Sun crime reporter Mike Sullivan has revealed how he when he first joined the paper, in the early 1990s, the ethnicity of a victim of crime could decide whether the newsdesk wanted the story covered.
And he has questioned why the police and media have given more prominence to some murders than others, apparently based on the social and ethnic background of the victim.
He is quoted in a new history of crime reporting written by Duncan Campbell,
In it he says: "I remember being despatched down to south London by the newsdesk because a fourteen-year-old had fallen off a bridge or been thrown off it onto a busy road and died.
"On the way down I got a call from the newsdesk asking 'What colour is she?' I remember thinking, 'What does it matter?' I was told to check it out. Sure enough she was Asian and I was told to come back and not worry about it.
"I thought, fuck that, and carried on, did the story, and it did make a bit in the paper which pleased me."
He added: "One thing I would take some pride in is that we have done a lot of stuff trying to make sure that every murder counts. Like the detective, Harry Bosch, in Michael Connelly’s novels, says :'Everybody counts or nobody counts.' It’s a good phrase for a crime reporter.’"
Sullivan also recalled the case of lawyer Tom ap Rhys Pryce, who was discussing wedding plans with his fiancée on his mobile on his way home when he was fatally stabbed by two muggers in Kensal Green, north London, in 2006.
Sullivan noted that the Met Police issued a major appeal for information and a senior officer attended the scene.
He said: "On the other side of London, Balbir Matharut tried to stop two people stealing his car, fell under the wheels and subsequently died but the Met provided next to nothing on that and I think we got three paragraphs in while there was a great big page on ap Rhys Pryce.
"The same day a guy called Billy Robinson and his wife, Flo, got chopped up by hoods in Tenerife. That again made two paragraphs. It’s the middle-class City lawyer who gets the publicity. I don’t know what that says about us, the police or society in general."
Sullivan also speaks in the book about his experience as one of 67 journalists arrested and/or charged by police over the last few years in investigations stemming from the News of the World hacking scandal. Sullivan was questioned by officers investigating payments to sources but was cleared without ever being charged.
He said: "The Met and the CPS then lost the plot and tried to burn as many tabloid journalists at the stake as they could, aided and abetted by our company lawyers in New York. To them we were all criminal scum. To us, they were Stasi stormtroopers.
"It’s the worst thing that ever happened to me as a journalist – the company handing over everything. I thought: it’s going to take ages to sort this out and then they’ll find there’s nothing there. That’s largely what happened."
"We'll All Be Murdered in Our Beds! The Shocking History of Crime Reporting in Britain" by Duncan Campbell is published by Elliott and Thompson, price £14.99.