DEREK Crabtree, who has died aged 82, was a well respected news agency journalist who claimed to be the first reporter to discover the identity of the Yorkshire Ripper.
As a Bradford-based journalist he knew just about everyone in the city and everyone knew him, especially around the law courts which his agency covered daily.
He discovered the name of the Yorkshire Ripper when he found police surrounding the home in the Bradford district of Heaton of Peter Sutcliffe, the serial killer who in 1981 was convicted of murdering 13 women and attempting to murder seven others.
Mr Crabtree also played a part in saving the city’s rugby league club Bradford Northern, now Bradford Bulls, from extinction when they went out of business in the early 1960s.
He was born Derek Revell Crabtree in Bradford. He was the elder of the two children of Harry Crabtree, who worked in the family-run news agency started by his father, John William Crabtree, in 1916.
Derek Crabtree was educated at Swain House Primary School and Hanson School, both in Bradford, before training as a reporter on the Bingley Guardian. He always wanted to be a journalist but his father insisted that before he became the third generation in the family business he should have experience elsewhere.
During this early part of his life, he also did his National Service in the Army.
In 1968 after his father died he took over the running of the agency which covered news and sport for national and regional newspapers, in partnership with a former agency apprentice Donald Newton.
Over the years they were joined by a number of reporters who went on to further their careers elsewhere, but who always remembered Mr Crabtree as a stickler for accuracy as well as the agency being renowned for hard work.
During the miners’ strike of 1974 when the nation was forced to work a three-day week because of power cuts the agency carried on turning out their copy by candlelight.
Mr Crabtree’s part in saving the city’s rugby league team came when he and Bradford Northern’s legendary player, Trevor Foster, got together and wrote to the league bosses asking for a stay of execution. They called a meeting at St George’s Hall and the place was packed resulting in a new Northern side being created.
After Mr Crabtree and Mr Newton retired in 1993 they continued to help out, but Mr Newton died in 2006 and the agency closed in 2008.
In retirement, Mr Crabtree had been registrar at Eccleshill Retired Men’s Forum and continued with his hobby as a keen gardener. It was an interest he could pursue despite the demands of being a journalist. As well as his garden he had an allotment next door to his house where he mainly grew vegetables.
One of his favourite sayings as family or friends were sitting down to a meal was: “We’re just having this and it was growing two hours ago.”
Mr Crabtree is survived by his wife Marian, daughters Jill and Gwyneth, grandsons Samuel, Mark, Michael and Alex, and younger sister Valerie.
He attended Bolton Methodist Church, Bradford, where his funeral service will help on Wednesday, February 19, at 10.30am.