Stafford Somerfield

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Stafford Somerfield (9 January 1911–14 January 1995) was a British newspaper editor.

Born in Barnstaple, Somerfield worked at the Express and Echo, then moved to London as a journalist on the Daily Telegraph and the News Chronicle. During World War II he served with the Gloucestershire Regiment, rising to become a major.[1]

When the war ended, Somerfield joined the News of the World, and in 1960 he was appointed as its editor. He prioritised shocking stories, and printed explicit details of Diana Dors and Christine Keeler's lives. He often fell into conflict with the Press Council, particularly after paying David Smith, chief prosecution witness in the Moors murders case, on condition that the suspects were convicted.[1]

In common with the Carr family, Somerfield vociferously opposed Robert Maxwell's attempt to take over the News of the World[2] and wrote a front page leading article in October 1968 on the subject,[3] which led to extensive criticism that his attitude was xenophobic.[2] He objected to Rupert Murdoch's eventual purchase of a majority of the title's stock from the Carrs a few months later. He was asked to resign in February 1970 by Murdoch, by then chairman of the company, and reportedly took an offer of £100,000 to leave.[4]

In retirement, he became a judge at Crufts and wrote columns on dog-related matters.[1] He also wrote three books: the first was in 1950 after interviewing John George Haigh, the convicted murdered known as the 'Acid bath murderer'; then in 1979 he penned a story about his Fleet Street memories; and finally in 1985, a book about the Boxer, a breed he had an in-depth interest in. He was chairman of Dog World.[5]


  1. ^ a b c Bernard Shrimsley, "Blood-lust of a newshound", The Guardian, 16 January 1995
  2. ^ a b Roy Greenslade Press Gang: How Newspapers Make Profits From Propaganda, London: Pan, 2004 [2003], p.395
  3. ^ Bill Grundy "The Press: Mr Maxwell and the Ailing Giant", The Spectator, 24 October 1968, p.6
  4. ^ "'News of the World' editor sacked", Glasgow Herald, 27 February 1970, p.26
  5. ^ "Stafford Somerfield; Obituary". The Times. 16 January 1995. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
Media offices
Preceded by
Reg Cudlipp?
Deputy Editor of the News of the World
Succeeded by
Cyril Lear
Preceded by
Reg Cudlipp
Editor of the News of the World
Succeeded by
Cyril Lear