Former Star journalist and Pride of England founder Peter Willis dies aged 54

Pride of Britain founder Peter Willis has passed away suddenly at the age of 54.

Peter, a former Daily Star journalist and Daily Mirror editor, was a senior executive on the Mirror for 23 years.

He had worked at the Manchester Evening News before moving to London, where he had a stint at the Star and then joined the Mirror in 1997.

But perhaps his single greatest achievement was conceiving and launching the annual Pride of Britain Awards.

They grew from strength to strength under his leadership to become a much-loved night that recognises the UK’s unsung heroes, with support from Prince Charles, Sir Elton John, Elle Macpherson and countless other big names.

Lloyd Embley, group editor-in-chief of Reach, the Star and Mirror’s publisher, said: “Without his drive, creativity and tenacity, Pride of Britain would never have become the national institution it is today.

“He always knew what was needed to add that extra bit of magic and sparkle – and he never gave up in his pursuit of perfection.

“We will miss him terribly. All our thoughts are with Peter’s family, especially his wife Nicky and their two boys.”

Mirror editor Alison Phillips added: “Peter had the most extraordinary warmth, compassion and sense of fun.”

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