Page last updated at 14:28 GMT, Monday, 19 October 2009 15:28 UK

Obituary: Sir Ludovic Kennedy

Sir Ludovic Kennedy
Sir Ludovic Kennedy: A passionate campaigner

Sir Ludovic Kennedy - who has died at the age of 89 - enjoyed a long and varied career as a Royal Navy officer, best-selling author, television presenter and campaigner.

Born in Edinburgh to upper-class parents in 1919, he was educated at Eton and Oxford.

He joined the Royal Navy in 1939 and served throughout World War II, mainly on the Tribal-class destroyer, HMS Tartar, one of Britain's most modern warships.

His first book, Sub-Lieutenant, was published in 1942 when he was only 22. Later, based on his own experiences, he was to script a film about the pursuit and sinking of the German battleship, Bismarck.

The Scot established himself on television as one of ITN's first newscasters. He then went on to present This Week, Panorama, 24 Hours and Did You See?, which won a Bafta award in 1985.

Justice campaigner

By now Sir Ludovic had married the ballerina Moira Shearer, and was proving to be much more than an urbane broadcaster. He was a campaigner too.

In 1958 he stood for the Liberal Party in the Rochdale by-election. He came second, recording the Liberals' largest vote in an election for more than 20 years.

I became committed to revealing hidden truths, and propelled, compelled, by a very heady feeling of excitement
Sir Ludovic Kennedy

Sir Ludovic's many campaigns on behalf of people who had been wrongly convicted began with his investigation into the case of 18-year-old Derek Bentley, who was hanged for murdering a policeman. Bentley later received a posthumous pardon.

Sir Ludovic Kennedy
Sir Ludovic was a familiar face on British television

Next came his famous book, 10 Rillington Place, showing that Timothy Evans was hanged for a succession of murders which had almost certainly been committed by his landlord, John Christie.

Sir Ludovic had an instinctive knack for uncovering the truth, and he investigated many more perceived miscarriages of justice.

"I became committed to revealing hidden truths, and propelled, compelled, by a very heady feeling of excitement," he once said.

He began to re-examine cases which police, lawyers and even judges had hoped were closed forever.

His best known campaigns involved the convictions of the Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven, and the Birmingham Six for Irish republican activity.

In each of these cases his tireless efforts, in what originally looked like lost causes, were vindicated.

Scottish nationalist

Knighted in 1994, Sir Ludovic Kennedy also had other strong convictions.

He wanted independence for Scotland, he was president of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and, at 80, he brought out a book dismissing the beliefs on which Christianity was founded as "preposterous".

In 2001, he announced that he was abandoning the Liberal Democrats after a 45-year association.

Galvanised by party leader Charles Kennedy's refusal to promote voluntary euthanasia, Sir Ludovic was to return to the political fray as an independent candidate.

Given that he was aged 81 at the time, it was a subject that was growing less and less theoretical to him but, in espousing such views, he was as robust and as forthright as ever.

Sir Ludovic later rejoined the Lib Dems.

He was always a man who spoke his mind and his campaigning for justice often brought him into disfavour with the legal establishment.

Nevertheless, he continued unabated, determined to see the exoneration of those whom he believed to be innocent.


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