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Culture

Heath Ledger's death 'accidental'

Latest update : 2009-02-23

Heath Ledger, the Australian star of 'Brokeback Moutain,' died of accidental intoxication ' resulting from the abuse of prescription medications,' New York's chief medical examiner's office has concluded.

AFP - Hollywood star Heath Ledger, found dead in his New York apartment two weeks ago, died of accidental intoxication brought on by his abuse of a cocktail of prescription drugs, officials said Wednesday.
   
Ledger, who scored critical acclaim for his performance as a repressed gay cowboy in "Brokeback Mountain" in 2005, was taking a mixture of pain killers, sedatives and antidepressants used to treat anxiety and sleep problems.
   
"Mr Heath Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam, and doxylamine," the city's chief medical examiner's office said in a statement.
   
"We have concluded that the manner of death is accident, resulting from the abuse of prescription medications," it added.
   
The cause of the 28-year-old Australian's death had been shrouded in mystery, with an initial autopsy proving inconclusive and conflicting speculation that he was a drug user and suffering from pneumonia.
   
He had been found naked and unresponsive in his Manhattan apartment, with police saying that prescription medications were found in the residence but that a rolled-up 20 dollar bill near the body had tested negative for drugs.
   
His family insisted throughout that he would not have taken his own life.
   
Ledger told The New York Times in November, during the shooting of the latest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight," in which he portrays The Joker, that he often took Ambien, a prescription sleeping aid, to help his insomnia.
   
"Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night," he told The Times. "I couldn't stop thinking. My body was exhausted and my mind was still going," he said.
   
He was reported to have said that taking one pill had no effect on him and that he'd take a second one to fall asleep, only to awake an hour later with his "mind still racing."
   
Ledger's father Kim, said he hoped the official toxicology results would end rumors surrounding his son's death and appealed for privacy.
   
"Today's results put an end to speculation, but our son's beautiful spirit and enduring memory will forever remain in our hearts," he said in a statement.
   
"While no medications were taken in excess, we learned today the combination of doctor-prescribed drugs proved lethal for our boy," he said, adding "we respectfully request the worldwide media allow us time to grieve privately."
   
Ledger was seen as a rising star in Hollywood and his death on January 22 sent shockwaves through the film industry. His memorial service in Los Angeles drew an A-list of mourners including Tom Cruise and wife Katie Holmes.
   
Arrangements for Ledger's burial in Perth have not been made public, but it is expected his family will hold a private funeral later this week at which they will bury their son in a family plot.
   
Ledger first came to prominence by acting as a homosexual athlete in a little-known Australian soap opera, "Sweat," in 1996.
   
At 19, he left Sydney for Hollywood, where his talent was spotted by Mel Gibson when auditioning 500 actors for the role of his son in "The Patriot" -- a break that led to his leading role in "A Knight's Tale."
   
He was nominated for a best actor Oscar for his "Brokeback Mountain" role and had recently been working on "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," directed by Terry Gilliam, which was due out next year.
   
 

Date created : 2008-02-07

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