Broadcaster Desmond Wilcox dies aged 69

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The Independent Online

The broadcaster and award-winning documentary film-maker Desmond Wilcox died today aged 69, his wife Esther Rantzen said.

The broadcaster and award-winning documentary film-maker Desmond Wilcox died today aged 69, his wife Esther Rantzen said.

Mr Wilcox, who had suffered from coronary heart disease for many years and undergone two heart bypass operations, died at St Mary's Hospital in London in the early hours of this morning.

He recently received the big red book on This Is Your Life and David Jackson, the subject of his most famous series of films The Boy David, flew in from the US to pay tribute.

Mr Wilcox, who had six children, was also involved in a wide range of charitable work.

Ms Rantzen said: "I had 32 of the best years of my life with him.

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

She added that 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".

Mr Wilcox was a long-standing member of the BAFTA council.

A number of charities were set up as a result of his documentaries and he served as chairman of Defeating Deafness, which funds research into hearing disabilities.

He was also patron of Wessex Heartbeat.

Desmond Wilcox began his career in journalism as a reporter on a weekly newspaper in 1949, after a brief spell as a deckhand in the merchant marine.

After two years of National Service, his career moved to Fleet Street and the Daily Mirror, where he became a foreign correspondent in the New York bureau.

In 1960 he moved to television as a reporter on ITV's This Week current affairs programme, where he stayed for five years until joining the BBC.

It was for the Corporation that he was to do much of his highly-regarded documentary-making.

He was co-editor and presenter of the landmark Man Alive series in 1965, pioneering some innovative documentary techniques, and formed the Man Alive Unit three years later.

From 1972 to 1980 he was head of general features at the BBC and went on to make series such as Americans, The Visit, Black in Blue and A Day in the Life.

His series of six documentaries about David Jackson - the boy without a face - garnered five international awards.

Millions of TV viewers were captivated by the story of the baby rescued in the Amazonian jungle by a charity worker and taken to Britain, where David's features were restored by the Scottish surgeon Ian Jackson, who adopted him.

Mr Wilcox converted to Judaism and he and Ms Rantzen renewed their marriage vows at a synagogue near their north-west London home in May last year.