Journalist and TV presenter

Born: March 25, 1948;

Died: April 24, 2020.

A TRIBUTE posted on Twitter by the BBC journalist George Alagiah summed up the lifelong concern for others that typified Lynn Faulds Wood, who has died of a stroke at the age of 72.

“So sad to hear that Lynn Faulds Wood has died”, it read. “After I was diagnosed with bowel cancer she spent many a phone call giving me advice about treatment and moral support. She was kind, generous, purposeful and strong. RIP Lynn”.

Faulds Wood was one of Britain’s best-known and most tenacious consumer watchdogs – Martin Lewis, who founded Money Saving Expert, wrote that she was “a wonderful consumer advocate, one of those who paved the path people like me walk on” – but sometimes her determination to confront wrong-doers came at a cost.

On air, in pursuit of company bosses who wanted to avoid unhappy customers, she was attacked with an axe, and a rottweiler dog chain, and was almost killed by the owner of a fleet of illegal lorries. Once, after she had investigated counterfeiters, and seen two fraudsters put away, she was advised by police to wear a stab vest if she intended to continue such work.

But then, her bravery had been evident in the strength with which she confronted a diagnosis of bowel cancer, in 1991.

Lynn Faulds Wood was born in Glasgow in March 1948. She grew up at Duck Bay, on Loch Lomondside. Her father Jim was prominent in the Scottish Youth Hostels Association, and her mother Betty was a journalist whose work appeared in the Helensburgh Advertiser and the Dumbarton and Vale of Leven Reporter.

Writing on the online Dumbarton Democrat, editor Bill Heaney recalled that Lynn was a schoolgirl at the [Vale of Leven] Academy when he first got to know her. “Her mother was a colleague on the Reporter and Lynn was always cut out to follow her into the newspaper business. Like her mum, she was highly principled and I don’t think she would have suffered fools gladly”.

Faulds Wood studied languages at Glasgow University, graduating MA, before venturing down to London at the age of 21. She ended up living near her brother and two sisters in the Richmond/Twickenham area. She taught French at Holland Park Comprehensive and did two weekly shifts as a barmaid at the Roebuck pub in Richmond.

It was there that she met John Stapleton, the man who would become her husband. At the time he was a researcher/writer on This Is Your Life, and he and his best friend would have a pint in the Roebuck on their way home.

“I thought they were gay”, she later said. “John was terribly thin and, after we’d dated for three weeks, his Mum said, ‘Why don’t you move in with him and fatten him up?’”

In 1975 Stapleton joined Nationwide as a reporter. She became a researcher on the programme the following year. They married in 1977. Faulds Wood wrote about consumer issues for Woman magazine, then for the Daily Mail then the Sun. On the latter paper she played an instrumental part in the closure of a live-animal market in London. She even led a readers' march on Downing Street.

In 1983 she was appointed consumer champion at TV-am; two years later, she was asked to front Watchdog, and she suggested her husband as her co-presenter. They were Britain’s first married couple presenting team, and they went on to win numerous awards for their campaigning work. As she later said, “During my years on Watchdog, I helped change laws, bring in British Standards, made life a lot safer for people and helped turn the programme into a peak-time BBC1 series”.

The Scots-born singer Midge Ure has recalled that he and Faulds Wood “pounced on various dodgy people” selling bootleg ‘Feed the World’ T-shirts at the time of Live Aid, in 1985.

Faulds Wood left the programme after being diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer after a year of medical delay. She always spoke with commendable frankness about her condition and the treatment.

She recovered, after five years of surgery, and as critical of the “poor” quality of colonoscopy at the time. She went on to establish Lynn’s Bowel Cancer Campaign. Later, she set up and ran the European Cancer Patient Coalition for eight years.

She switched to making medical programmes, including, for World in Action, Doctor Knows Best?, a look at GP training in cancer diagnosis for World In Action. It attracted 10.2 million viewers. Another documentary, Bobby Moore & Me, an investigation into bowel cancer, was watched by 6.5 million.

She also helped Mike Thompson, a consultant surgeon in colorectal surgery, and his colleagues to produce the world’s first evidence-based symptoms guidance for bowel cancer, and she helped to establish formal training centres for doctors and nurses in endoscopy.

A 1995 six-part series, The Lady Killers, about the diseases that threatened women, saw her being named medical broadcaster of the year by the BMA.

In recent years she continued to appear on television, co-presenting, with Esther Rantzen, Old Dogs, New Tricks. She turned down an MBE in 2017, arguing that the honours system was “tainted”.

She is survived by her husband and their son, Nick, a documentary maker.