James Mossman

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David James Mossman (10 September 1926 – 5 April 1971) was a British journalist, broadcaster, a TV reporter, film-maker, interviewer and former MI6 agent with a famously acerbic interviewing style. He once verbally attacked then-Prime Minister Harold Wilson live on air, over his support of US President Lyndon Johnson over the Vietnam War. On another occasion, he took the Singapore prime minister to task for his habit of throwing his political opponents in jail.

A member of the Panorama team in the 1960s specialising in foreign affairs, he was reassigned to presenting regular arts slot by the BBC because of the controversy around his interviewing style.

With producer David Webster, he made two notable programmes about the 1964 US presidential election: A Choice or an Echo, about the differences between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater; and Thunder on the Left, about the Right-wingers surrounding Goldwater.[1]

Generally recognised to be very handsome, he had a Canadian male lover called Louis Hanssen. Hanssen was married to a woman and 8 years younger than Mossman. He died in 1968 of an accidental overdose.[2] Work colleagues of Mossman described Hanssen as domineering.

He committed suicide in his cottage in Norfolk by taking a fatal overdose[3] of barbiturates, leaving behind a note that read: "I can’t bear it any more, though I don’t know what ‘it’ is."

Peter Shaffer, the author of the play Equus claimed that during a stay at the Norfolk cottage that Mossman, of whom he was a friend, told him the story on which he based the play.[4]

On 14 February 2007, The Reporter, a play by Nicholas Wright based on his book and directed by Richard Eyre premiered at the Royal National Theatre in London. The play explores the social climate in the years before Mossman's death as well as the reasons for the death itself.



  1. ^ The Daily Telegraph. London https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/08/19/db1902.xml.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ Dowd, Vincent (27 February 2007). "Staging Mossman's tragic story". BBC News. 
  3. ^ Spencer, Charles (23 February 2007). "Haunting portrait of a mysterious life". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 24 December 2012. 
  4. ^ William Inge Theatre Festival - Peter Shaffer Archived 19 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.

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