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Mystery death of acclaimed Britpop star

Founder member of 'Space' collapsed while crossing the street

A founder member of one of the most distinctive bands of the Britpop era has died suddenly in the street in his native Liverpool.

Tributes were paid yesterday to drummer Andy Parle, one of the creative driving forces behind Space, whose platinum-selling album Spider provided some of the defining tracks of the mid 1990s. Among the group's hits was "The Female of the Species", which was used as the soundtrack to the zeitgeist ITV show Cold Feet.

Parle, 42, was seen to fall while crossing the road after visiting a chip shop near to his home on Saturday night. Police said they were treating the incident as "unexplained" and urged witnesses to come forward.

The musician suddenly quit the group at the height of their success. He had been suffering from nervous exhaustion during a world tour in 1997. In the following years he did not work and endured a number of personal problems including drink and drug issues, although he had recently started to put his difficulties behind him, friends said.

"He was just getting his drum kit back and was starting playing again," said fellow Space founder and lead singer Tommy Scott. "He was the funniest person you could ever meet. The first Space album would not have been the same without him," he added.

Parle was a major figure on the Liverpool punk scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the city was a powerhouse for new talent. He played in a number of groups and was renowned for having a vast record collection. His distinctive drumming style, along with the band's inventive arrangements and clever lyrics were among Space's key features. But though he was closely associated with the Britpop era his musical tastes dated back to an earlier period. "He was a punk rocker and once he got known he wanted out. He just wasn't interested. He wanted to be in a cult band," explained Scott.

Following Parle's departure, Space went on to record the equally well-received album Tin Planet in 1998 which included the hit "The Ballad of Tom Jones", performed with Catatonia lead singer Cerys Matthews. The band later wrote tracks for Jones himself but eventually split in 2005.

Parle, who is believed to have lived alone, was seen falling in the middle of a road by eyewitnesses after leaving a fish bar in Dingle at 11.30pm on Saturday night. Passersby, including a taxi full of passengers, stopped to help him. He was taken to Royal Liverpool Hospital where he later died. A post mortem examination will be held to establish the cause of death.

Police are not treating the incident as a murder investigation but they are examining CCTV footage and are keen to talk to a man and woman seen in the vicinity around the time of Parle's death.

A police spokesman said: "Officers investigating the death are keen to speak with anyone who may have been in the area around this time and particularly any taxi drivers using this busy route to come forward." Former band mate Dave Palmer said: "It's the saddest, most tragic end you could have." He added: "Space continued to have success after Andy left but the band changed and lost something. Even though we had another brilliant drummer there was something about Andy's style which was unique."