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Boyzone's Gately died of natural causes

The body of Boyzone star Stephen Gately can make a final sad journey home after his death on the island of Majorca, a judge said today.

The repatriation was given the go ahead after a court hearing established that Mr Gately, 33, died of natural causes.

A court official said a post mortem examination had found that the singer suffered a pulmonary oedema, an accumulation of fluid on the lungs. The underlying cause was not revealed.

There has been speculation that Mr Gately, who died after a night on the town on the island, choked on his own vomit.

The Irish singer was found dead on Saturday on the sofa in his apartment in Port Andratx on the island after a night out partying with his partner Andrew Cowles.

A sample of pulmonary fluid taken during the post-mortem will be sent to a forensic laboratory in Barcelona for further tests to confirm the result, the court official said.

The official added that the investigation into the death will continue as a formality with Mr Cowles and one other person declared as official witnesses.

The second witness is thought to be Bulgarian Georgi Dochev, 25, who went back to the apartment with Mr Gately and Mr Cowles after their night out and has described finding the singer's body the next day.

The court official said the pulmonary oedema had been "acute".

She added: "If all these steps (witness statements and tests) confirm the natural causes the case will be closed."

She could not say whether Mr Gately had been taking any drugs or alcohol and declined to say whether he had vomited before his death.

Lawyer Gerald Kean, a spokesman for Mr Gately's family in Ireland, said papers had been signed to allow the release of his body.

But he said it may be two days before it is returned to Ireland.

"The family's only wish is to get their son and brother home as soon as possible," Mr Kean said.

Mr Cowles was ushered out of the private court hearing in the island's capital Palma today looking upset.

He was dressed casually in jeans and a blue open-neck shirt for the half-hour hearing.

Local police have already said there were no signs of suspicious circumstances.

Mr Kean said earlier today that Mr Gately's family were "absolutely happy that there is no foul play".

The family are certain no drugs were involved in his death and they do not suspect suicide, he added.

Mr Dochev, 25, described how the singer's body was "very cold and white".

He said he found Mr Gately's body on Saturday and alerted his partner, Mr Cowles.

Mr Gately's devastated Boyzone bandmates, who flew to the Spanish island on Sunday, returned home last night.

A spokesman said: "They went there to pay their respects and start dealing with the fall-out of the situation.

"However, it's clear that them being there at the moment is bringing a lot more attention to the situation."

The band comforted Mr Cowles before they left.

Ronan Keating, Keith Duffy, Mikey Graham and Shane Lynch met him at the Mon Port Hotel in the resort of Port Andratx, where they were staying.

Mr Kean said Mr Gately had been in the apartment with Mr Cowles until after midnight on Friday, when he travelled to Palma, about an hour's drive away.

A close family member spoke to the singer at 12.30am Spanish time on Saturday (11.30pm BST) as he was getting ready to leave, the lawyer said.

It is understood Mr Gately spent several hours socialising and was back in the apartment before 6am Spanish time.