A campaigning journalist who exposed the infamous vote-rigging scandal at Westminster Council in the 1990s has died at the age of 85.

Jillian McDonough, who lived on her Marylebone and Paddington patch for 45 years, was a senior reporter on the Paddington and Kilburn Times from the 1970s to 1991.

The big stories she broke that later made the nationals included the “homes for votes” scandal when council leader Shirley Porter was accused of “gerrymandering” to win the 1990 local election.

She also broke the news of the council selling its municipal cemeteries at East Finchley and Mill Hill for just £1 each to save on maintenance costs — which the local government ombudsman found was maladministration.

“Mum was one of the first journalists to report on the infamous 1p cemeteries sale,” her daughter Catherine McDonough told the paper.

“The stories she covered were numerous, given the years she worked in the local press, she was always talking about her stories when I was growing up.

Brent & Kilburn Times: One of Jillian's front pagesOne of Jillian's front pages (Image: McDonough family)

“She interviewed leading public figures but was as diligent in her coverage, helping to give voice to those who may not have been heard.”

Jillian was born in Nottingham and left school at 15. But she had an eye on Fleet Street and took off for London at 21 to work on the Walthamstow Post — in the days of typewriters and having to use telephone callboxes to get her stories to the news desk.

Jillian’s future husband Michael McDonough, also a journalist, followed her to London in 1958 and they married when she was 22. Family lore is that he later took her job in Fleet Street when she gave up work to raise the family.

She returned to journalism by the late 1970s, covering Marylebone and Paddington until 1991, and was well respected by Westminster Council’s press office, despite her stories of scandal.

“She diligently championed people for justice,” Catherine recalls. “Mum was passionate about going the extra mile.”

Brent & Kilburn Times: Jillian with her familyJillian with her family (Image: McDonough family)

Jillian also covered community news and theatre reviews and once did a two-page spread on her daughter Catherine performing at the Hampstead Playhouse.  Catherine went on to be a professional actress, making her mum proud.

Westminster Council’s public relations office gave a citation to the National Union of Journalists supporting Gillian, who faced redundancy in 1991, which said: “She is a conscientious local reporter, often ahead of the game and always fair in her comments, giving us the opportunity to respond before going to press.

“If the politicians don’t like what she has written it is because she is an honest, hardworking, objective reporter doing a good job in pursuing local democracy and a free press, always playing a straight bat. We would be sorry to see her go.”

Brent & Kilburn Times: Jillian McDonoughJillian McDonough (Image: McDonough family)

Jillian McDonough, born October 23, 1937, died on February 9, 2024, was buried at Brompton Cemetery March 6.