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The Globe and Mail

Former Star reporter Robert Reguly, who tracked down Gerda Munsinger, dies at 80

Robert Reguly, the journalist who tracked down the mysterious woman at the centre of Canada's most notorious political sex scandal, died Feb. 24 at the age of 80 at his home in Toronto after a lengthy battle with heart disease.

The veteran journalist, born in Thunder Bay, earned a national reputation as a hard-hitting investigative reporter with the Toronto Star and the Toronto Sun.

During his years at the Star, Reguly's name became associated with in-depth political coverage, including the Gerda Munsinger affair of 1966, one of the country's most controversial scandals.

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Reguly's exclusive interviews with Munsinger, a German immigrant and alleged Soviet spy who admitted to sexual liaisons with members of John Diefenbaker's Conservative government, won him the first of three National Newspaper Awards he would acquire during his career.

Veteran journalist and author Richard Gwyn says Reguly's accomplishments on the Munsinger story have never been equalled.

His tenacity and thoroughness proved Canadian journalists could keep pace with the world's best investigative reporters, Gwyn said. Reguly triumphed over competitive odds and broke new ground in the process, he added.

"A lot of Canadian journalists knew that something was going on; there had been rumours on the go, so he had to compete with a whole lot of other colleagues," Gwyn said.

"You just didn't do that then. You did not report on the private lives of public figures."

Despite the fact the Munsinger affair made him a bona fide media star, Reguly always remained laid back and approachable to novice reporters, Gwyn said.

Fifteen years later, while working for the Sun, Reguly found himself at the centre of a different scandal when his name appeared on what turned out to be a fabricated story.

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Reguly and Donald Ramsay shared a byline on a Sun article that accused Indian and Northern Development minister John Munro of benefiting financially from inside knowledge of a major government purchase.

Reguly joined the project late and admitted that he had failed to verify Ramsay's earlier work. He resigned from the Toronto Sun, later accepting a public relations post with Ontario's environment ministry.

Reguly's bold, fearless style wasn't limited to journalism. A turn as a stunt jumper in university ultimately led him to join the Saskatchewan Smoke Jumpers, parachuting into forest fires in order to combat the flames, his death notice said.

Reguly leaves his wife Ada and three children, including son Eric, a veteran Globe and Mail correspondent currently stationed in Rome.

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