Devon weekly the Exmouth Journal brought its press deadline forward two days to scoop the nationals with a six-page investigation into the Binny Day exhumation case.
Mother-of-three Day committed suicide by throwing herself from cliffs at Budleigh Salterton on 3 March 1989.
On Monday last week police called a press conference announcing Day’s body was being exhumed as part of a sex abuse investigation.
The paper’s chief reporter Becca Gliddon had been working on background material for two months and by the time the nationals press started covering the case the Journal had pulled together a six-page investigation.
The Journal first published the story online at 12.03am on Tuesday morning and updated its website with breaking news and video throughout the day. The print edition also came out on Tuesday, rather than Thursday as usual.
According to the Journal page impressions to its website hit 9,532 on Tuesday – compared to an average of around 1,375 a day – and they were 5,000 the following day.
Editor Phil Griffin said: “We knew the press conference material was going to be embargoed until the early hours of Tuesday, which meant we could be out with our special edition with material the rest of the media could only dream about.
“Becca left the rest of the media standing on a major story, which had the rest of the media scrambling about.”
The six-page special included exclusive interviews with Day’s closest friend and a “chilling” school report concluding she had a “death wish” and a “sort of destructive fatalism”.
The biggest scoop for the paper was news that not only had Day’s brother been jailed for child sex abuse, so too had her father and – only last month – her son.
Journal editorial staff worked over the weekend to get the paper out, with chief photographer Simon Horn covering the exhumation for both print and web.
Detectives have been conducting an investigation into allegations of historical sexual abuse in East Devon for the last two years.
The initial investigation, Operation Goodrich, ended in July last year when Day’s brother Tommy Dance was jailed.
The operation also threw up new evidence that Day had been sexually abused and raped over an extended period.