Michael Barrymore's former wife, Cheryl, dies of cancer

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The Independent Online

Cheryl Barrymore, the former wife and agent of entertainer Michael, has died of lung cancer aged 56.

Cheryl Barrymore, the former wife and agent of entertainer Michael, has died of lung cancer aged 56.

Mrs Barrymore was diagnosed six weeks ago but kept her condition secret from all but close family and friends.

She died at St John and St Elizabeth Hospital in St John's Wood, north London, yesterday afternoon with her sister Carol by her side, her friend and publicist Max Clifford said.

Mrs Barrymore, who was married to the television presenter for 21 years, was credited with guiding him to stardom before they divorced in 1997. Mr Barrymore now lives in New Zealand and the two had had no contact since their acrimonious split.

Mr Clifford said: "Cheryl was diagnosed with lung cancer only six weeks ago. She elected to go home rather than have chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

"The doctors told her that treatment might have given her a bit more time but she didn't want all that. She wanted to make the most of what time she had left. She slipped into a coma yesterday and died with her sister Carol by her side."

He added: "I suppose she will be best remembered as playing an important part in building the career of a man who was one of the biggest stars in British television."

She remained in the headlines in recent years because of continuing interest in her one time partner's fall from grace.-

The presenter of shows including Strike It Lucky and My Kind Of Music saw his career destroyed in 2001 when a partygoer, Stuart Lubbock, was found dead in the swimming pool at his Essex mansion.

In September 2002, Mrs Barrymore accused the comedian of lying at Mr Lubbock's inquest when he said he could not swim, and therefore could not attempt to rescue 31-year-old from the pool in which he was found dead. Mr Barrymore denied her allegations.

The following month her memoirs, Catch A Falling Star: My Life With Michael Barrymore, were serialised in a newspaper and included the claim that her husband was high on drugs when he attended the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. His ex-wife described his behaviour at the service as "embarrassing". The memoirs also included claims about incidents of violence.

Despite their acrimonious split, Mrs Barrymore maintained that he had been the love of her life and said she was devastated when he came out as gay in 1995. In the wake of the break up she became ill with the stress, her weight dropping to just five stone and she became severely depressed.

"Michael walked away from us all," she said. "He left my life, and our friends had no contact either." But she resumed her career as a manager. Her most recent client was Rebecca Loos - Clifford brought Mrs Barrymore on board to help the kiss-and-tell girl forge a TV career.

Michael Barrymore was Cheryl's second husband. She remained close to her first, theatre producer Greg Smith.