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Royal reporter James Whitaker dies

James Whitaker, the veteran royal reporter, has died at the age of 71 after battling cancer.

The Fleet Street stalwart, who was the royal editor of the Daily Mirror for many years, was also known as a broadcaster and commentator.

Mirror editor Richard Wallace has led the tributes, saying: "James was a true Fleet Street legend who became famous around the world as a royal reporter. His colleagues often joked that at times he appeared grander than the royals themselves - which, of course, he loved."

Among his many scoops over the years was the revelation that Diana, Princess of Wales, was suffering from an eating disorder.

Whitaker, known for his plummy voice, also had a stint as a royal correspondent for ITV1's This Morning and was a competitor in Celebrity Fit Club, winning the 2004 series.

Wallace went on: "Despite the severity of his illness, he never complained or went in for self-pity, but insisted he had a life well lived."

Whitaker also worked for a number of other national newspaper titles including the Daily Star, Daily Express, Daily Mail and The Sun. But he was best-known for his lengthy stint at the Mirror, where he broke his most memorable stories.

He was unafraid to ruffle feathers with his stories and he recalled in an interview that he took "a level of abuse" over his story about Diana's eating disorder: "They thought it was a disgraceful bit of journalism, people from the Palace, medical people. On what basis did I have it? Well of course I couldn't say that it had actually come from Diana's own sister."

Among his proudest achievements was landing the scoop of the year title at the British Press Awards in 1998 for his revelation of the previous year that Diana was in love with Dodi Fayed.

Whitaker was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer around 12 months ago and had a number of operations to remove tumours as well as chemotherapy. His son Thomas, who followed his father into journalism, said the family had been touched by the messages of tribute and support. They had included personal phone calls from the Duchess of York shortly before his death.

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