McQueen killed himself out of grief for mother

Andy McSmith
Thursday 29 April 2010 00:00
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Alexander McQueen, one of the greatest fashion designers of his generation, killed himself while he was half out of his mind with grief on the eve of his mother's funeral, an inquest established yesterday.

He locked himself in his flat, and set about trying to kill himself "while the balance of his mind was disturbed", the Westminster coroner said.

A post mortem examination found he had taken a "substantial" quantity of cocaine, and a quantity of sleeping pills that was "just into the fatal range". He had also cut both wrists with a kitchen knife and meat cleaver, although without causing a fatal injury. He had attempted to hang himself from a shower attachment, which buckled under his weight. Finally, he hanged himself in his spare bedroom.

He left a scrawled note on the back of an art book in his Mayfair flat saying "Please look after my dogs". He added an apology, and asked to be buried in church. Police officers who visited his flat after his death discovered that he had also been searching the internet for information on suicide.

The coroner, Dr Paul Knapman, described Mr McQueen as "a man who from a modest start climbed to the pinnacle of his profession". He added: "It seems that he had a past history of self-harm and, no doubt fuelled by cocaine, has resorted to desperate measures to end his life."

Lee Alexander McQueen was born in Lewisham in 1969, the son of a taxi driver, and shot to fame in 1994, the year he obtained a master's degree in fashion design at Central St Martin's College, London, when his entire degree collection was bought by the magazine editor Isabella Blow.

He founded his own Alexander McQueen label, and worked for five years as head designer at Givenchy. The Gucci group bought 50 per cent of his company in 2000, but he stayed on as creative director and joint owner.

But, behind the story of dazzling success, there was a personal history of loneliness, anxiety and depression. The inquest heard that he had twice taken overdoses of pills, in May and July 2009.

In July, he was referred to a psychiatrist, Dr Stephen Pereira at London's St Thomas's hospital, who tried to persuade him to accept help from a clinical psychologist, but McQueen was very reluctant to be treated. Dr Pereira told the inquest he diagnosed McQueen with a mixed depressive and anxiety disorder. "He certainly felt very pressured by his work but it was a double-edged sword," Dr Pereira said. "He felt it was the only area of his life where he felt he had achieved something. Usually after a show he felt a huge come-down. He felt isolated, it gave him a huge low."

He added that, after his mother's death, McQueen was "overwhelmed with grief" and "felt that was the one link that had gone from his life and there was very little to live for".

His mother's funeral was due to take place on 12 February. On 11 February, McQueen's long-serving housekeeper, Cesar Garcia, arrived at the flat and, finding the front door on a lock and chain, let himself in through the back way. McQueen's three dogs were whining and, after a search, Mr Garcia found the body in the wardrobe of the spare bedroom.

He rang McQueen's personal assistant, Kate Jones, and exclaimed: "He's gone. He's gone for good. He's dead. He's hanged himself." When paramedics arrived, they confirmed that McQueen was dead. Recording his verdict, the coroner added that there was no evidence whatever that anyone else was implicated.

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