Sophie Walker - Reporter and feature writer

Sophie
Walker, who died suddenly aged 34, was the daughter and stepdaughter of
journalists but she never traded on any name but her own.

Born in
Sidcup, she graduated from the London College of Printing’s journalism
course and did her first work placement at Tatler. Her long hair at
that time was dyed a brilliant electric blue (or emerald green, or
both), which made her something of a standout while covering the debs’
party circuit in the late Eighties.

She then worked for Mandi
Norwood on Cosmopolitan, the Evening Standard, the Sunday Mirror,
Sunday People and Daily Mail, and she wrote for Mademoiselle (US). She
also worked for Channel 4’s inaugural Big Breakfast, a job she gave up
because of its demand for a 4am start, which Sophie was more used to
regarding as think-about-bed time.

Blessed with Audrey Hepburn
looks on an elfin frame, she was a gift to any editor with the kind of
story for which you need a dauntless (and preferably good looking)
young female. Like the Harley Street doctor prescribing slimming pills
(Sophie weighed about seven stone but he gave them to her anyway).

And
the stomach-churning photo-op on the world’s tallest water slide in
Tokyo (she was terrified of heights; the photographer naturally
insisted she do it “one more time” – twice). And the “tattoos are hip
for women” story in which she displayed the butterfly on her shoulder
(along with others that surprised her family).

But she also
interviewed women in the reporter-proof prisons of Cuba and Florida.
One of these, a British woman who’d received a 20-year jail sentence
for her husband’s bad debts, is still inside. Alas, Sophie never
received the recent update from her family begging her to raise the
case again (“You’re our last hope”).

She wrote with sparkle and
immediacy, in an easy, vivacious tone; she was a dogged and doughty
news reporter and feature writer. For Cosmo and Mademoiselle, she wrote
moving (and funny) pieces about being brought up in a fractured family
(only four when her parents divorced, she spent periods living with
either father or mother).

In 1995, her mother died suddenly when
Sophie was 25 and she struggled to come to terms with the loss. Five
years later, she wrote an unforgettable tribute to her in the Daily
Mail. Rackingly matter- of-fact about the grim bedside vigil for her
“witty and gregarious” mother (with doctors repeating that “she would
not survive the day”); but also brilliantly honest about the almost
unsociable fact of death itself: “My friends of that time, nearly all
atheist twentysomethings, had no idea how to react. And I had no idea
how to help them.”

Sophie was the granddaughter of a Glasgow
steelworker who was sacked for being a wee bit Stalinist. She loved her
working class Scottish heritage. She was a committed socialist and
opponent of nepotism. The only time her career crossed with her
parents’ was when she was manning the post- Maxwell picket line outside
the Holborn Mirror, defying entry to the incoming Montgomery men. One
of them was her father whom she promptly identified to the brothers.
She finally let him in but only after negotiation (i.e. a lengthy
harangue).

In the last four or five years, she favoured painting over print – she was an accomplished portraitist and modernist.

About a month before she died, she’d accepted the present of a Mac and had started writing again.

She is survived by her sisters Ayesha and Octavia, brother Seb and father Frank Walker.

Vicki Woods

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