Comedy legend Freddie Starr is found dead aged 76 at his Spanish home 

‘I’m OK, getting tired more now but otherwise I’m doing good’: Freddie Starr’s final poignant message before I’m A Celebrity star’s body was found on floor of his Spanish home after his death aged 76

  • The 76-year-old was discovered dead on the floor of his £180,000 townhouse in Mijas, southern Spain
  • Police sources in the region said there was nothing to suggest the death of the comic was suspicious 
  • Starr bought a flat in Mijas, Costa Del Sol after fleeing Britain to escape a million-pound legal bill
  • He was disgraced after losing a court case against Karin Ward, 57, who said he put his hand up her skirt 

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Starr posted this pic on his Facebook with the caption 'diet going well'

Police sources said there was nothing to suggest the death was suspicious. Starr posted a picture on Facebook in January alongside the caption ‘Diet going well!’

Shamed comedian Freddie Starr posted an emotional update on Facebook just days before he was found dead at his Costa del Sol bolthole telling his followers he was ‘getting tired now’.

The 76-year-old entertainer, who fled to Spain in 2015 after being hit with a £960,000 legal bill defending historic sex attack accusations, was discovered at 3pm yesterday lying naked on the floor by his carer.

The chain-smoker, who had battled with health problems and had a quadruple heart bypass following a heart attack in 2010, was last saw alive in the morning and is believed to have died of natural causes. 

Sources said his carer returned to the £180,000 townhouse in Mijas near Fuengirola in the afternoon after failing to reach him on the phone and found him dead inside.

Just days before his death he posted on Facebook to thank his fans for their support and give them an update on his condition, following his long-running health issues.

‘Hello everyone hope everyone is ok? Me yes I’m ok getting tired more now but otherwise I’m doing good,’ he wrote on Wednesday last week.

‘I just have to say thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all the kind comments and messages it really does mean a lot so thank you to each and everyone of you thanks so much. Freddie.’

Starr moved to the Costa del Sol townhouse around three years ago after leaving a nearby property where he first stayed after he quit Britain.

Neighbours at the complex yesterday said he had become a virtual recluse in recent months following years of ill health.

He had been posting updates on Facebook over the last three months hinting that he was unwell, and his final message came in response to fans concerned about his health. As recently as February he posted a wacky Facebook snap of himself with cigarettes stuck in his mouth, nose and ears.

Police sources said there was nothing to suggest the death of the fallen comic, who suffered from asthma, was suspicious.

Starr photographed at home with his second wife, Sandy, in 1974 who he married at the height of his fame. The couple had three children together

Starr photographed at home with his second wife, Sandy, in 1974 who he married at the height of his fame. The couple had three children together

An autopsy is expected to take place tomorrow at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Malaga to rule out the possibility it was the result of a crime.

Civil Guard officers were mobilised along with paramedics after the initial call from Freddie’s carer, although the first ambulance is believed to have taken some time to reach the scene.

A source at the equivalent of Spain’s 999 service said: ‘We responded to a call this afternoon from the carer of a 76-year-old man in the Mijas area of the Costa del Sol.

‘The woman said she had found the man and she was looking after him because he had been ill and said she thought he could be dead.

Police could not be reached for official comment.

Tributes have flooded in for the entertainer who one of the biggest comic stars of the 70s, 80s and 90s and was loved for his wild and unpredictable behaviour on stage.

Fellow comic Jim Davidson tweeted: ‘Just heard the news. Freddie Starr was the greatest’ and actor Bobby Davro said on Twitter that Starr was ‘one of our greatest comedy talents’.

He wrote: ‘I’ve just heard that Freddie Starr has died. He was the funniest man I have ever seen. I’m so sad we have lost one of our greatest comedy talents. RIP Freddie.’   

Starr performing on stage in the 1980s

Police sources said there was nothing to suggest the death was suspicious. Right: Starr posted a picture on Facebook in January alongside the caption ‘Diet going well!’

