The Who bassist John Entwistle died in a Las Vegas hotel room from a heart attack brought on by taking cocaine on the eve of the band's American tour, a coroner has ruled.
Entwistle spent the evening of 26 June at the Hard Rock Hotel with band members before going to bed with a female companion at 3am. A report from the US coroner's office said the woman, a stripper identified as Alison Rowse, woke at 10am to find the musician "unresponsive and cold to the touch".
At yesterday's inquest at Tewkesbury magistrates' court in Gloucestershire, Professor Alexander Forrest, Britain's leading forensic toxicologist, said: "Cocaine would not have caused death on its own. This was not cocaine poisoning. This sort of level would not have caused his death had it not been for the effects it had on his damaged heart." He estimated the 57-year-old rocker had used the drug three to four hours before his death.
Entwistle, who had been married twice, formed the Who in London in 1964 with singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist Pete Townshend and drummer Keith Moon, who died of a drug overdose in 1978.
At their prime, the group produced the anthemic songs My Generation and Substitute, and the rock opera Tommy. After Entwistle's death, the Who cancelled the opening date of their reunion US tour and played a tribute to "The Ox" at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
Before the three-month tour, Entwistle was living with his long-time girlfriend, Lisa Pritchard-Johnson. His family and friends stayed away from yesterday's inquest, near his home at Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswolds, which went through written statements and evidence gathered by the Nevada authorities.
A picture emerged of a happy man who had health problems caused by high cholesterol and his smoking.
In a statement, Entwistle's only son, Christopher, told the inquest his father had been in high spirits and seemed healthy, with no symptoms of chest pain.
Tim Healey, his GP, said Entwistle had suffered from high blood pressure and high cholesterol for some years. The musician had been smoking 20 cigarettes and drinking six to seven units of alcohol a day but regularly checked his blood and cholesterol levels. Dr Healey said he had prescribed drugs to combat the heart conditions, which included hypertension and a narrowing of the coronary arteries, but he thought the treatment was working because Entwistle had not complained of any further symptoms.
Doctor Jeremy Uff, of Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, who examined the body upon its return from America, described Entwistle's heart condition as severe. He said: "There was severe ischaemic heart disease and the narrowing of the coronary arteries. There was evidence of long- standing heart disease. He had high cholesterol and all three coronary arteries were narrowed. One artery was completely blocked."
Lester Maddrell, the Cheltenham and district coroner, said Entwistle died from the effects of a small, moderate usage of cocaine superimposed on heart disease caused by naturally occurring coronary artery atherosclerosis. Dr Maddrell said: "It's not possible to reduce that verdict."