Tributes paid to former West Sussex County Times editor David Briffett

David Briffett
David Briffett

Tributes were paid this week to David Briffett, the former editor of the West Sussex County Times, who died aged 79 on June 26 at St Catherine’s Hospice.

His editorship of the County Times coincided with a period of massive change for Horsham as it underwent a huge programme of redevelopment and regeneration that swept away the old and ushered in a new era for the community and business.

Gary Shipton, Sussex Newspapers’ Editor In Chief, said: “It’s true, both as editor and a director of the founding company, he led the West Sussex County Times with flair, integrity and distinction.

“But he was also a servant of Horsham itself. A man who was determined to use the County Times’ immense local influence as a force for good.

“As a consequence, he did not merely report and reflect the vast changes that were happening within the town centre during his tenure - but he actively championed them and played no small part in helping to shape them.

“To me, he was a newspaper editor and community champion of the highest order. A role model for any aspiring journalist. A man who I knew to be a master of his trade and at the top of his game.

“Horsham, and the County Times, owes him a huge debt.”

David was appointed editor of the West Sussex County Times in 1977, joining the company’s board of directors a year later and retiring in 2001.

When David joined the County Times it was a private company owned by Suzanne Green.

Her family had been owners of the West Sussex County Times for nearly a century and she was the third in a trio of women who ran the paper between 1884 and 1987.

Following her death, ownership of the County Times passed to the Johnston Press group, with newspaper titles across the UK. The new owners were keen to modernise production processes and David was at the forefront of the introduction of new computer technology and colour photography at the County Times.

County Times deputy editor Tim Hopewell-Ash said: “David always instilled in the trainees he mentored - and senior colleagues - the importance of working to the highest standards of ethical integrity.

“He firmly believed those standards were appreciated and respected by readers and advertisers and were critical to the newspaper retaining its credibility as a voice of the people and a champion of the community.”

During his time with the County Times he wrote two books, The Acid Bath Murders, and Sussex Murders and was in demand to give talks to various groups on the subjects of the books. His first book about the notorious serial killer John George Haigh was considered to be a definitive work.

In retirement, he also played an active role as a trustee of the Horsham Hospital League of Friends and a supporter of its work for a period of 12 years. This included the writing of a book on the history of the hospital.

In her will in 1989, County Times proprietor Suzanne Green left instructions for a large sum of money to be set aside for a trust to be formed to benefit Horsham district’s elderly people. So the Suzanne Green Charitable Trust was founded by David Briffett and his fellow six directors of the paper.

David became the trust’s first secretary and served the organisation for 23 years, overseeing support and donations to numerous organisations concerned with the welfare of the elderly.

David was chairman of Horsham Crime Prevention Panel and also Horsham Citizens Advice Bureau for a number of years. He was chairman of the National Council for the Training of Journalists’ examination centre in Surrey for ten years and a member of the national examinations marking panel for a similar period.

In retirement, David remained in the Horsham area and enjoyed his passions of playing golf and watching Premier League football.

He leaves behind his beloved wife Ann, three sons, from his first marriage, and six grandchildren. Also three stepsons and seven grandchildren, plus one great grandchild.

The funeral service will take place at All Saints Church, Roffey, on Wednesday July 11 at 1pm.