Nicholas Witchell

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Nicholas Witchell
Nicholas Newton Henshall Witchell

(1953-09-23) 23 September 1953 (age 66)
Alma materUniversity of Leeds
Maria Staples (m. 2014)
Children2 daughters

Nicholas Newton Henshall Witchell OStJ FRGS (born 23 September 1953) is a seasoned English journalist. He is a newscaster and diplomatic and royal correspondent for BBC News.

Early life and career[edit]

Witchell was born in Shropshire. He was educated at Epsom College, a British public school in Surrey, and at Leeds University, where he read Law and edited the Leeds Student newspaper. In 1974 Terence Dalton Limited published Witchell's book The Loch Ness Story, a history of alleged sightings of the Loch Ness Monster.[1]

Witchell has worked for the BBC since 1976.[1] Witchell, along with Sue Lawley, became the first newsreader of the BBC Six O'Clock News when the programme was launched on 3 September 1984 (replacing the early evening news magazine Sixty Minutes). In 1988, the Six O'Clock News studio was invaded during a live broadcast by a group of women protesting against Britain's Section 28 (which sought to prevent councils from "promoting" homosexuality). Witchell grappled with the protesters and is said to have sat on one woman, provoking the ambiguous frontpage headline in the Daily Mirror, "Beeb man sits on lesbian".[2] During the 1989 journalist strike, Witchell was one of the few newsreaders to turn up to work. He was branded a "scab" for this action.[3]

In 1989 he moved from the evening to the breakfast news slot, where he remained for five years.[4] During the 1991 Gulf War he was a volunteer presenter on the BBC Radio 4 News FM service.[5]

He was the first reporter to relay the news of the 1979 death of Lord Mountbatten,[1] the Lockerbie disaster, the Zeebrugge ferry disaster[6] and the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.[4]

Royal correspondent[edit]

In 1998, Witchell became a royal and diplomatic correspondent. In 2002, his obituary of Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, recorded some time before her death but screened immediately after the announcement of her death, was reportedly not well received at Buckingham Palace, as it mentioned her lovers and "copious" consumption of whisky.[7]

Witchell provoked royal displeasure again in 2005. At a press conference at the Swiss ski resort of Klosters, Witchell asked Charles, Prince of Wales, how he and his sons were feeling about his forthcoming marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles. After a response from his son Prince William, the Prince of Wales said under his breath, and referring to Witchell: "These bloody people. I can't bear that man. I mean, he's so awful, he really is."[8] Witchell himself was then in the headlines. The BBC defended their reporter saying: "He is one of our finest. His question was perfectly reasonable under the circumstances".[8]

Life outside journalism[edit]

Witchell is a governor of Queen Elizabeth's Foundation for Disabled People, an Officer of the Order of St John and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He has two daughters and currently lives in Central London with his wife Maria, née Staples.[2][9]

Witchell appeared as himself in the Doctor Who Christmas Special "Voyage of the Damned", broadcast on Christmas Day 2007.[10][11]


  1. ^ a b c Tim Luckhurst (28 August 2005) "Nicholas Witchell: more touchy than feely"; The Independent. Retrieved on 7 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b The Times (31 March 2005). "Witchell, the BBC man who 'sat on a lesbian'". London. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  3. ^ O'Carroll, Lisa; Deans, Jason; Day, Julia (23 May 2005). "TV stars: why we crossed BBC picket line". the Guardian. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  4. ^ a b About BBC News: Nicholas Witchell profile, BBC News website
  5. ^ Sound Matters - Five Live - the War of Broadcasting House - a morality story
  6. ^ "Zeebrugge disaster". BBC news reports, Via youtube. 6 March 1987. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  7. ^ Alexa Baracaia "No stranger to undiplomatic incidents", Evening Standard, 31 March 2005
  8. ^ a b "I hate facing media, says Charles", BBC News, 31 March 2005
  9. ^ "Nicholas Witchell: more touchy than feely". The Independent on Sunday. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  10. ^ "Radio Times". 9 December 2007: 124. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ "Full cast and crew for "Doctor Who" Voyage of the Damned (2007)". Internet Movie Database. 9 December 2007. Retrieved 9 December 2007.

External links[edit]