Press hoaxer dies… honest!

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Rocky Ryan, the notorious Fleet Street hoaxer, has died aged 66, writes Sarah Boden.

The Ireland-born trickster repeatedly conned the nationals and TV news programmes into running far-fetched stories, which on occasion resulted in costly libel payouts for the papers. His most successful pranks included convincing several titles that orgies were taking place on Mount Everest, selling the Sunday Sport a picture he said was painted by Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe and persuading British and French media that explorers were indulging in devil worship in the Amazon.

The former stuntman and minder was determined to expose what he saw as the unscrupulous nature of Fleet Street and its disregard for hard facts. But his hoaxing took a more sinister turn when he claimed to be the source of Iraqi intelligence on Observer journalist Farzad Bazoft, who was executed in 1990.

Ryan’s mania for spectacularly duping journalists disappeared when he suffered a stroke in the early Nineties, after which he became a virtual recluse.

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