A FORMER Northern Echo journalist who won an award for exposing abuse at a Sri Lankan psychiatric hospital has died at the age of 81.

Brian Edwards, of Newton Aycliffe, posed as an inmate at the Mental Hospital-Angoda while living in Sri Lanka during the early 1960s.

He had to escape over a wall to write of the physical and sexual abuse he witnessed.

Mr Edwards’ story led to a government inquiry into the provision of mental health care and earned him the Asian Journalist of the Year Award.

Shortly after this, Mr Edwards emigrated with his family to England and soon became a popular member of the Newton Aycliffe community.

In 1967, he joined The Northern Echo and worked there as a sub-editor until 1972.

He later took up a post at the Evening Gazette in Middlesbrough, where he remained until he retired in 1997.

His son, Cliff Edwards, 49, also a former Echo journalist, said: “Dad was a passionate, campaigning journalist in his day and a good, loyal friend to many.

"He chose the North East for the family to settle in because he felt it had a sense of community. He chose Newton Aycliffe because he felt it was a secure and safe environment.

“He was very proud of his association with the Echo and enjoyed the camaraderie of journalists.

"After putting the paper to bed in the early hours in those days, he and his pals would get into what is now Hogan’s bar by presenting a few copies of the paper literally hot off the Priestgate press.”

Outside of work, Mr Edwards was a caring family man who enjoyed cricket and socialising with his friends at Newton Aycliffe Royal Air Forces Association club.

He also attended St Mary’s Church at least once a week.

Mr Edwards died peacefully in Darlington Memorial Hospital on Saturday, April 12.

He had contracted a chest complaint associated with Parkinson Disease, from which he had quietly suffered for many years.

Mr Edwards leaves his beloved wife, Heather, daughter, Tania, sons, Cliff, Chris and David, and nine grandchildren.

His funeral will take place at St Mary’s Church at 11am on Friday, April 25, prior to burial at West Cemetery in School Aycliffe.