Around 10 o’clock Saturday morning, a member of Amy Winehouse‘s security detail stopped by her $3.2 million London townhome to check on the soul diva with little reason to suspect he’d be the last person to see her alive.
But by the time another guard who had been appointed to look after the self-destructive singer for the last two years visited the residence at 4:05 p.m., her body had gone cold and stiff with rigour mortis; authorities pronounced Winehouse dead at the scene.
If there were any real surprise by 8:45 p.m., when Winehouse was taken out of the house in a body bag, it’s that the legendarily hard-living songstress seems to have gone out with a whimper instead of the kind of loud, messy, impossibly public bang for which she was known.
“She was in her bedroom after saying she wanted to sleep,” her publicist, Chris Goodman, told The Sun. “At this stage no one knows how she died. She died alone in bed.”
Although initial autopsy results released Monday failed to establish what killed the performer and a toxicology report won’t be available for at least another fortnight, London’s Metropolitan Police are giving Winehouse’s death a Section 20 postmortem, an in-depth investigation on the ground that they believe her expiry was violent or suspicious.
But even while the big questions remain unanswered, new details have emerged that paint Winehouse’s last hours on earth as a period of loud drumming and close supervision by parents, doctors, and various handlers. There was an intimate phone conversation and—if the U.K.’s notoriously pernicious tabloids are to be believed—one “bad” pill too many.
Winehouse was still reeling from her calamitous performance in Belgrade, Serbia, last month that forced her to pull out of an 11-date European tour. And to hear it from several published reports, Winehouse’s distress over her recent breakup with her on-again off-again boyfriend, film director Reg Traviss, compelled her to go on a weeks-long vodka bender in her London neighbourhood, Camden.
Even the singer’s mother, Janis Winehouse, told a British newspaper her daughter wasn’t well when she saw Winehouse the day before her death.
“She seemed out of it,” Janis told the paper.
But a story in The Sun Monday details how the singer, who reportedly suffered from emphysema due to years of smoking cigarettes and crack cocaine, received a visit from her personal physician on Friday evening, and he gave her a clean bill of health. “The doctor was happy with her condition,” an anonymous source is quoted as saying. “When he left on Friday night he had no concerns.”
At some point later that evening, Winehouse got on the phone with her longtime BFF Kelly Osbourne. And, according to The Mirror UK, the two chatted for an hour with nary an indication that Winehouse was either intoxicated or unhealthy.
“I was speaking to her last night, she seemed absolutely fine,” Osbourne is quoted as saying. “I don’t understand how this could have happened.” (A representative for Osbourne said she was unavailable for an interview with The Daily Beast.)
Winehouse apparently was still physically vigorous enough late Friday to also play drums in her bedroom so loudly that neighbours assumed she was hosting yet another of her raucous parties, and called to complain. But according to reports, the singer was alone by then and later curled up to watch videos.
An anonymous source in Sunday’s Mirror story claimed the singer died as a result of taking a “bad” ecstasy pill in combination with copious amounts of alcohol, while another tabloid claimed she had bought a grab-bag of drugs in the hours before she died, including cocaine, ketamine, and ecstasy. But her family called the reports “nonsense.”
Bolstering their assertion, police confirmed Monday that a search of Winehouse’s three-story home—routinely described by visitors as a semi-ransacked party pad overflowing with empty liquor bottles, greasy pizza boxes, crumpled nuggets of tin foil, and assorted crack pipes—revealed no drugs or paraphernalia.
In keeping with the singer’s religious heritage, friends and relatives have been gathering at the Winehouse family home to sit shiva, the traditional period of Jewish mourning. The time and location for her private family funeral have been kept a secret but a spokesperson said services will take place Tuesday.
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