funeral in Kenilworth on Wednesday (October 31).

With Russell's passing the world of journalism has lost one of the true good guys.

Ian Hughes

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