Mystery surrounds death of Boyzone pin-up Gately

  • @tompeck

The Irish pop singer Stephen Gately, the first boy band member to come out as gay, died on Saturday while holidaying in Majorca. He was 33.

Mr Gately, one of two lead singers in the boyband Boyzone, was found dead lying on a sofa at his home in Port Andratx at 1.45pm on Saturday, after a night of partying. A spokesman for the Spanish police said it had not been established how the singer died, although he added that there did not appear to be any suspicious circumstances.

“There was no suicide note or evidence of any drug use or excessive drinking and the dead man’s friends were at a loss to explain what had happened,” according to a source who had been called to the scene.

“All we know so far is that they had gone out the night before till late and had quite a few drinks and raised the alert when they found Stephen dead.”

Irish solicitor and family friend Gerald Kean spoke on behalf of the singer's family, and ruled out suicide.

"There's no foul play involved and it's not suicide," he said.

"There is nothing untoward, it's not drugs, we don't believe, it's not suicide, it's not murder, it's not a fight. That's what we've been told."

Gately shot to fame in 1995 when Boyzone’s cover of the Osmond’s hit “Love Me For a Reason” reached number 2 in the UK charts. The band became on e of the biggest pop acts of the decade, anjoying a fierce rivalry, at least in terms of record sales, with their boyband contemporaries Take That, selling nearly 20 million records.

But Mr Gately will be remembered not solely for his music. In 1999 he made headlines when he became the first boyband member to reveal himself as gay. Fearing that a former member of Boyzone's security staff was about to sell the story, he revealed that he was in a relationship with a member of a Dutch boyband. The band’s manager Louis Walsh, who was too upset to appear as a judge on last night’s X-Factor, said he was unaware of Mr Gately's sexuality when he made him a member of the band, and that had he been aware he may not have done so.

In 2002 Gately was introduced to internet businessman Andrew Cowles by mutual friends Elton John and David Furnish. The two entered into a civil partnership in 2006 and had remained together since.

Last night Sir Elton said: "David and I are stunned by this tragedy. Stephen was the kindest, gentlest soul.”

On hearing the news Mr Walsh said he was “absolutely devastated” and “in complete shock.” He called Mr Gately “a great man.”

Since finishing their 2009 tour the band has recorded another new album, which had been expected to be released in Spring 2010. As the rest of the band flew to Majorca yesterday Shane Lynch said: “We just need to get over to where he’s passed and work out what we need to do.”

The former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said: “The Gatelys are in my own constituency. I know the family, I know Stephen.

"He was 33 years of age, 15 years at the top, a fine musician, it's just a huge tragedy to Irish entertainment, Irish music and further afield as well."

After the group disbanded in 2000, Mr Gately was the first to embark on a solo career, releasing his album “New Beginning” in the same year, but it enjoyed only modest success. In 2002 he played Joseph in Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s West End Production, the first of many West End roles, including the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

In 2007, inspired by the success of Take That, Boyzone reformed, releasing a new album and selling out two UK tours.