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Last Word
Listen to the latest editionFriday   16:00-16:30
Sunday 20:30-21:00 (rpt)

Radio 4's weekly obituaries programme
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This week
Friday 16 January 2009
(Rpt) Sunday 18 January 2009
Matthew Bannister
Matthew Bannister tells the life stories of people who have died recently: Sir John Mortimer, Lasantha Wickramatunga, David Vine and Sir Dai Llewellyn.
Sir John Mortimer

Barrister and writer who has died aged 85

A lawyer who championed freedom of speech and always defended – never prosecuted - John Mortimer was also an acclaimed playwright, novelist and writer of memoirs. He loved politics, performing and was a great raconteur. His play A Voyage Round My Father portrayed his relationship with his eccentric blind barrister father. But his best known character was "Rumpole of the Bailey" – the rumpled, cigar-smoking, claret-drinking barrister who delighted in outraging the legal establishment and was never happier than when tackling a seemingly hopeless case at the Old Bailey.

Matthew Bannister talks to Sir Johns Mortimer’s friend Melvyn Bragg, the actor Timothy West and Sir John’s biographer Valerie Grove.

Sir John Mortimer was born on 21 April 1923 and died 16 January 2009.
Lasantha Wickramatunga

Campaigning Sri Lankan journalist who has died aged 50

The Sri Lankan newspaper editor Lasantha Wickramatunga predicted his own violent death. Just days after he was gunned down by motorcyclists as he drove to work, his newspaper The Sunday Leader printed Lasantha’s final column. The article is an attack on the conduct of both sides in Sri Lanka's bloody civil war. It also passionately defends independent journalism, in a country where outspoken reporters often meet a premature and violent end. Lasantha had campaigned for years against corruption and been the victim of a number of attacks under successive governments.

Matthew Bannister talks to the BBC’s Head of the Sinhala Service, Priyath Liyanage.

Lasantha Wickramatunga was born April 5 1958 and died January 8 2009.

David Vine

Television presenter who has died aged 74

Noted for his square spectacles, his West Country accent and his taste in coloured jackets and sweaters, Vine was respected by colleagues as the consummate professional, seemingly unflappable under the pressure of hours of live broadcasts. In the 1970s he fronted the programmes which made hitherto minority interest sports into national obsessions. Best known for Ski Sunday and snooker coverage, Vine also presented A Question of Sport,Superstars and the Miss World Competition.

Matthew Bannister talks to Ski Sunday producer Graham Fry, co-commentator Konrad Bartelski and snooker players Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis.

David Vine was born 3 January 1935 and died 11 January 2009.

Sir Dai Llewellyn

Playboy and bon viveur who has died aged 62

Sir Dai Llewellyn had a number of nicknames – all focussing on his love of women. The newspapers variously christened the Welsh baronet "The Seducer of the Valleys", "Dai Lock Up Your Daughters Llewellyn" or simply "Dirty Dai". In short, Sir Dai devoted his life to wandering the clubs of London's West End pursuing the twin pleasures of wine and women:

Matthew Bannister talks to Dai Llewellyn’s friend, the journalist Paul Callan.

Sir Dai Llewellyn was born 2 April 1946 and died 13 January 2009.
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