Starr posted on Facebook last Wednesday giving fans an update on his health and thanking them for their continued support

Starr posted on Facebook last Wednesday giving fans an update on his health and thanking them for their continued support

 

Starr’s last Facebook post just eight days ago read: ‘I’m ok getting tired more now but otherwise I’m doing good.

‘I just have to say thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all the kind comments and messages it really does mean a lot so thank you to each and everyone of you thanks so much. Freddie.’

But a post on his Facebook and Twitter pages today appeared to confirm the news of his death.

A post said: ‘This is Freddie’s manager Just to confirm Freddie has passed away. R.i.p to our greatest comedian of all time.’ 

Starr poses in London with British dance troupe Hot Gossip on the 27th March 1981. An autopsy is expected to take place tomorrow at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Malaga

Starr poses in London with British dance troupe Hot Gossip on the 27th March 1981. An autopsy is expected to take place tomorrow at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Malaga

Freddie Starr pictured during his time on 'I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!' in 2011. He famously withdrew for health reasons

Freddie Starr pictured during his time on ‘I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!’ in 2011. He famously withdrew for health reasons

Comedian Freddie Starr photograhed before going on stage at the height of his fame, January 1974. Tributes poured in from around the showbiz world after his death was reported

Comedian Freddie Starr photograhed before going on stage at the height of his fame, January 1974. Tributes poured in from around the showbiz world after his death was reported

Merseyside-born Starr was the lead singer of the Merseybeat group the Midniters during the 1960s and rose to national prominence in the early 1970s after appearing on Opportunity Knocks.

He was known by fans for his eccentric and often unpredictable behaviour.

In 1986, he was famously at the centre of one of the best known newspaper headlines when The Sun splashed with: ‘Freddie Starr ate my hamster.’

The story claimed Starr placed the small creature between two slices of bread and ate it at a friend’s home after returning from a performance in Manchester.

But in his 2001 autobiography Unwrapped, Starr said the incident never took place. 

Starr was pronounced dead at the age of 76 after a carer discovered him on the floor of his Costa Del Sol apartment

Starr was pronounced dead at the age of 76 after a carer discovered him on the floor of his Costa Del Sol apartment

Several of Starr's fans and contemporaries tweeted after his death was reported on Thursday evening paying tribute to the comedy legend

Several of Starr’s fans and contemporaries tweeted after his death was reported on Thursday evening paying tribute to the comedy legend

During the 1990s, he starred in several TV shows including Freddie Starr (1993-94), The Freddie Starr Show (1996-98) and An Audience with Freddie Starr in 1996.

He took part in the 2011 series of I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here but dropped out due to ill health.

A meal of fermented egg and a camel toe forced comic Starr to leave after he suffered an allergic reaction and had to be taken to hospital.

It was revealed in 2016 that Freddie bought a flat in Mijas, Costa Del Sol after fleeing Britain to escape a million-pound legal bill, when he faced financial ruin after losing a court case against a woman who claimed he groped her when she was 15. 

Freddie was facing ruin after losing a High Court case against 57-year-old Karin Ward, who claimed he had put his hand up her skirt when she was a teenager, before callously dismissing her as a ‘***less wonder’. 

But instead of paying around £1million to cover her legal fees and court costs as he was ordered to by the judge, Starr liquidated his assets and left the country.

He tried to sue Miss Ward, a victim of serial sex offender Jimmy Savile, for libel after she gave interviews saying she was ‘horribly, horribly humiliated’ by Starr.

She described him as having had ‘a very bad attack of wandering hands’ during the filming of an episode of TV show Clunk Click in 1974.

Starr claimed he had lost £300,000 in earnings as a result of the allegations. However, Mr Justice Nicol ruled that Miss Ward was telling the truth and dismissed the case last July.

Starr pictured at a restaurant in Marbella, Spain where he lived for several years before his death

Starr pictured at a restaurant in Marbella, Spain where he lived for several years before his death 

Freddie Starr was considered a loose cannon by many - due to his controversial routines involving costumes

Freddie Starr was considered a loose cannon by many - due to his controversial routines involving costumes

Freddie Starr was considered a loose cannon by many – due to his controversial routines involving costumes

He rose to fame after appearances on Opportunity Knocks and the Royal Variety Performance, and a high-profile television career followed (pictured in 1973)

He rose to fame after appearances on Opportunity Knocks and the Royal Variety Performance, and a high-profile television career followed (pictured in 1973)

Starr initially insisted he had never met Miss Ward – then a 15-year-old pupil at Duncroft Approved School where Savile preyed on many of his victims – but footage emerged of her sitting behind him on the TV programme.

