Don Hale is a journalist, author and former professional footballer who played for a number of clubs throughout the late 1960s and early 70s including Bury, Blackburn Rovers, York City and Shrewsbury Town. Injuries however, curtailed a once promising career and he later joined the BBC as a sports commentator and feature writer/presenter, working with a number of local radio stations throughout the North West.
He also wrote for the Manchester Evening news and most national newspapers before moving to edit the Matlock Mercury on a temporary contract – eventually staying for over 16 years. During this period, he became involved in a high profile campaign to try to overturn the conviction of Stephen Downing, who had been jailed in 1973, for the murder of local woman Wendy Sewell.
At the time, Downing, who found the body, was just a 17-year-old with the reading age of an 11-year-old. Despite his plea of innocence, he was found guilty and detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. He served more than 27 years in jail before Don Hale’s intervention. The case attracted international acclaim and became Britain’s worst ever miscarriage of justice. Following a grueling six-year campaign Downing’s conviction was eventually quashed and declared unsafe by the Court of Appeal in 2001, with Downing released.
Don also successfully campaigned for the review and release of many other notable miscarriage of justice victims including the cases of Graham Huckerby and Barry George. He was voted 2001 Man of the Year by The Observer newspaper, Journalist of the Year by What the Papers Say, and made an OBE for his efforts and campaign journalism.
His book about the Downing case – Town Without Pity – became a best seller and was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award. It was also used as the basis for a two-part BBC drama called ‘In Denial of Murder’ starring Stephen Tompkinson and a host of other well-known personalities.
During the autumn of 2007 another controversial book about the famous frogman spy mystery 'Buster' Crabb was published by Suttons/The History Press. He also published Manchester Thieftaker about his great grandfather, James Wood, who was a notable Manchester detective superintendent from 1890–1914, and was the very first Royal Protection Officer acting as personal bodyguard to the Prince of Wales.
Another book, Mallard - How the Blue Streak broke the World Speed Record, was released in paperback by Aurum Press in May 2008 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the speed record for steam locomotives held by LNER Class A4 Mallard.