David Leitch: former Sunday Times Insight team member

Leitch: bright star

David Leitch, who died on 24 November after a long period of ill health, was one of the brightest stars in the constellation assembled by Sir Denis Hamilton, Godfrey Smith and Harold Evans at The Sunday Times in the 1960s.

He took part in a number of investigations, notably the exposure of Kim Philby, the senior MI5 officer who was a KGB mole.

He developed into an admired foreign correspondent and distinguished himself by his stylish reporting from Vietnam, Prague, Paris and many other datelines.

Leitch was haunted by the discovery that at eight days, he had been given away by his mother through an advertisement in the Daily Express.

He wrote a book about it, God Stand Up for Bastards , in the hope of smoking out his birth mother.

When she eventually came forward, he had to deal with the emotional trauma of discovering that he had two natural sisters, each of whom had been disposed of by their mother.

Leitch was educated at Merchant Taylors’ School and at St John’s College, Cambridge, where he read history.

He landed a staff job at The Guardian , then still in Manchester, and worked briefly at The Times, before being hired by Godfrey Smith for a special projects unit at The Sunday Times .

He teamed up with Phillip Knightley on a number of big stories, and then was drawn into the orbit of Bruce Page and the Insight team, started by Clive Irving in 1963.

In early 1968, Leitch was sent to Vietnam, where he worked with the great war photographer, Don McCullin. Leitch later worked closely with photographers including Bryan Wharton and Sally Soames.

In Vietnam, he experienced the worst artillery bombardment of the war at Khe Sanh. He fully expected the North Vietnamese to overrun the US base and cut all their throats. Khe Sanh was traumatic; Leitch knew he could be relieved, but the young marines he met and admired there were unlikely to survive.

Leitch was Paris correspondent for The Sunday Times , and then for the New Statesman . He worked for a time on the National Times in Australia, and later returned to London and wrote features for the Sunday Times Magazine.

He married first the writer Jill Neville, then Rosie Boycott, later editor of The Independent and the Daily Express. Leitch is survived by a son, Luke, a journalist on the Evening Standard , and by two daughters.

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