The comedian was arrested under Operation Yewtree but did not face charges. Miss Ward alleged that Starr had groped her bottom and tried to touch her chest.

She said: ‘I can remember Freddie Starr smelt extremely unpleasant and put me in mind of my stepfather.’

Starr denied all the claims and said in his witness statement: ‘I consider Jimmy Savile to be perverted if it is established the allegations against him are true. My wife was with me at that show. I had three lovely children. I don’t see how I could have acted so inappropriately.’

He added: ‘It just never happened. It was not in my moral compass. My moral compass will not allow me to do that.’

In 2015, speaking to The Mail on Sunday from his apartment in southern Spain, Starr admitted that he never had the money to pay Ms Ward’s costs – or his own. He had, he said, foolishly thought it would be a ‘slam dunk’ and he’d walk away with his name and reputation cleared. 

One of Starr's Facebook posts

Starr before his death

Left: One of Starr’s Facebook posts showing him with several cigarettes in his mouth, nose and ears. Right: Starr pictured in his final years

He insisted that he sued Ms Ward reluctantly and only to clear his name. ‘I never wanted anything from her. I didn’t want money. I didn’t want a penny off Karin Ward. 

‘I just didn’t want people thinking I was some kind of sick pervert. It’s important because I have an eight-year-old daughter, who I love to bits and I don’t want her to grow up thinking that I would ever have behaved so badly.

‘It was not my idea to take Karin Ward to court. The lawyer got in touch with me saying, ‘We’ll go to court and sort this mess out once and for all’.’

‘He said it would be a good way to clear my name. But after a while, he said, ‘She’s got nothing. You want nothing. What’s the point?’ I told him to stop, but he said Karin Ward’s lawyers wanted £100,000 to end it.’

Starr described the two years he spent under investigation by officers from Yewtree as a ‘living hell’. He blamed the police and zealous lawyers for encouraging ‘crazies’ to make wild accusations against celebrities from the Savile era.

‘What’s going on with the Yewtree investigation is like the Salem witch hunt,’ he says. ‘A generation of entertainers have been targeted by attention seekers and ambulance-chasing lawyers.

‘Cliff Richard and Paul Gambaccini are just three innocent people who, like me, were accused of wrongdoings and had their reputation tarnished when there was no real evidence.

‘They didn’t even know their accusers. At least I had a target and knew exactly what was being alleged. But it has ruined my life. There is no coming back from this. I’ve hit rock bottom. I used to earn £2 million a year, but I’ve not worked for five years and all I’ve got to live off is a small private pension. It gives me £1,200 a month. I’m living off that.’ 

He also told the paper: ‘No matter which way I turned there was a f****** revolver pointing at my head so I thought “I’m not going to tell anyone, I’m just going to get on a plane and go to Spain, the place I love, and this is where I’m going to die”.

‘I didn’t even know how high the legal fees were until after I’d left Britain.’

Freddie Starr and his first wife Betty (centre) in 1961 after their wedding. Also in the picture is Freddie's mother Hilda (left) brother Andrew, and sister Phylis

Freddie Starr and his first wife Betty (centre) in 1961 after their wedding. Also in the picture is Freddie’s mother Hilda (left) brother Andrew, and sister Phylis

Comedian Freddie Starr and second wife Sandy Morgan

Comedian Freddie Starr and second wife Sandy Morgan

Starr and second wife Sandy Morgan pictured in 1980 (left). Right: Starr, Sandy and their young daughters Jody and Donna then three and seven respectively pictured at Heathrow Airport in the 1980s

Freddie Starr with his third wife Donna Smith outside Maidenhead magistrates court. Pictured here after receiving a conditional discharge after admitting common assault on his estranged teenage son Jody

