When I shook stick-thin Alex Higgins’ withered hand during his last ever interview just 10 weeks ago, I feared he was a dead man walking.
The once-mighty Hurricane spent hours chatting to me in May — and also gave me unprecedented access to his flat and daily routine.
Despite flashes of wit and bravery in the face of cancer, frail Higgins also seemed resigned to the fact that he had only months to live as he chatted to me.
We ran his searingly honest interviews over two weeks, on May 9 and 16.
Today, one moment sticks with me from the hours we spent chatting.
The former wildman confessed at his flat that his biggest fear was that he would die alone without a woman in his life.
His prediction came trueon Saturday when his lonely, wasted corpse was found in bed by his devastated sisters.
Higgins showed me around his flat just 10 weeks ago — and when we reached his bedroom he stood beside the bed where he would die and wheezed: “This mattress hasn’t seen any action in years. I’ll die celibate.”
He added that tears still fill his eyes when he thinks of how he treated his “last great love” Siobhan Kidd — who ditched him in 1989 after he battered her with a hairdryer.
Higgins insisted during our interview that Siobhan was still his “one true love” who was on his mind “every day”.
“I wish she was here to look after me now,” he said.
“But I f***ed it up. Now I’m on my own... celibate. I’ve been celibate for years and years.” It was an astonishing confession that would never have happened when Hurricane was in his trailblazing, womanising prime.
Instead, he would have swept into a room dressed in a loud shirt and suit and blown away everything in his path with his wit, cue — or fists, depending how he was feeling.
When I spoke to him, the lightest of breezes would have knocked the former double world champ off his feet.
The fallen cueman was a pale, shrivelled six-stone shadow of his former self, passing his remaining days in The Royal Bar opposite the flat and watching telly.
“I love to sit and watch a bit of Cash in the Attic,” he told me.
He showed me the pureed meals he was forced to eat as radiotherapy had caused all his teeth to fall out and his 10 sets of dentures were too painful to wear.
And hunched on his favourite seat in his darkened Belfast flat, the wrinkled figure opened up about his “world of regrets and heartbreak”. When I spoke to him, Higgins said he weighed just 6st 7lbs, struggled to move and spoke in a rasping gasp as his throat had been destroyed by cancer operations.
Summoning his fading strength he told me: “I’ve been celibate for at least the last 10 years.
“I’ve never once had a woman in this flat, and there isn’t a day goes by when I don’t wish that Siobhan Kidd was by my side.”
He also admitted that he’d sunk so low he’d contemplated suicide. “All I’ve got now to stop the feelings of loneliness and depression and suicide I’ve had is a Bible my mum gave me when I was 15,” he said.
“Now that I’m alone I need it more than ever to give me the power to fight.”
But despite all the despair, Higgins still displayed flashes of wit and showed he was convinced snooker could still be his salvation.
He said his greatest ambition was to play in a veteran’s tournament this year.
And he also told me he knows at least four top snooker players who took bribes to chuck tournament matches. He spoke about the bribery claims in the wake of claims that his unrelated namesake John Higgins took a monster bung of £261,000 to fix matches.
A fighter to the end, Higgins told me: “Snooker now is a mess. I was the best, and I could still beat all the young ones.”
Last night calls were growing for Higgins to be given a state funeral — and honoured like George Best.
There is already speculation that a host of snooker legends would fly in for the service —including Dennis Taylor, who last night said he forgave Higgins for threatening to have him shot.
Higgins last Interview in full
Shrivelled six-stone snooker legend Alex Higgins today confesses that he fears he'll die alone without a woman in his life.
The once-mighty Hurricane also admitted he hasn't had sex for more than 10 years and now turns to the Bible to help him battle suicidal thoughts.
Higgins said tears still fill his eyes when he thinks of how he treated his "last great love" Siobhan Kidd -- who ditched him in 1989 after he battered her with a hairdryer.
Frail two-time world champ Higgins -- whose body has been ravaged by cancer -- poured out his heartbreak in the second of his searingly honest interviews with Sunday Life.
Last week, he claimed to us that he knows at least four top snooker players who took bribes to chuck tournament matches.
The cue-thin 61-year-old also said he turned down a fortune to throw games at the height of his own career.
He was speaking out in the wake of claims that his unrelated namesake John Higgins took a monster bung of £261,000 to fix matches.
Our story of Higgins' fresh bribery claims made headlines across the world, from the UK to the US, Australia and Japan.
But even though the Hurricane's words still carry global power, he was a shattered husk of his former hellraising self last week.
Hunched in his darkened Belfast flat, the wrinkled figure opened up about his "world of regrets and heartbreak".
Higgins now weighs just 6 stone 7lbs, struggles to move, and talks in a wheezing whisper as his vocal cords have been savaged by the affects of throat cancer.
Summoning his fading strength, he gasped: "I've been celibate for at least the last 10 years.
"I've never had a woman in this flat, and there isn't a day goes by when I don't wish that Siobhan was by my side.
"All I've got now to stop the feelings of loneliness and depression and suicide I've had is a Bible my mum gave me when I was 15.
"Now that I'm alone I need it more than ever to give me the power to fight."
The Hurricane's love life is a trail of destruction.
His affair with alcohol wrecked two marriages -- his first to Cara, daughter of a racehorse trainer, and the next to secretary Lynn Roberts.
Lynn became Higgy's second wife in 1980 and is the mother of his children -- Jordan, 26, and 28-year-old Lauren, the daughter he famously cried out for after clinching the 1982 World Championship.
But the union was stormy and by 1983 their marriage was over.
By 1985, Higgins was on a dramatic downward spiral.
He had moved in with his new love, psychology student Siobhan Kidd (pictured left with Higgins).
After a string of blazing rows, Siobhan kicked him into touch after alleging he had beaten her with a hair dryer.
Higgins then took up with Holly Haise, a former call girl, whose home in Manchester he shared for nine months.
In 1997 a boozed-up Hurricane was allegedly stabbed three times by Holly after barging into her house.
Holly says they only had sex a handful of times when they were together.
The last woman Higgins mentions sleeping with in his autobiography is sultry singer Marianne Faithful.
He says in his book that he had a night of passion in 1992 with the ex-squeeze of Rolling Stone Mick Jagger.
After that, there is no mention of any sex in the book.
Higgins insisted yesterday that Siobhan was still his "one true love" who was on his mind "every day".
"I wish she was here to look after me now," he said. "But I f***ed it up.
"Now I'm on my own... celibate. I've been celebrate for years and years.
"Not a day goes by that I don't think of Siobhan.
"She was a lovely brainy blonde, but the rows and the drink and the hairdryer incident were all nails in the coffin of that one."
Higgins says he still sees the son and daughter he had with estranged wife Lynn once a month. "I love them dearly," he says, his cracked voice brimming with emotion.
Higgins added yesterday: "I've never been highly-sexed. I called my first wife Grievous Bodily Harm because she couldn't get enough.
"I used to sit watching old movies in the living room to get away from the bedroom.
"There's no women now."
Before we leave Higgins' flat the shambling former wizard of the green baize takes us into his bedroom.
As he stands by his rumpled double bed, a grim-faced Higgins coughs: "This room hasn't seen any action in years."