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Obituary: John Baggaley

John Baggaley, former correspondent and editor, died in a hospice in Nicosia on Sunday after suffering from cancer.

Baggaley, 73, was a chief sub-editor on the London World Desk when he retired from Reuters in 2001. Over the previous 20 years he had also worked on Middle East desks in Bahrain and Cyprus and was chief correspondent in Algeria and Morocco. Before joining Reuters he worked as a journalist in New Zealand, France and Kenya, on The Guardian in London, and for AFP in Paris.

Graham Stewart, former Middle East and Africa Editor, remembers Baggaley as an outstanding sub-editor who made his mark as one of the anchors of the Middle East desk in Bahrain and then the Middle East and Africa desk in Nicosia. “He was the consummate professional desker – unflappable in a crisis, a stickler for accuracy and detail and always committed to maintaining quality writing. He was in the thick of many crises on the Bahrain and Nicosia desks, editing all the big stories of the day from the Gulf wars and the Arab-Israeli conflict to numerous African wars, elections and disasters.

“John’s gentlemanly and helpful nature won him great respect and admiration from local staff in the Middle East and Africa bureaux as he was always encouraging and guiding them as a mentor.”

Baggaley’s toughest assignment was as a frontline correspondent from 1992-94 in Algiers where personal safety was the highest priority after Reuters correspondent Philip Shehadi had been murdered there in 1991. Baggaley walked a tightrope trying to report Algeria with a hardline military leadership cracking down on any forms of opposition and generally being hostile to the western press. “He did an exceptional job and kept his head and wry wit in extreme circumstances,” Stewart said.

His great passion outside of Reuters was horse riding so after retirement he returned to Cyprus and settled back in Nicosia. “He had rescued several broken-down old nags that had been abandoned and he loved to go riding every day in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains. He continued riding until back trouble forced him out of the saddle some three years ago.”

Baggaley married his partner Myrna in September 2010. Photo shows them on their wedding day. He also leaves a daughter and a son from his first marriage. ■