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Martin Brunt in Horsham Park (©AAH/Alan Wright)

Article first published on 1st July 2023.


Martin Brunt has been a familiar face on Sky News for more than 30 years. As the broadcaster’s long-serving Crime Correspondent, he has a reputation for accessing inside information on major cases, breaking countless world exclusives during a distinguished career. Here, the Horsham District resident talks to AAH about his time as a journalist and hopes for his recently published book…



I started my career at Power Laundry and Cleaning News, one of two specialist laundry magazines that existed at the time. I studied journalism at London College of Printing and most of us started out working in trade magazines. After two years, I needed something more interesting to write about, so took a pay cut to become a junior reporter at my local newspaper in Kent, Chatham News

My next step was to work for news agencies, including Ferrari Press Agency, founded by the father of my close friend and former colleague Nick Ferrari, who now hosts the Breakfast Show on LBC. I’m grateful for having had that grounding at local papers and agencies, as the work was so varied. Recently, a graduate at Sky News asked me for advice, as she was attending the Old Bailey for the first time and wanted to know about its rules and protocol. I told her it was the same as any Crown Court, but she had never done any court reporting. At risk of sounding like a dinosaur, it’s a shame that junior reporters no longer benefit from the same experience I had. Some local newspapers have survived, but many have vanished.

After working for Fleet Street tabloids on a freelance basis, I took a staff job on the Sunday Mirror, eventually becoming chief reporter. I left in 1988, when mobile phones were still a new concept and long before the phone-hacking scandals. There was great rivalry between the newspapers, especially between Sunday Mirror and News of the World, with huge demand for celebrity scandals. I do enjoy a rivalry and sometimes wish there was another national crime reporter to keep me sharp! I once ‘doorstepped’ Paul McCartney and published a world exclusive about a plot to kidnap his wife, Linda. Such stories wouldn’t be published today, as more consideration is given to privacy, and that’s a positive change. 



I was approached by Sky in 1989. Sky News was a revolutionary idea, with rolling 24-hour news, but nobody knew if it would succeed. I remember colleagues at the Mirror saying, “You’ll be back in three months!” But Sky’s timing couldn’t have been better. The Fleet Street gravy train was hitting the buffers and the era of drinking sessions in pubs and big salaries was drawing to a close. It wasn’t long before my former colleagues wished they’d made the move I did, as Robert Maxwell took over the Mirror and looted the pension fund. Two years later, I was reporting on his death in the Canary Islands.  

 Sky News couldn’t attract the more established TV presenters to its fledgling project, so the best they could do was to hire Fleet Street hacks and train us to perform on camera! Sky News launched a massive marketing campaign and, one day, my son came running into the house, saying he’d seen me in a branch of Radio Rentals on Chatham High Street. They had a life-size cardboard cut-out of the Sky News team in the window display! 

We had about a month to practice reporting on camera. It wasn’t easy and there’s no substitute for experience. I remember particularly dreading reporting from outside court, as I thought I had to memorise an entire script and speak directly to camera for two minutes. Eventually, I came to understand that I only needed to memorise 15 seconds, as stock footage or graphics were edited over my voice. Another thing I soon learned is that there’s nothing wrong with holding a notebook. For a reporter, it’s natural to refer to notes.   

For five years, I covered everything for Sky News, including wars and conflicts, before becoming Crime Correspondent. During the first Gulf War, I was based in Saudi Arabia for three months, before covering the break-up of Yugoslavia from Croatia and Bosnia. War reporting is the most exhilarating job in journalism, but it’s fraught with danger. On one occasion, we were in the Bosnian village of Travnik when I saw the flash of a sniper’s bullet whizz by. I didn’t understand at the time how perilously close I might have been to losing my life.  

I’m glad I did the job, but five years was enough for me. There are extraordinary reporters who devote their entire career to covering conflicts, risking their lives to show the world what is happening.  



People often ask if I get nervous about reporting live. The answer is no. The only time I’m anxious is when I’m not in command of all the facts. If somebody asks me a question that I don’t know the answer to, I ask them to come back to me, once I’ve found out. Or I use a politician’s trick and change the subject to something I do know about! Sometimes, I can be in court all day, but only need to provide a short report. On other occasions, having lots of information is vital. At the end of the murder trial for the man who killed young Olivia Pratt-Korbel, we were waiting outside Manchester Crown Court for family and police statements. The wait went on and I needed to talk for 20 minutes about the trial. You need to have your wits about you though, to ensure you don’t miss an important statement.  

