Patrick Sawer, senior reporter Lexi Finnigan Lydia Willgress 28 DECEMBER 2016 • 2:03PM
It is a haunting image, a famous music star staring out from the window of his country home as the village Christmas procession passed by – life going on without him.
To his fans he was the defining pop idol of their generation, to his admirers he had one of the most beautiful soul voices in British pop, but this last sighting of George Michael reveals that he died the death of a recluse.
His boyfriend has revealed how the singer-songwriter, who gave us one of the most-loved Christmas songs of all time, had died alone on Christmas morning, at the age of just 53.
Fadi Fawaz, a celebrity hairdresser, who had been in a relationship with the star since 2011, said he discovered the singer when he went to his home in Oxfordshire.
He told The 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.”
In recent years, the hedonistic lifestyle that the singer became famous for had left the once dashingly handsome pop icon a bloated version of himself.
It can also be revealed that during the past year he is thought to have battled heroin addiction.
A source revealed that Michael had been treated in hospital for an overdose.
“He’s been rushed to A&E on several occasions,” the source said. “He used heroin. I think it’s amazing he’s lasted as long as he has.”
Cardiac arrest – the cause of death according to Michael’s manager, Michael Lipman – is common amongst those who have used heroin.
The claim that Michael was battling heroin addiction was denied by his lawyers and police said the circumstances of his death are being treated as “unexplained but not suspicious”.
Michael’s death was deeply sad for a man whose bravery in forcing the world to come to terms with his sexuality on his terms was widely admired, but who was dogged by the long shadow of Aids.
The condition took several friends and at least one lover and had initially forced him to keep the truth about his homosexuality hidden for fear of terrifying his mother about the consequences.
His former partner Kenny Goss described him as an “extremely kind and generous man”.
In a statement, he said: “I’m heartbroken with the news that my dear friend and long-time love George Michael has passed.
“He was a major part of my life and I loved him very, very much. He was an extremely kind and generous man.
“The beautiful memories and music he brought to the world will always be an important part of my life and those who also loved and admired him.”
Neighbors near his home in Goring-on-Thames, near Oxford, which Michael bought for a reported £1.5 million in 1999, spoke movingly yesterday about his last few months.
Outside his home, two reindeer sculptures lit by fairy lights were still illuminated in the garden, while a Christmas wreath covered in apples, berries and pine cones hung on a side door.
The manager of the nearby Catherine Wheel pub, who wanted to remain anonymous, said Michael had been a regular face in the pub, but in recent years his appearances became few and far between.
“He has changed over the years, got a lot bigger and wore glasses. He was very self-conscious. He just did not look like George Michael any more. It’s very sad.
“I went down to lay a candle outside his house with a group and they said the last time he was seen was watching the torchlight procession on Christmas Eve from the window.”
Residents told how Michael chose to buy his home in Goring-on-Thames after he visited the area with Geri Halliwell and no one recognized him.
They said the star had become less visible in recent years and was rarely seen out and about, unless it was to buy packet of Rizla cigarette papers from the local newsagents.
Neighbors fear he spent Christmas Eve either alone or with his housekeeper.
Malcolm Allport, 80, reported seeing Christmas deliveries arriving, but no guests.
Church Warden David Beddall, 77, said: ‘He came to the midnight service last year but he didn’t come this year.
“He decorated the garden with Christmas lights so we knew he was there but we didn’t see him.”
George had maintained a low public profile in recent years, only communicating with fans through Twitter where he had insisted he was “perfectly fine”.
In his last Facebook post, the star said he was busy putting the finishing touches to a documentary called Freedom, which is due to air in March 2017.
On his 53nd birthday, on June 25, Michael apologized to fans for his absence from the limelight.
He wrote on Twitter: “To my lovelies and fans around the world, thank you for all the birthday wishes, I am truly overwhelmed. I am looking forward to spending it with friends and family, thank again, love The Singing Greek!”
The once fresh-faced boy from East Finchley, who had wowed the world with a song about enjoying life on unemployment benefit with his school friend Andrew Ridgeley, had long struggled with substance abuse.
In 2014/15, it was claimed that Michael had secretly spent a year in the £190,000-a-month Kusnacht Practice in Switzerland after becoming addicted to crack cocaine.
Michael’s spokesman said he had not entered rehab but instead had been “spending time in Europe” on an ‘”extended break”.
