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Wednesday, 6 September, 2000, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Broadcaster Desmond Wilcox dies
Desmond Wilcox and Esther Rantzen
Desmond Wilcox was married to Esther Rantzen for 22 years
The award-winning broadcaster and television producer, Desmond Wilcox, has died at the age of 69.

His wife, TV presenter Esther Rantzen, said he had died in the early hours of the morning at St Mary's Hospital in London. He had suffered from heart disease for many years.

I find it difficult to envisage life without him

Esther Rantzen
Wilcox made his name as an innovative documentary maker, presenting and co-editing the 1960s series Man Alive.

Among his other memorable programmes was the story of David, the badly-deformed Peruvian boy whose face was rebuilt by a Scottish surgeon who adopted him.

Ms Rantzen said: "I feel deeply privileged to have known and loved him for more than 30 years.

"He radiated warmth and light into our lives and for the moment we fear that we have lost the sunshine we depended on.

"I find it difficult to envisage life without him, and I know television viewers will find his work equally irreplaceable."

Organs donated

She said her husband had wished for some of his organs to be used to help others, a gesture which was typical of "an extraordinary, caring and giving man".

Ms Rantzen added that she and the family had been inundated with telephone calls and messages of sympathy from his friends, colleagues and fans.

He was one of the great documentary makers of our time

Tony Hall

One of the most poignant was from David Jackson, the subject of The Boy David films, who flew in from the United States to pay tribute.

Broadcaster Sir David Frost said: "He will be sorely missed by all of us."

And television presenter Gloria Hunniford described Wilcox as a "gorgeous" man who had a positive impact on everyone he met.

Tony Hall, chief executive of BBC News, paid tribute to Wilcox's human qualities.

'Sensitivity and warmth'

"I think the sensitivity and the warmth and the insight that he brought to all his great programmes were in him as a person," he said.

MP Peter Bottomley, who first met Wilcox when he was campaigning for better protection for children in cars, said he and his wife Virginia were saddened by the news.

"One of our greatest memories of Desmond is from May last year when he and Esther renewed their marriage vows, that showed them both at their happiest," he said.

Desmond Wilcox
Wilcox began his career as a reporter on a weekly newspaper

As well as making programmes about the struggles of others, Wilcox had his own experience of disability.

For years he guarded the fact that he was partially deaf and had to rely on lip-reading.

Wilcox suffered a heart attack in 1998, 12 years after having a heart bypass operation which he said taught him to "treasure" every day.

He also survived three plane crashes and 14 operations to save his sight after he was attacked as a young reporter.

Charity campaigner

He was a prolific campaigner for heart charities, and was a patron of Wessex Heartbeat, which raised money for vital equipment at the Southampton hospital where he received treatment.

He was also chairman of Defeating Deafness, which funds research into hearing disabilities.

Wilcox began his career in journalism as a reporter on a weekly newspaper in 1949 and joined the BBC in the 1960s.

Wilcox leaves three children from his marriage to Ms Rantzen and three from an earlier marriage.

He converted to Judaism and he and Ms Rantzen renewed their marriage vows at a synagogue near their north-west London home.

The BBC's Carissa Bub
"Along with Esther Rantzen he was involved in many charities"
Former BBC executive, Will Wyatt
"He was a great reporter"
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