Gripping reading from its salacious start to brutal end

THE News of the World’s brutal axing yesterday was a story the title itself would have been proud to source.

From humble beginnings 168 years ago, it earned itself a racy reputation based on sex and scandal-filled stories.

Launched as a penny broadsheet on 1 October 1863, it targeted the higher echelons of society but filled its pages with sex and crime news that appalled and riveted Victorians.

At three pence it was also the cheapest of its competitors and gained unrivalled success as a Sunday paper, selling 12,000 copies each week.

Public appetite for it grew throughout the 1910s and 20s, with sales topping four million by 1939 and by the 1950s it was selling 8.4m copies, more than any other paper in the world.

Its recent history has been characterised by Rupert Murdoch, who bought it for staggering £34m in 1969 when he was aged just 38. He ran the title as a broadsheet for 15 years before turning it into a tabloid – a twist that raised its sales substantially.

The News of the World was also at the forefront of Murdoch’s war with the print unions in the 1980s and became synonymous with his efforts to destroy old working practices and labour relations by shifting his titles from Fleet Street to Wapping.

It retained its popularity with vociferous campaigns against alleged paedophiles and celebrity sins and despite its sales falling to just shy of 2.7m of late, it has stayed the UK’s top-selling Sunday title.