George Michael, the British pop star who died Christmas Day at age 53, had been battling a secret heroin addiction in the months leading up to his death, U.K. newspapers are reporting Tuesday.
A post mortem is due to be carried out in the next few days, after the death was described as “unexplained but not suspicious” by police who were investigating at the scene at Michael’s £1.5 million home in an Oxfordshire village on Christmas Day.
In a haunting final image, the manager of a nearby pub told the Telegraph that Michael was seen through his window, “watching the torchlight procession on Christmas Eve" that winds its way through the village.
Fadi Fawaz, a celebrity hairdresser who had been in a relationship with the star since 2011, said he discovered the singer’s body when he went to his home on Christmas morning.
He told The Daily Telegraph: “We were supposed to be going for Christmas lunch. I went round there to wake him up and he was just gone, lying peacefully in bed. We don’t know what happened yet.
“Everything had been very complicated recently, but George was looking forward to Christmas, and so was I.
“Now everything is ruined. I want people to remember him the way he was—he was a beautiful person.”
Cardiac arrest was given as the cause of death by Michael's manager, Michael Lipman.
However, multiple reports in British newspapers Tuesday morning allege that the iconic “Last Christmas” singer, who was caught smoking crack cocaine in a public toilet in 2008, had been struggling with addiction and substance abuse in his final days.
The Sun, meanwhile, quoted Michael’s friend, publicist Gary Farrow, saying: “I believe easy access to drugs was the cause of his problems. I thought George was too bright to get involved with illegal substances. But once this disease gets hold of you, it’s hard to fight it.”
The Mirror added: “George loved having friends over and was often still going strong well into the following morning. This continued right up until his death.”
The singer’s struggles with drugs were well-documented; he admitted that during one period he was smoking 25 joints a day in his struggle with addiction.
In 2008, he was caught smoking crack cocaine in a public restroom. He was arrested several times for drug offenses, including a conviction for driving while unfit through drugs after he was found collapsed in his Mercedes in 2006.
In 2010, he was given a five-year driving ban and sentenced to eight weeks in prison after crashing his Range Rover into a branch of a Snappy Snaps photo-processing franchise in Hampstead, north London. Michael’s lawsuit told the court the singer was “deeply ashamed” of the incident, and that he had checked himself into rehab immediately afterward.
Yet among the tragic stories of addiction, many inspiring examples of Michael’s heart-warming generosity have emerged since the shock news of death emerged Christmas night.
He gave, quite literally, millions of pounds to charities and individuals less fortunate than him.
A couple who desperately wanted a baby but could not afford fertility treatment and a debt-ridden student nurse were among those who he helped.
TV presenter Richard Osman revealed in a tweet that Michael had contacted a woman who appeared on Deal or No Deal to quietly give her the money she needed for IVF treatment.
The star often kept aside tickets for NHS staff at his concerts and once gave an entire special concert free of charge for nurses as a thank you for the care they had given his mother a decade earlier.
Childline’s founder and president, Dame Esther Rantzen, revealed that Michael had given the royalties from his 1996 No. 1 single “Jesus to a Child” to the charity.
Thanks to the “millions” he had given, hundreds of thousands of children had been helped, she said.
The comic David Walliams said the singer pledged thousands of pounds for his charity efforts when he swam the English Channel in 2006. The Little Britain star tweeted: “There are lots of stories about George Michael’s legendary generosity emerging today. When I swam the channel he gave Sportrelief £50,000.”
Author and journalist Sali Hughes revealed that Michael had once tipped a barmaid £5,000 “because she was a student nurse in debt.”
Actor Emilyne Mondo wrote that Michael had volunteered at a homeless shelter with her, but had asked the others there not to publicize the fact.