Former Sunday Express editor Brian Hitchen and his wife Nelli have both been killed in a car accident in Spain.
The pair were crossing the road in Alicante when they were struck by a car. It is understood Nelli died at the scene, while Brian died later having been placed into a medically induced coma.
Brian was awarded a CBE in 1990 and was editor of the Daily Star between 1987 and 1994. He was later editor of the Sunday Express.
The couple’s son-in-law David Levine told Press Gazette: “Brian and Nelli were crossing the road when they were struck by a car. Nelli died at the scene while Brian was taken to hospital. Unfortunately he died as well.
“They were due to be returning home tomorrow to spend Christmas with their three grandchildren. They had a place in Alicante and they used to spend a few months at a time out there. They were due to go to dinner last night with friends when the accident happened.
“We got the phone call that Neli had died at 3am. We had heard that Brian was on the mend but later we were told by the couple who they were due to have dinner with that he died.
“They were great grandparents to the two grandsons and grand daughters and were looking forward to Christmas.
“Brian stopped being an editor when he came into the family home where he was one of the kindest generous men you could meet. But if you wanted to pick him up on a story, he’d soon be back as editor and would soon win the argument.“
Medics operated on Brian’s leg and shoulders, however they were unsuccessful in saving his life.
Northern and Shell's Director of Digital Content Gareth Morgan, who worked under Brian in the 1990s, said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Brian and his family at this difficult time."
A Northern & Shell spokeswoman said: “We can confirm the sad news that Brian Hitchen, former Editor of the Daily Star and the Sunday Express, and his wife, Nelli, have died after being been involved in a serious road accident in Spain. Brian was taken to a hospital in a very grave condition and doctors were not able to save him. Nelli very sadly died at the scene. Our thoughts are with their family at this time."
Hugh Whittow, Editor of The Daily Express said: “Brian was one of my very best friends and I am deeply, deeply saddened by this tragic news. Brian was talented, funny, generous, full of mischief and everyone loved him. He was devoted to Nelli and she was devoted to him, and they both adored their children and grandchildren. This is tragic news. There are so many people on Fleet Street and in many other walks of life who owe so much to him. He was a brilliant journalist and an absolutely fantastic man.”