John Smart – known to colleagues and rivals alike as Alec – has died at the age of 82.
He joined the Mail’s Manchester office after war service as a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm and worked for the paper for 35 years.
He covered many of the major stories in the north of England, Scotland and Ireland and specialisaing in crime stories and investigations.
He and his wife, Di, bred boxer dogs and kept other animals at their farmhouse in Saddleworth and it was no surprise to colleagues to see him roll up to a job with the front seat of a succession of elderly Austin A40 cars occupied by a bale of hay or a bag of feed.
With his camera of choice, a well-worn Rolleiflex, half-hidden beneath his coat, he made snatch pictures into a science, either using his smoker’s cough or the click of a pen he would hand to the reporter with him to cover the sound of the shutter.
He managed to combine his hobby of motor sport – he raced a much-loved Fraser Nash around Oulton Park – with work and spent many years covering the Isle of Man TT races.
He died in Spain, where he and Di made their home after he retired in the early Eighties.