The grisliest case I’ve covered is that of Fred and Rose West and the House of Horrors murders. The testimony of Fred’s daughter, Anna-Marie, has stayed with me. When she was a child, she would walk to school thinking every child was going through the same terrible experiences she was subjected to. Another case that resonated was the murder of Sarah Payne, as I had a daughter the same age and it was so close to home. I had moved to the Horsham District by that time, and have lived here now for about 30 years. It felt incongruous driving through the beautiful South Downs while covering such an awful story. 

Of course, the Madeleine McCann case is one of the great mysteries of recent times, and people are always fascinated by unsolved crime. During the early stages of the investigation, it was difficult to obtain information from the Portuguese police, as detectives suspected the McCanns of being involved in their daughter’s disappearance. Accusations were made in the Portuguese press, based on leaks from the police. This influenced British coverage too and led to the McCanns falling out with the UK press. In some cases, the McCanns received damages for libel. I was misled badly by a source for one of my reports for Sky News. It was my understanding that a forensic investigation on a car that the McCanns had hired three weeks after Madeleine’s disappearance suggested her body had been inside it. It transpired that it wasn’t true, and of course I regret that. It damaged my reputation, but I did subsequently try to clear up my mistake.



One particular quote has been good for my career. I knew somebody involved in the case of serial killer Steve Wright, known as the ‘Suffolk Strangler’. My source provided me with several leads that turned out to be accurate, and when a reporter called Suffolk Police with an enquiry, a Press Officer said, ‘Call Martin Brunt. He knows everything before we do.’ This quote was reported by a columnist in The Times. I’ve used it in my book, and it’ll probably be on my grave! 

There have been equally bad quotes, as there have been occasions when I’ve been made to look a bit foolish. There is one instance where I was outside a church, and my report has been likened to those made by Alan Partridge. I understand why people on social media find it ridiculous! I don’t take myself too seriously!



I think it’s a cliche that every journalist has a book in them. I never thought about writing one – although people suggested I should – until now, in the twilight of my career. I feel privileged to do a job I love, having had the opportunity to travel the world to meet fascinating people and cover topical events. Because I’m still reporting for Sky News, there have been things I’ve withheld, to protect certain sources, but I felt it was best to write the book while I still had a public profile. Still, I hope it is informative, engaging, yet ultimately entertaining. I have tried to take readers behind the stories, offering a new perspective on what happened, while also exploring our fascination with crime.  

The book is called No One Got Cracked Over The Head For No Reason: Dispatches from a Crime Reporter. The quote came from John Stevens, former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service. There had been a demonstration outside parliament at Labour’s plans to introduce a ban on foxhunting, and when the protest turned violent, the police drew batons. During a press briefing, the commissioner was asked why his officers lashed out. He was usually very articulate, but on this occasion, he came out with this surprising quote. Afterwards, he jokingly put The Daily Mail reporter who asked the question in a headlock. It was in jest, yet illustrates the close relationship that used to exist between top brass at Scotland Yard and the press. 

You can’t imagine that happening now, in the aftermath of the Leveson Inquiry. My book reflects on that changing relationship and its impact on crime reporting. One of my big beefs about reporting today is that too much is done from the office. Reporters should be out meeting people, making contacts based on trust.

The book isn’t troubling the bestsellers list yet, but I hope it’ll be a slow burner. I spoke at the Lewes Speakers Festival and CrimeCon UK in London, and attended a book signing in Ely, Cambridgeshire. I’ll also be attending the Isle of Wight Literary Festival in October. I found such events to be quite daunting initially, as strangely, I don’t like being the centre of attention. But I understand that people have invested in the book and I needed to commit to marketing it properly.  

It isn’t going to make me a fortune, but if nothing else, it is something to show my children and grandchildren, and perhaps explains to them why I missed birthdays, holidays and anniversaries. I’m chuffed that I’ve written it and seeing it published has given me a sense of achievement. I just hope others enjoy it too!  

Further information:

No One Got Cracked Over The Head For No Reason: Dispatches from a Crime Reporter, by Martin Brunt, is available as a hardback and eBook from bitebackpublishing.com and also from Waterstones in Horsham and other bookshops. It can also be bought via Amazon and other websites. 

Words/Interview: Ben Morris Photo: Alan Wright