Tributes to award-winning journalist who died aged 44

Former Ham&High chief reporter and BBC journalist, Denise Winterman, has died at the age of 44.

A prominent member of the Ham&High editorial team during the mid-90s, Denise was a tenacious Town Hall reporter, whose scoops regularly adorned the paper’s front page.

Her coverage of planned Camden Council library closures, which were overturned on a knife-edge by Labour rebels, received many plaudits. She was also the sole reporter of the Ham&High’s then Westminster edition during the infamous ‘cash for loans’ scandal.

But she was equally at home interviewing stars, from Hollywood actor Jude Law to Spurs and England footballer Gary Lineker. Her humour, kindness and wit often found its way into her copy, and it was as a successful feature writer that she later became known at the BBC.

Denise was born in November 1970, in Chelmsford, Essex. The youngest of four siblings, she was educated at St John Payne Catholic School before moving on to Sunderland Polytechnic, where she focused on media studies.

Denise cut her teeth as a journalist on the Staffordshire Newsletter, in the early 1990s, where she quickly displayed her natural aptitude as a news reporter.

However, it was at the Ham&High where her career as a journalist came into its own.

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Denise’s contacts book, the most important tool of the trade of any reporter, was one of the finest and well-sourced of any journalist on the Ham&High’s news desk at the time.

From politicians to campaigners to Hampstead and Highgate’s great and good, the chances were that Denise had their names and numbers in her book.

Matthew Lewin, then editor of the Ham&High, said: “Denise was the sort of journalist that editors dream about – someone who you could hand a project and know for certain that it would be meticulously researched and impeccably presented, and on time.”

He added: “Not for nothing did she win a national journalism award. She was also a beacon of friendliness and good humour in the office.”

Emily Banks, who as Ham&High news editor worked alongside Denise, paid tribute to a “brilliant journalist” who was “so good at winning over contacts as she was genuine and trustworthy”

She recalled: “Denise was nominated for a Newspaper Society award. We went up together for the award ceremony with the company’s managing directors and executives. During the dinner, she was a bit nervous and told me she was dreading having to get up on stage to collect her award in front of all these people.

“I reminded her of this at the end of the evening when she was up there leading the stage dancing.”

In March 2000, Denise left the Ham&High to join the BBC’s burgeoning online news service, which had launched just three years earlier, based at Television Centre, in Wood Lane.

She quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a senior broadcast journalist on the UK desk of the BBC News website.

Former BBC News Website UK editor, Gary Duffy, recalled the impact she had on colleagues:

“You meet some people in your life who touch you in a special way and make an immediate and lasting impact with their warmth, decency, kindness and humour.

“Denise was a person like that and she leaves a wonderful memory for all of us that had the privilege to know and work with her. It was a joy to be her manager.”

In her later career at the Corporation, she became a respected feature writer for the BBC website, producing everything from piercing news features to lighter, more whimsical stories.

It was during her time at the BBC that Denise was first diagnosed with the breast cancer that more than a decade later would claim her life, but never her vivacity or sense of humour. A true professional, she was still filing copy just weeks before she died.

Despite leaving the Ham&High, Denise remained ‘on patch’, living in St John’s Way, Archway with her beloved daughter Mia, 11.

Her passions were her family, friends and work – and an unswerving loyalty to Queens Park Rangers football club.

Denise spent her last few weeks surrounded by loved ones at the Marie Curie Hospice, in Lyndhurst Gardens, Hampstead.

She is survived by Mia, her parents Sam and Maureen, her sisters Debbie and Diane, and her brother Alan.

(Editor’s note: Jon Cronin worked with Denise at the Ham&High in the late 1990s, and subsequently at the BBC.)