Flitch trial star Claire Rayner dies aged 79

CELEBRITY agony Aunt Claire Rayner OBE, who has played a huge part in the Dunmow Flitch Trials over a number of years, has died at the age of 79.

Best known as a TV, radio and newspaper journalist, Mrs Rayner has also been a barrister at the famous event – and even managed to take home the bacon herself in 2008.

Standing at the flitch trials with her husband Des Rayner, the couple proved that they had been in love for at least a year and a day and took home half a pig as a prize.

Speaking after her death and 53 years of marriage Mr Rayner told the BBC: “I have lost my best friend and my soulmate. I am immensely proud of her.

“Through her work she helped hundreds of thousands of people and doubtless, by talking frankly about the importance of safe sex in the 80s when almost nobody else would discuss it, helped to save thousands of lives.

“Right up until her death she was being consulted by both politicians and the medical profession about the best way to provide the health services the nation deserved and nothing mattered to her more than that.

“Her death leaves a vacancy which will not be filled.”

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Mrs Rayner wrote a string of novels and worked for The Sun, the Sunday Mirror, and Women’s Own – she was named medical journalist of the year in 1987.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, two years before wining the flitch trials, and beat the illness. She then had to also undergo intestinal surgery in May this year but remained ill.

She died in hospital near her home in Harrow, north-west London.

Over the years she was involved with 50 charities, and was a member of the Prime Minister’s Commission on Nursing and the last government’s Royal Commission on the Care of the Elderly.

In 1996 she was awarded the OBE for “services to women’s issues and health issues”.

Before she died she told family that her last words should be, “Tell David Cameron that if he screws up my beloved NHS – I’ll come back and bloody haunt him.

See this week’s Dunmow Broadcast for more on this story.

Leave your tributes to Claire Rayner by e-mailing us at editor@dunmow-broadcast.co.uk