What is certain is that the singer had a close brush with death as a result of contracting pneumonia in 2011, while on tour.
George started dating Texan art dealer Kenny Goss in 1996 and they broke up in 2009 – something the singer did not confirm for two years.
On the opening night of his Symphonica tour in 2011, he said: “I love him very much. This man has brought me a lot of joy and pain.”
His secret donations to charity
Quietly generous, Michael’s many acts of kindness have begun to be revealed since his death.
A couple who desperately wanted a baby but could not afford fertility treatment and a debt-ridden student nurse were among those who he secretly donated small chunks of his fortune to.
The pop icon’s silent acts of philanthropy over the years added up to millions of pounds, it is now thought, as recipients began to come forward to reveal how his generosity changed lives.
Lynette Gillard, 38, from Bolton, received £15,000 from an anonymous donor in 2008 after her husband at the time Stephen appeared on the game show Deal or No Deal but walked away with £3000 – £5000 short of the amount needed for a round of IVF treatment.
The show’s former executive producer Richard Osman announced on Twitter that after a contestant said they needed money for fertility treatment, “George Michael secretly phoned the next day” and said he wanted to donate the thousands of pounds the couple needed.
Last night Ms Gillard said: “For many years I wondered who would have been so generous and now I know. What more can I say other than thank you George.”
A spokesman for Deal or No Deal would not confirm whether Ms Gillard’s mystery donation was from Michael, saying: “Anonymous donations are kept private in line with the donor’s wishes.”
The author and journalist Sali Hughes said that Michael once tipped a barmaid £5,000 because she was a student nurse who was in debt.
She added that Michael was the only star on the celebrity version of the game show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire who felt comfortable gambling with all the money he had raised for his chosen charity because he had decided he would pay back the money out of his own pocket if he lost.
Childline founder and president Dame Esther Rantzen also revealed that Michael had given millions of pounds worth of royalties from his 1996 number one single Jesus To A Child to the charity.
“For years now he has been the most extraordinarily generous philanthropist, giving money to Childline, but he was determined not to make his generosity public so no one outside the charity knew how much he gave to the nation’s most vulnerable children,” she said.
“Over the years he gave us millions and we were planning next year, as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations to create, we hoped, a big concert in tribute to him – to his artistry, to his wonderful musicality but also to thank him for the hundreds of thousands of children he helped through supporting Childline.”
Michael, who lost his partner Anselmo Feleppa to HIV, “personally supported” the Terrence Higgins Trust for “many years”.
Jane Barron, who works for the trust, said that gifts donated by Michael were “used to raise vital funds to help us support people living with HIV”.
She said that the trust benefited from the royalties of Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me, Michael’s 1991 duet with Elton John.
The actress Emilyne Mondo wrote that Michael had volunteered at a homeless shelter with her, but had asked the others there not to publicize the fact.
She said yesterday: “George Michael worked anonymously at a homeless shelter I was volunteering at. I’ve never told anyone, he asked we didn’t. That’s who he was.”
His plans for the future
It has also emerged that Michael was filming a documentary about his life and was planning a new album to be released next year.
In his last public Facebook post, the Wham! Singer posted an image about the forthcoming show, entitled Freedom, which covers a five year period in his life.
In the social media post, Michael said he was busy putting the “finishing touches” to the special documentary and that he had discovered some “incredible, unseen archive footage” and was shooting additional interviews for the project.
Channel 4, which commissioned the project, said the documentary covers an “eventful” and “dramatic” period in the star’s life, including when he fell in love for the first time – a romance which ended in tragedy.
In a press release, a C4 spokesman said: “The film will be a very personal documentary revealing how the boy from north London became one of the most influential recording artists of all time and helped to rewrite the rules of the music industry and celebrity.”
To coincide with the programme’s broadcast, George had also agreed to reissue his famous Listen Without Prejudice album, on which he collaborated with stars like Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder and Keith Richards.
The documentary, which is narrated by the pop star, is also said to feature interviews from other 90s icons including Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford, who starred in Michael’s Freedom! ‘90 music video.
In December, it was also announced that the singer was working on a new album with producer Naughty Boy.
It is thought he had already penned several tracks for the follow-up to 2014’s Symphonica.
