Fear of arrest led to Fashanu hanging himself

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The Independent Online
JUSTIN FASHANU, the former footballer, hanged himself, believing mistakenly that there was a warrant out for his arrest, an inquest heard yesterday.

The former striker, once rated as one of the country's brightest young stars and the first openly gay footballer, was found hanging from a rafter in a derelict garage in east London last May.

He had fled to Britain after being charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old boy in the United States - an offence that carries a maximum 20-year jail term. In a suicide note he said he was afraid he would not get a fair trial because of his homosexuality.

But Detective Constable Andrew Ormison, from Shoreditch police station, told the coroner that inquiries in the US had revealed there was no warrant for the arrest of the ex-Nottingham Forest and Norwich player. He was the first black British player to change clubs for a pounds 1m transfer fee when he moved to Nottingham Forest in 1981.

His family and friends spoke yesterday of their shock at his death and said he had appeared excited and positive about his new career in television.

His brother, John, the ex-Wimbledon striker and former Gladiators presenter, sat with his wife and family while witnesses spoke of Justin's last days. The two had not spoken for seven years.

Kaveh Abadani, who shared a flat with him in north London, said: "He was happy and was starting a new career in broadcasting. He was talking about a pilot programme he wanted to do and that he hoped it would be a success. There was no sign of depression, nothing."

On the afternoon of his death, Fashanu went to Chariots, a health club in east London, and staff said he was laughing and chatting. As he left he said: "Thanks, I have had a good time in here." The following day he was found hanging by electrical flex from the rafters of the garage.

In a suicide note, found in the pages of his filofax, Fashanu said: "I wish that I was more of a good son, brother, uncle and friend. But I tried my best this seems to be a really hard world.

"I hope that Jesus, that I love, welcomes me home. I will at last find peace ... Being gay and a personality is so hard but everybody has it hard at the moment so I can't complain about that.

"I want to say I didn't sexually assault the young boy. He willing had sex with me and then the next day asked for money. When I said no he said `you wait and see'.

"If that is the case, I hear you say why did I run? Well, justice isn't always fair. I felt I wouldn't get a fair trial because of my homosexuality. Silly thing really, but you know what happens when you panic.

"I want to die rather than put my friends and family through any more unhappiness."

Dr Stephen Ming Chan, the coroner for Poplar, recorded a verdict of suicide and said the former Barnardo's boy had died from hanging. He added: "All in all, it was a very tragic end for a man who had become a fallen hero and, in the eyes of many, a man who had made a success of his life against tremendous odds ..."