One of his first stories was also among his biggest. He was just 16 and a cub reporter on the Doncaster Free Press when the news broke that one of the town’s favourite sons, the Manchester United footballer David Pegg, was among those to have died in the Munich air crash.
Whittell, a family friend, reported as scant details of the tragedy filtered through. His colleague, the future TV host Michael Parkinson, was tasked with reporting the funeral.
Whittell went on to work on the Yorkshire Evening Post, Sheffield Telegraph and the Doncaster Chronicle before going to Manchester, where the nationals maintained full-scale editorial operations, to become a reporter on The Sun. He was later assistant news editor at the Daily Express and its stablemate, the Daily Star.
Eventually, he returned home to Doncaster, to become news editor of the Free Press. He also wrote a biography of another of the town’s football greats, the Doncaster Rovers player Alick Jeffrey.
Born in Scawthorpe, he and Dinah, his wife of more than 50 years, lived in the village until retirement, when they moved north to be near their daughter, Sarah, who had taken over the Jolly Farmers pub in Leavening, on the southern tip of the Howardian Hills.
He is also survived by his son, Ian, who followed him into journalism, and by three grandchildren.