Freddie Starr with his third wife Donna Smith outside Maidenhead magistrates court. Pictured here after receiving a conditional discharge after admitting common assault on his estranged teenage son Jody

Freddie Starr and his fiancee Sophie Lee. The pair were married in January 2013 and she became the famous comedian's fourth wife

Freddie Starr and his fiancee Sophie Lee. The pair were married in January 2013 and she became the famous comedian’s fourth wife

Accused: Ms Ward had said that Starr, a huge celebrity in the 1970s and a regular on primetime TV, shoved his hand up her skirt when she appeared on the BBC show Clunk Click in 1974 at the age of just 15

Accused: Ms Ward had said that Starr, a huge celebrity in the 1970s and a regular on primetime TV, shoved his hand up her skirt when she appeared on the BBC show Clunk Click in 1974 at the age of just 15

Life in the Madhouse: Once one of Britain’s biggest TV stars, Freddie Starr ended his life as a recluse after FIVE failed marriages to four women, disgrace over ‘groping a 15-year-old’ and THAT hamster

Freddie Starr was born in Liverpool in 1943 and went on to become one of the most famous faces in British comedy. 

He rose to fame after appearances on Opportunity Knocks and the Royal Variety Performance, and a high-profile television career followed – with his profile being boosted in 1986 after he was the subject of the infamous newspaper headline ‘Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster’. 

He established himself as a popular stand-up act, and became arguably the best-known comedian of his age, earning thousands of fans and £2million a year, performing to packed audiences. 

But his later years were marred by allegations of historic sexual assault and a bitter and ultimately unsuccessful defamation lawsuit that cost him a rumoured £1 million before fleeing to Spain where he spent the remainder of his years.  

Starr had been the lead singer of the Merseybeat group the Midniters during the 1960s

Freddie Starr with girlfriend Donna Smith outside Maidenhead magistrates court

Starr had been the lead singer of the Merseybeat group the Midniters during the 1960s and rose to national prominence in the early 1970s after appearing on Opportunity Knocks (pictured right: Freddie Starr with girlfriend Donna Smith – who would become his third wife – outside Maidenhead magistrates court)

Police investigated an allegation of historical sexual abuse against Starr in 2012, which he said left him 'suicidal' (pictured: Freddie Starr at home with wife Sandy)

Police investigated an allegation of historical sexual abuse against Starr in 2012, which he said left him ‘suicidal’ (pictured: Freddie Starr at home with wife Sandy)

Starr had been the lead singer of the Merseybeat group the Midniters during the 1960s and rose to national prominence in the early 1970s after appearing on Opportunity Knocks.

He was known for his eccentric and unpredictable behaviour. During the 1990s, he starred in several TV shows including Freddie Starr (1993-94), The Freddie Starr Show (1996-98) and An Audience with Freddie Starr in 1996.

His comedy show, Freddie Starr’s Variety Madhouse, had only six episodes in one series when it was broadcast in 1979. It starred Russ Abbot, Mike Newman, Toni Palmer, Norman Collier and Bella Emberg. 

The father-of-six married first wife Betty when he was 17. They had a son and divorced after 12 years. He went on to have three more children with his second wife, Sandy. 

His third wife, Donna, was 27 years younger than him. They had a daughter called Ebony, and were married and divorced twice. He wed his fourth wife Sophie in January 2013.

His comedy debut on TV talent show Opportunity Knocks led to an appearance in the 1970s Royal Variety Performance and a place in the line-up of sketch show Who Do You Do?

Perhaps bolstered by the Sun’s outrageous hamster headline in 1986, Starr had a string of self-titled sketch and talk shows over the course of the 1990s.

It was not all clean family fun – in 1997 he sparked outrage by hurling live chickens into an audience at the Britannia Theatre, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

Kerry Duthie, who was in the audience, said: ‘It was absolutely wicked. People were screaming and there were feathers flying in the air. The chickens were flapping about in a panic.

‘I am not a big animal rights supporter, but to see that happen was so cruel. If it was a cat or dog, people would have been up in arms. But because it was a chicken they got away with it.’

