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Celebrated Economist journalist dies in US car crash

PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 May 2012

Peter David, journalist at the Economist Photo by Nephi Niven

Peter David, journalist at the Economist Photo by Nephi Niven

Nephi Niven Photography 2011

A celebrated journalist who worked at the Economist for almost three decades has been killed in a car crash in America.

Peter David, the magazine’s Washington bureau chief, was crushed in the back seat of a Subaru Outback as he and his wife were driven back to a hotel after giving a speech in Charlottesville, Virginia, last Thursday.

The 60-year-old’s car flipped over the motorway barrier after it was hit from behind by another vehicle.

Mr David, of Courthope Road near Hampstead Heath, was rushed to hospital but died later that night.

His wife Celia, a former social worker for Camden Council, and the driver escaped the wreckage with minor injuries.

The driver of the other vehicle, Lindsey Copley, has been charged with reckless driving.

Sources at the University Medical Centre in Virginia suggested 25-year-old Mr Copley was texting on his mobile phone when he crashed into the journalist’s car.

A Virginia State Police spokeswoman said the cause of the crash was still under investigation.

Tributes have flooded in for Mr David, who had planned to return to his Hampstead home next summer where he had lived since the early 1990s.

Michael Reid, Americas editor at the Economist, who lives in Eton Avenue, Belsize Park, was recruited by Mr David in 1993 and the two became firm friends.

“Peter had that rare combination of extreme intellectual brilliance which was worn very lightly,” said Mr Reid.

“He was a highly intelligent man and a great prose stylist, but he was also well-known among colleagues for his self-deprecating wit.

“It’s a cliché but it’s true that he was much loved by everyone as well as very well respected. He was warm and witty but also very modest.”

Mr David, a secular Jew, moved to Belsize Park in the 1970s for its cosmopolitan atmosphere and to be closer to his extended family from South Africa.

Following a brief stint in Washington, he moved to his home in Courthope Road.

After graduating from Liverpool College with a sociology degree, Mr David joined the Times Higher Education Supplement magazine before moving to Nature, a specialist science and medicine publication.

In 1984, he joined the Economist as a science writer and rose through the ranks to become business affairs editor and then British political editor, taking responsibility for the Bagehot column.

He then took on the role of foreign editor for eight years during which time he wrote many 14-page special reports on the Middle East, considered to be some of his best writing.

In 2010, he moved to America to run the Washington bureau where he wrote the Lexington column which covered American politics.

Close friend Matthew Lewin, a former editor of the Ham&High, had visited Mr David in Washington just a few days before he died.

“Peter was one of a kind,” he said. “A gentle, urbane and quintessentially erudite man whose incisive writing style was envied by journalists around the world.

“He had a sharp sense of humour, but rarely used it at other peoples’ expense. His loss is a shattering blow to all who knew him.”

The funeral will be held at Edgwarebury Cemetery in Hendon on Tuesday (May 22).

Mr David is survived by his wife Celia, his son Ian and daughter Tessa.

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