Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home News UK

Charles Kennedy's death caused by alcoholism

Published 05/06/2015

Charles Kennedy died as a result of his long fight with a drink problem, a post-mortem examination has concluded.

In a statement, the former Liberal Democrat leader's family said the post-mortem found that he suffered a "major haemorrhage".

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy being congratulated by his girlfriend Sarah Gurling (left) and parents Mary and Ian, at the Liberal Club in Whitehall. John Stillwell/PA Wire.
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy being congratulated by his girlfriend Sarah Gurling (left) and parents Mary and Ian, at the Liberal Club in Whitehall. John Stillwell/PA Wire.

"The report makes clear this was a consequence of his battle with alcoholism," it said.

"We are grateful to the many friends and also medical experts who sought to help down the years but ultimately this was an illness Charles could not conquer despite all the efforts he and others made."

The family said they had been "touched beyond measure by the outpouring of warmth" from all parts of the country and all sides of politics after 55-year-old Mr Kennedy died suddenly at his home in Fort William on Monday

"The pain we feel has been at least eased somewhat by the reaction of so many people across Scotland, the UK and beyond, and by the affection expressed by politicians across the spectrum.

"It has become all too apparent to us how much Charles meant to so many people and how many lives he touched."

Mr Kennedy's ex-wife Sarah and 10-year-old son Donald attended a special session in the House of Commons on Wednesday, when MPs delivered a series of warm tributes to their popular former colleague.

"The words and images of that day, and of so many other tributes, will be there for us to look back on with pride in Charles, and Donald will always know what a special father he had," the family said.

The family thanked the public authorities and emergency services for dealing with the death "with such courtesy, kindness and efficiency" and said funeral arrangements could now be made and announced in due course.

Mr Kennedy admitted publicly that he had been receiving treatment for an alcohol problem just months after leading the party to its greatest success in the 2005 general election.

Despite declaring his hope to continue at the head of the party, he was forced to stand down in the face of the threat of resignations by senior colleagues.

He lost his Commons seat after 32 years last month as the SNP almost swept the board north of the border in the general election.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said he hoped one legacy of Mr Kennedy's untimely death would be a better public understanding of the dangers of excessive drinking.

"We knew he had a battle with alcoholism and it was one that he ultimately lost. I can only hope that people will have a greater understanding of alcoholism as an illness," he said.

"That he was such an outstanding public figure whilst he was ill shows how remarkable he was. It is important to remember how Charles lived and not just how he died. The warmth of the appreciation for Charles' life from far and wide has touched his family and friends."

Tony Blair's ex-spin doctor Alastair Campbell, who built a close friendship with his former political opponent around the "shared enemy" of the battle with booze, said he hoped confirmation that alcohol abuse led to the death would make politicians take it more seriously as an illness.

The pair had been due to meet up today to mark the retirement of Mr Campbell's brother as the piper at Glasgow University, where Mr Kennedy previously served as rector.

"The response since Charles died has been remarkable and I think one of the reasons is that people realised that, amid his confidence and his evident political skills, there was a real humanity and vulnerability to him," he said.

"None of us are surprised that alcoholism played a part in his tragic death but what has been great about the tributes is that they have focused on so much more than this.

"I hope that remains the case as people continue to remember him as we move towards the funeral and then subsequent memorials.

"I also hope that politicians of all parties develop a better understanding of alcoholism, take it more seriously and devise policies to treat it as a disease on a par with the other major diseases.

"Today is a particularly poignant day because Charles was due to be joining me at a farewell party for my brother Donald, who is retiring from his role as official piper at Glasgow University where Charles was once rector.

"We will obviously be paying tribute to his memory and reflecting on the loss so many are feeling."

Mr Kennedy's former campaign manager Conn O'Neill said: "For just a year, I had the great honour of knowing Charles Kennedy. Through the most tumultuous times in Scottish politics, it was a pleasure to be by his side and to share in his insight.

"Today's revelation that his death is related to alcohol in no way diminishes the great tragedy of his loss.

"Charles's long suffering from a terrible illness should not be trivialised as a problem or 'his demons'. The legacy of Charles Kennedy is far greater. Let us continue to reflect upon the positive impact he has had on the lives of so many."

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph