Lovely eulogies to Fleet Street’s John Kay, but they overlook one important fact
Why did so few think it necessary to point out that the Sun reporter killed his wife?
Well, actually, The Times subhead:
Chief reporter on The Sun known for his string of scoops as well as for killing his wife while suffering a nervous breakdown
Without wishing to distort his story, the relevant editors must have considered it superfluous that, prior to being tragically victimised by Starmer, Kay was convicted of Harue’s manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He was depressed, a court heard, due to professional anxieties. According to a contemporaneous Guardian report (“‘Torment’ of reporter who killed wife”): “He, thinking it would be better to end it all, pushed her head under the water. Naturally she struggled, but by tightening the hold he held her down by the throat.”
With the Sun paying for an eminent barrister and promising to take Kay back, the sentence was psychiatric treatment. Once restored, the greatest wife-drowning journalist of his generation did not shrink from exposing imperfections in others.
And so the subject has demonstrably remained, even amid greater awareness of women’s deaths from domestic violence and even in places not owned by Rupert Murdoch. Is this exemplary tact, some partner-killers must be wondering, something reserved for hapless senior journalists or can we expect to see, say, Oscar Pistorius routinely described as an Olympic legend who, before falling victim to his demons, was always kind to a fault? Similarly, in a spirit of fairness, their supporters await the posthumous rehabilitation of Louis Althusser (“Brilliant Paris philosopher famed for his effortless mastery of Marxist-speak”), of the only occasionally femicidal Phil Spector (“Died a broken man”), of the tormented but always exquisitely accessorised Lord Lucan (“Swashbuckling peer engulfed by personal catastrophe”).
The Times again:
In fact, Kay’s demons had never been far beneath the surface. In 1977, as newly appointed industrial reporter at The Sun, he was dispatched to cover the TUC Congress in Blackpool. “Suddenly gripped by the responsibility of the job, Kay essentially had a nervous breakdown and locked himself in his hotel room,” Peter Chippendale and Chris Horrie wrote in Stick it up Your Punter (1990), a history of The Sun.
Back home he told his Japanese wife Harue (née Nonaka), whom he had married the previous year, that the pressure of the job was too much. He could not resign, because that would end his progress up the career ladder; instead, he would kill himself. Harue, who had been disowned by her family after marrying a westerner, said that she would be left alone in the world.
According to Chippendale and Horrie: “Kay, by this time temporarily deranged, saw the depth of her problem and decided that it would be better if she died with him.” As they shared a bath, he throttled and drowned her. He then made six attempts to kill himself, cutting his wrists, putting his head in a gas oven, hanging himself and jumping out of a window, though his fall was broken by dustbins. He staggered to his car and drove away, cannoning off parked cars, before crashing into a bridge at 80mph. He was found naked and covered in blood.
From which I conclude that Catherine Bennett is a vile, vile, woman.