Freddie Starr with cigarettes in his mouth and nose Freddie Starr leaving Radio 2 studios, London, September 2008

Starr in 'An Audience with Freddie Starr', 1996

Left: Freddie Starr with cigarettes in his mouth and nose Freddie Starr leaving Radio 2 studios, London, September 2008. Right: Starr in ‘An Audience with Freddie Starr’, 1996

He made his comedy debut on TV talent show Opportunity Knocks, which led to an appearance in the 1970s Royal Variety Performance and a place in the line-up of sketch show Who Do You Do?

He made his comedy debut on TV talent show Opportunity Knocks, which led to an appearance in the 1970s Royal Variety Performance and a place in the line-up of sketch show Who Do You Do?

Starr shrugged off the criticism, saying: ‘There is nothing wrong with what happened and it will be left in the video. It was not cruel at all.

‘As far as the chickens go, it was a one-off. They have a professional handler and were kept in the cool outside the theatre before going on stage.’

In 1994 a childhood dream came true when his race horse Miinnehoma won the Grand National.

‘Some people think that the most wonderful sight they will see is a sunset over the Taj Mahal – but for me, the dream is to see my horse go past the winning post,’ he said.

With his career on the wane, in 2000 Starr admitted on Tonight With Trevor McDonald he was downing handfuls of anti-depressants a day

Having already divorced twice, he said he had considered suicide.

‘No matter what anti-depressant that you take, you become immune to it after a while so they stop working,’ he said.

Starr told the programme his difficulties began as a child when a speech impediment led to him losing the ability to talk completely and he spent two years in a home.

Starr said he covered his insecurities by ‘playing the idiot’.

‘I play the person that doesn’t care or with no feelings but little do people know how seriously I do take my job,’ he said.

‘Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster’ 

Lea La Salle, who said Freddie Starr ate her hamster

Lea La Salle, who said Freddie Starr ate her hamster

On March 13, 1986 The Sun newspaper published a story with the headline ‘Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster’.

He had been staying in Cheshire with Vince McCaffrey – whose girlfriend Lea La Salle claimed Starr came home from a gig in Manchester and told her to make him a sandwich, the story claimed.

When she declined, Starr reportedly put her pet hamster Supersonic between two slices of bread and ate it.

But Starr dismissed the claims in his 2001 autobiography Unwrapped, saying: ‘I have never eaten or even nibbled a live hamster, gerbil, guinea pig, mouse, shrew, vole or any other small mammal’.

‘I just like to make people laugh. We’re not talking about brain surgery here or saving people’s lives, we’re talking about laughter which is one of the greatest medicines in the world and I can give some of that to an audience and that’s great,’ he added.

He suffered a major heart attack in April 2010 and underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery but still signed up for the 2011 series of I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here.

But a meal of fermented egg and a camel toe in the bushtucker trial saw him rushed to hospital after he suffered an allergic reaction.

He was advised to drop out in case his illness flared up again. Starr said at the time: ‘I wanted to be there until the very end but there’s no use crying over spilt milk.’ 

Police investigated an allegation of historical sexual abuse against Starr in 2012, which he said left him ‘suicidal’.

Starr was told in 2014 he would not be prosecuted after spending 18 months on bail. He lost a damages claim against his accuser in the High Court in 2015.

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, he revealed he moved to Spain following the ruling, which left him facing a bill unofficially estimated at about £1 million.

‘I don’t know where to turn,’ he told the paper in 2015. ‘Most of my old showbusiness friends have forsaken me. I need help. I have no money left and I’m too ill to work. I don’t see a very pleasant future ahead of me.’ 

He said: ‘No matter which way I turned there was a f****** revolver pointing at my head so I thought “I’m not going to tell anyone, I’m just going to get on a plane and go to Spain, the place I love, and this is where I’m going to die”.

‘I didn’t even know how high the legal fees were until after I’d left Britain.’

He added he had not moved ‘to deliberately get out of paying’ and had planned to emigrate regardless of the outcome.  

