BOLTON journalist and broadcaster Stuart Flinders has bid an emotional goodbye to his colleagues on BBC North West Tonight after almost 30 years on the programme.

The Hallliwell-born reporter was the show's longest serving journalist covering many of the region's biggest stories over the years including the Harold Shipman murders and the Manchester Arena bombing.

On Monday, the programme featured a special tribute to the former St Thomas of Canterbury pupil and Thornleigh College student, who first joined the network in the early 1990s.

Chief reporter Dave Guest said: "I actually hired Stuart after poaching him from Granada and he turned out to be a really good buy.

"The viewers will miss his cleverly observed reports and his friends and colleagues will miss his calm, reassuring manner during even the most intense newsroom maelstrom."

Speaking on the programme, Stuart said: "Some stories you forget because you do so many but some stick in your mind like the trial of Harold Shipman and the terror attacks in Manchester.

"They are big stories to us but they also change people's lives and it's been a privilege to be able to tell their stories to our viewers."

Aside from his coverage of major incidents to affect the region, Stuart is also remembered for the time in 2015 when he unintentionally interviewed former footballer Tommy Lawrence about a match he played in.

While carrying out vox pops in Liverpool city centre he stopped one man to ask him if he remembered the 1967 Merseyside derby game ahead of an Everton vs Liverpool match that weekend.

Unbeknown to Stuart, he was interviewing Liverpool’s former goalkeeper Tommy Lawrence, who had been in the goals for that particular game.

Stuart said: "Wasn't that amazing? It went online and went around the world within 24 hours. It was a real stroke of luck."

Asked how the job had changed in his time with the BBC, Stuart said: "When I started there were no mobile phones and if you finished your job you had to ring the office on a call box.

"There was no email of course and we had secretaries writing letters for people - it has changed dramatically."

He added: "BBC North West is my real home - people stop you in the street and say they feel like you're a member of their family.

"There are not many jobs for journalists where people will say that to you.

"It really is quite a privilege and I will really miss all my friends here."