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ECHO staff scooped two prestigious awards at a London ceremony today.

Staff from the paper won two awards at the Regional Press Awards and were highly commended in another.

Investigations reporter Jon Austin was named specialist writer of the year for his exposes of tenants living in squalor in Westcliff, the secret life of former Basildon mayor consort John Handley, and his fraud probe into a luxury holiday home firm.

He was also highly commended in the scoop of the year category for his story about John Handley.

Meanwhile Sadie Hasler was named columnist of the year. Judges praised her for not shying away from difficult subjects.