He had been out of hospital just six months when a dozen officers raided his home and took away laptops and other items.

He had told the Mail on Sunday in 2015: ‘It was like a nightmare. At first I thought it was a prank by one of my friends, but I soon realised this was deadly serious.

‘I still can’t believe things got as crazy as they did. I just wish I had not listened to those who told me to sue.’ 

He was arrested four times during Operation Yewtree – the investigation into historic child abuse, but released without charge.

In a bid to clear his name, he had launched a libel claim against the woman who had pointed the finger at him. 

When he lost, facing legal bills of nearly £1 million, he fled the country, and later said that he should never have rushed to start a court battle that he could not afford to lose. 

Starr had sold his house and fled to the Costa del Sol not long after losing his legal action in July against a woman who said that Starr put his hand up her skirt when she appeared on the BBC show Clunk Click in 1974 at the age of just 15. 

She had also claimed he called her ‘a t**less wonder’. 

Starr accused her of lying and sought £300,000 for alleged slander and libel in interviews she gave to the BBC and ITV, but a High Court judge accepted the woman’s account and ordered the entertainer to pay a legal bill of £960,000 – including £400,000 for her costs, a ‘win fee’ and VAT.

The court finding was all the more confusing for Starr, who had been told in May 2014 that he would not face charges under Yewtree because of ‘insufficient evidence’ on most of the claims made against him.

Speaking exclusively to The Mail on Sunday in 2015 from his apartment in southern Spain, he admitted that he never had the money to pay the woman’s costs – or his own. 

He said he thought it would be a ‘slam dunk’ and he’d walk away with his name and reputation cleared, but it left him a broken man, his life destroyed, hounded by creditors and facing bankruptcy.  

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday. Starr said had undergone major heart surgery and suffered from dizzy spells, adding that he was ‘not long for this world’. 

The £130,000 two-bedroom flat he bought from the £700,000 profit he made after selling his mansion in Studley, Warwickshire, had become a prison, he said, adding that he rarely goes out because he finds it difficult to walk. 

He insisted that he sued reluctantly and only to clear his name. He said: ‘I never wanted anything from her. I didn’t want money.

Freddie Starr with his wife Sophie at home in Warwickshire on May 7, 2014

Pictured left: Comedian Freddie Starr photographed at home with his second wife, Sandy, who he married at the height of his fame. Right: Freddie Starr with his wife Sophie at home in Warwickshire on May 7, 2014

‘I just didn’t want people thinking I was some kind of sick pervert. It’s important because I have an eight-year-old daughter, who I love to bits and I don’t want her to grow up thinking that I would ever have behaved so badly.

‘It was not my idea to take [her] to court. The lawyer got in touch with me saying, “We’ll go to court and sort this mess out once and for all”.’ 

‘He said it would be a good way to clear my name. But after a while, he said, ”She’s got nothing. You want nothing. What’s the point?” I told him to stop, but he said [her] lawyers wanted £100,000 to end it.’

Starr described the two years he spent under investigation by officers from Yewtree as a ‘living hell’, blaming the police and zealous lawyers for encouraging ‘crazies’ to make wild accusations against celebrities from the Savile era.

‘What’s going on with the Yewtree investigation is like the Salem witch hunt,’ he said. ‘A generation of entertainers have been targeted by attention seekers and ambulance-chasing lawyers.’

He said the allegations had ruined his life. ‘There is no coming back from this,’ he said. ‘I’ve hit rock bottom. I used to earn £2 million a year, but I’ve not worked for five years and all I’ve got to live off is a small private pension. It gives me £1,200 a month. I’m living off that.’

He claimed that his Spanish bolthole, set in a gated complex, belonged to his ex-wife Donna (they married each other twice) and that he was just a guest, but it was purchased by him and is registered in his name. 

Freddie Starr posted an emotional update on Facebook just days before he was found dead in the Costa del Sol, telling his followers he was ‘getting tired now’.

The 76-year-old entertainer’s body was discovered by his carer at his £180,000 townhouse in Mijas near Fuengirola on Thursday afternoon.

Additional reporting by Gerard Couzens 

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