John Toner


My entries represent a broad range of exclusive work which demonstrates a wide spectrum of skill, dedication and professionalism.

My coverage of the Ken Flanagan double murder-suicide was detailed, comprehensive, dramatic and turned around at speed. The killings took place on a Friday evening and I was at both scenes the following day on deadline. Not only did I manage to identify pictures of the two victims and the killer, I was able to establish the sequence of events and garner dramatic details by speaking to neighbours at the two different locations before filing tight copy in good time for our print deadline. This kind of story requires tenacity, tact, efficiency and speed which I feel I displayed in abundance. My exclusive story with Levi Mailey following the jailing of her abuser, a married police officer, was the culmination of three years of hard work. Levi is a vulnerable adult who was used and abused by officer Mark Goddard after he arrested her for burglary in 2017. I made contact with her in 2018 and we carried her initial claims at the time before covering the subsequent developments including his criminal prosecution and sacking from the PSNI. In 2021 he was jailed for misconduct in public office and we published Levi’s reaction and further details of his abuse. To cover this story I had to trust my instinct on initial contact with Levi, build and maintain a rapport with a vulnerable and frightened victim over a long period of time and have the courage to robustly challenge law enforcement. I am proud that not only did we believe this woman who was victimised by a powerful man but we helped her to have a voice and get justice for what she was subjected to while holding the police to account. When a video of Van Morrison defaming the Health Minister went viral during the pandemic it sparked an entire news cycle with comment, reaction and follow-up stories coming thick and fast in the days afterwards. Nobody had managed to get hold of Van himself, however, and it was here that I and Sunday Life came into our own. I had a tip off about where he would be on a Saturday morning, again on deadline, and so confronted him. His reaction in telling me to ‘f*** off’ and standing over his comments was a bombshell and again sparked further stories with other journalists and publications following up my work, not only in Northern Ireland but in the wider United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The story was also picked up globally with publications like the Washington Post and Sydney Morning Herald, among others, carrying my work. I feel these three entries demonstrate why I am an outstanding candidate for the award of Weekly Reporter of the Year.