In an interview with the BBC earlier this month, music producer Naughty Boy, known for his work with Beyonce, Sam Smith and Emile Sande, confirmed the plans. “He’s got an album coming out next year, and he’s going to be doing something for my album as well.” He added: “I can’t wait. I don’t know what to expect. And, to be honest, he’s more mysterious than anyone else so I’m actually excited.”
Why he hid his sexuality
George Michael could have helped to counter a “tide of prejudice” in the 1980s when being gay was considered a “scandal and a shame”, if he had come out earlier, the campaigner Peter Tatchell said yesterday.
Mr Tatchell said he wished the singer had spoken publicly about his sexuality earlier, although he understood why he did not.
The pair first met at a gay disco above a pub in London in 1980, when Michael was a teenager and not yet famous.
It was not until 18 years later that he spoke publicly about his homosexuality, after being arrested in Beverly Hills, California, for engaging in a “lewd act” in a public toilet.
Michael later said he never had a “moral problem” with his sexuality, but that he did not want to worry his mother because of fears about Aids within the gay community at the time.
“Understand how much I love my family and that Aids was the predominant feature of being gay in the 1980s and early 90s as far as any parent was concerned,” he said in an interview in 2007.
“My mother was still alive and every single day would have been a nightmare for her thinking what I might have been subjected to.”
“This was also the era of Aids, which was often dubbed ‘the gay plague’,” Mr Tatchell said yesterday.
“Gay men were blamed for the deadly virus. Public attitudes become much more homophobic. Gay bashings and murders rocketed. It was a fearful period to be gay, let alone a gay public figure.
“I wish George had come out then. He could have helped counter that tide of prejudice. But I understand why he didn’t.”
In the 1980s, Michael fell out with Boy George, who was then openly gay and resented the Wham! singer promoting himself as a “stud”.
“People saw me as the benchmark queer while George Michael was passing himself off as a straight stud,” the Culture Club singer said in 2005, although the two musicians were said to have reconciled later.
Struggling with his sexuality in the 1980s, he once said he felt he did not have his first relationship until 27, because it was not until his mid-20s that he accepted he was gay.
Shortly afterwards he then lost his partner designer Anselmo Feleppa to HIV.
The song Jesus to a Child was dedicated to him. “I lost my partner to HIV then it took about three years to grieve; then after that I lost my mother. I felt almost like I was cursed,” he said in an interview.
He went on to become a prominent gay rights advocate and a supporter of HIV campaigns.
He fronted a documentary about HIV to coincide with World Aids Day the year he came out, and he was also a passionate supporter of HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust.
The gay rights group Stonewall said yesterday: “You inspired many and your music will live on in the hearts of the community. You will be sorely missed.”
What will happen to his fortune?
It has also emerged that Michael could leave some of his estimated £105 million fortune to his godson James Kennedy, a reality TV star who lives in California.
The late star did not have any children of his own, but it is thought that the 24-year-old could be set to be among the beneficiaries of the Club Tropicana singer’s will.
According to reports between 2006 and 2008 Michael earned £48.5 million from his “25 Live” tour.
And last year’s Sunday Times Rich List put him as one of the wealthiest British musicians, with an estimated worth £105 million.
It followed reports in 2014 that he was among a number of celebrity investors to be caught in a tax avoidance scheme.
George Michael grew up with James Kennedy’s father, Andros Georgiou, according to reports, leading to the late star becoming James’s godfather.
Their fathers are thought to have come from the same village in Cyprus and they each emigrated to London to make a life filled with family.
In an interview with The Sun, Georgiou revealed that George had helped him give James his first bath after he was born in 1992.
James Kennedy now stars in Vanderpump Rules, an American reality television series, in which he works in a restaurant and as a DJ.
After Micheal’s death, James Kennedy posted via his Twitter account, which has 58,000 followers, saying: “Rest In Peace George I’m heartbroken we never got to speak again after so many years, I can’t believe this has happened, please watch over me in heaven God father. Enjoy paradise I love you.”
It is understood that Michael and his father Georgiou had not been on speaking terms for a number of years before his death.
In 2011 George told the Independent about his decision not to have children, saying: “I’ve got godchildren. Thank god I didn’t have children – can you imagine being George Michael’s son or daughter.
“I don’t think having Elton [John] as your dad would be as embarrassing as having George Michael as your father … It’s a resolute no, I’m 47.”