I LAID awake for several hours wondering how much of me I actually want to reveal, but seeing as I’d already had enough written in the past, maybe it was a fitting time and tribute to my son’s father to tell it how it really was.
My son’s father, Greg Miskiw, died recently from cancer. The broadsheets and even some of the tabloid newspapers dubbed him the ‘Prince of Darkness’ because he was one of the former executives arrested, charged and imprisoned (very briefly) for his involvement in phone-hacking whilst employed at the News of the World newspaper.
But that’s not the same man and journalist I once knew before his life and career was shrouded in darkness following the phone-hacking investigation – for which he served served 37 days in Belmarsh Prison in 2014 after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to illegally access voicemails between October 2000 and August 2006.
I first got to know Greg when I worked as a journalist for Ross Parry News Agency in Leeds, covering breaking news stories in the North.
I’d done a couple of jobs for Mazher Mahmood, the infamous ‘fake sheik’ investigative journalist who’d mentioned me to the news desk.
I was in my mid-twenties at the time and had previously worked at the Dewsbury Reporter during which I’d passed my NCTJ exams at Preston University.
It wasn’t until I’d left Ross Parry, a story sweatshop, and was working as a freelance journalist that I had direct dealings with Greg.
I remember pitching a story to him and telling him ‘not to f**k me around with the money’ as the paper was notoriously bad for taking stories and not always paying the agreed amount if they got cut, or bumped off the news list.
I remember him saying to me, ‘you can’t speak to me like that, I’m the news editor of the News of the World.”
I didn’t care, I had a living to make and wasn’t going to be ripped-off. Over time we built up a good rapport especially as we had both been brought up in Leeds. He grew up in Chapeltown, which wasn’t the best part of Leeds, and me, slightly better, in Chapel Allerton, which neighboured Chapeltown.
We both came from Eastern European parents – his were first generation Ukrainian immigrants, mine second-generation Polish.
As a result our upbringings had been very similar, despite the age gap of 22 years. As with most journalists back then, we both loved a drink. His favourite tipple Famous Grouse, mine vodka, obviously.
Anyone who truly knew Greg knows that his job was his one true love throughout his life, firstly as a journalist and latterly as news editor of the News of the World. It came before everything else, and so it needed to, for him to make it up the ruthless and greasy tabloid pole.
When Greg first met me you could say I was already 50 Shades of f****d-up, for more than one reason, which is far too long to go into now and I’ve also chickened-out. Let’s just leave it as a few bad things happened in my earlier life which had set me on a path of self-destructive behaviour.
Over time I’d shared some of my stories with Greg and he seemed to understand the complete contradiction I was. I was fierce, but fragile. Ambitious and fearless, but had a conscience and cared.
He knew as a news editor that he could send me into any job and I wouldn’t worry about my safety, and he did.
As an undercover journalist I have been in a palace with armed guards, I’ve had a cut glass bottle held to my throat and even been hung over a high-rise balcony in London, even before I’d started working at the News of the World.
So in his dogged pursuit for stories, he knew I would be an asset in the murky world the paper inhabited.
Even when I was pregnant there was never any nepotism. I remember being quite heavily pregnant and sent out in the middle of the night and being stranded in floods, but all that mattered to him was me getting the story.
On another occasion, number two on the newsdesk at the NOTW, told me I’d be going to Brazil to keep an eye on the England football team. But Greg soon changed that to a trip back North to Bradford to locate a prostitute, and for anyone who knows Bradford, that’s like finding a needle in a haystack. A stay in a five-star hotel watching the England team would have been my first choice!
Anyone who worked with Greg will recall one of his favourite responses ‘onwards and upwards’, which he’d often use if someone moaned or complained when a story hadn’t gone to plan. He was nothing if not tenacious.
But Greg believed in me as a journalist and I needed that at the time because my self-esteem tanks were pretty low. He encouraged me to move to London despite my reluctance, as I was a true Northern girl. He also knew some of my stories and yeah, he held my hand in belief which gave me the self-belief I needed.
But to fast forward somewhat after several years living in London together we had Anton, our son, and as with so many couples with a newborn, that’s when it started to go wrong.
Our relationship wasn’t about recreating the first family he messed up with Sara and Sophie, despite his regrets about how little time he’d put into Sophie’s early life because of his singular commitment to his career.
And so history repeated itself, or some might say karma. I eventually moved back up North with Anton to be closer to our family and give him a greener upbringing than he ever would have had in London and Greg carried on as he always did.
No one can discredit his commitment and passion to journalism, and yes, he made some bad judgement calls because somewhere along the way he lost his conscience and was never one for empathy.
But he was one hell of a journalist who got further in his career than he may have ever thought possible and no-one can ever dispute that.