Belfast Telegraph

Video: Last footage of Alex Higgins shows cupboards stacked with food...but he couldn’t eat a bite

While his eyes still burned with his trademark defiance, Alex Higgins'
body is ravaged by malnourishment and cancer as he shows us the stock of food he is unable to eat because of the pain
While his eyes still burned with his trademark defiance, Alex Higgins' body is ravaged by malnourishment and cancer as he shows us the stock of food he is unable to eat because of the pain
Alex Higgins: Snooker. 1972
Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins, 1949-2010

Alex Higgins
'The Hurricane' played snooker with a style and verve never before seen and won the World Championship in 1972, beating John Spencer in the final and again in 1982. That latter triumph, against six-times champion Ray Reardon, is best remembered for Higgins' tears at the end as he cradled his baby daughter in his arms. Higgins' win over Jimmy White in the semi-final was regarded as one of the all time great matches, particularly the Belfast cueman's 69 break in the penultimate frame on the way to a 16-15 victory. The Hurricane is almost as well known for his off-the-table bust-ups and his many run-ins with snooker officialdom over the years. But despite his difficulties, he remains one of the most gifted players ever to pick up a cue, with Ronnie O'Sullivan the only current star worthy of a mention in the same breath.
Alex Higgins
Alex Higgins
This close-up picture of Alex Higgins taken by Ulster photographer Cathal McNaughton
Alex Higgins
ALEX HIGGINS Until the robotic Stephen Hendry turned up as a 21-year-old world snooker champion in 1990, Alex "Hurricane" Higgins had been the youngest ever winner of the title, when he beat John Spencer in the best-of-73-frames 1972 final. It was Higgins' first appearance at the tournament and his flamboyant style and break-neck speed around the table earned him the "Hurricane" sobriquet. It is a nickname that could just as easily have applied to his life away from the beize, although the notoriously sedate snooker arena also witnessed its fair share of storms. At the 1986 UK championships, Higgins was fined and disqualified for head-butting a referee. Four years later, after a first round defeat at The Crucible, Higgins punched a tournament official before going on to announce his retirement from the game.
Snooker legend Alex Higgins. 2010
Alex Higgins in 1999 at his friend Ollie Reed's funeral in County Cork
Alex Higgins pictured at a bar in Belfast
Alex 'Hurrican' Higgins
Alex 'Hurrican' Higgins.
Alex Higgins pictured at a bar in Belfast where he spoke about his his autobiography "Alex Higgins 'My Story' from the eye of the Hurricane".
Alex Higgins. 16/3/81.
Alex "Hurricane" Higgins pictured 19th April 1980.259/80
Alex Higgins. 10/5/85.
Former World Champion snooker star Alex Higgins enjoys a day out at the races despite fighting off the effects of throat cancer.
Alex Higgins pictured in the mid 1980's
Alex Higgins considering his next shot during the 1983 World Snooker Championships in Sheffield.
Oliver Reid, Reg Presley & Alex Higgins
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Exhibition match at Waterfront. (19/06/1997)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Oliver Reed and Alex Higgins. (December 1992)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. (02/06/1993)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. A familiar sights for snooker fans... Irish professional champion Alex Higgins wiping his cue with a towel during last night's title match against Dennis Taylor in the Ulster Hall. Higgins won the first session 7-2 in the 41 frame decider which is being presented by the 'Belfast Telegraph' and Kearney Promotions. (03/02/1978)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Alex Higgins senior pictured with his son after Alex had regained the Smithwick's Irish Professional Snooker Championship in Maysfield Leisure Centre. Alex won the final against reigning champion Dennis Taylor by 16 frames to 11.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. World professional snooker champion Alex Higgins (right), who was in Belfast to-day for the wedding of his sister, Jean, of Abingdon Street to John Robson, Crumlin Road. The couple were married in St. Aidan's Parish Chursh, Blythe Street, Sandy Row, Belfast.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Four Ulster sportsmen were given Texaco Sportstars of the Year Awards (1982) at a banquet in Dublin last - John Watson, Barry McGuigan, Gerry Armstrong and Alex Higgins. Photographed at the ceremony were McGuigan, Northern Ireland team manager Billy Bingham, who collected the trophy on behalf of Armstrong and Higgins.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Alex Higgins, pictured with the championship trophy he intends to hold on to. (12/03/1983)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Snooker star Alex Higgins signs autographs for twins Brenda (left) and Geraldine Brammled at the press conference to announce the details of the Irish Professional Snooker Championship, which will be held in the Antrim Forum from February 9-12. (1988)
17-05-1982, World Snooker Champion, Alex Higgins is saluted by his baby daughter Lauren with his wife Lynne, after a nail-biting battle against six-times champion Ray Reardon at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre.
05-01-1980. Confetti scatters at the wedding of Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins and bride Lynn, at the United Reform church in Wilmslow.
05-01-1980. Confetti scatters at the wedding of Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins and bride Lynn, at the United Reform church in Wilmslow.
21-04-1986, Alex Higgins enjoys a cigarette during a moment's break during the Embassy World Snooker Championship match against John Spencer in Sheffield.
13-04-1973, world professional snooker champion Alex Higgins shows off his new look, as created by Tom Gilbey.
Noel Cairns holds a shopping list given to him by former snooker champion Alex Higgins, near Ulidia House in south Belfast where Higgin's body was discovered.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Surrounded by beautiful girls, the lightning Alex. 'Hurricane' Higgins signs autographs for fans Jacqui McFerran, Marion Allen and Catherine McFerran. (15/04/80)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. World snooker champion Alexander 'Hurricane' Higgins in Belfast. (08/11/1976)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. (February 1978)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Exhibition match at Waterfront. (19/06/1997)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend.
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Exhibition match at Waterfront. (19/06/1997)
Alex Higgins. Snooker Legend. Exhibition match at Waterfront. (19/06/1997)
Former World Snooker Player Champion Alex "Hurricane" Higgins at his book signing in Easons 02.06.07.
Snooker legend Alex Higgins spotted Tallaght 2005.
Alex Higgins 4/3/82
Snooker star Alex Higgins is taken to hospital with stab wounds after an incident involving a woman. 2008
25-7-2010Flowers for Alex Higgins are left at a muralon the Donegal Road to in honour of the snooker legend who died yesterday in Belfast.
Alex Higgins

By Aaron Tinney

Alex Higgins had enough food to 'feed an army' when he died - but couldn't eat a bite.

These heartbreaking final pictures of the once-mighty Hurricane were taken when he invited Sunday Life to video him at his Belfast flat.

The footage — which is the last ever video of Higgins alive — shows how the tragic cueman spent his dying days shuffling round his humble home.

As the newspaper filmed Higgins in his kitchen, he turned to the cameraman and whispered: “I’ve enough food in here to feed an army, but I can’t eat a bite. It’s too painful to swallow this stuff now.”

Last week, a Belfast coroner ruled that Higgins had died from multiple causes — including malnutrition.

Sunday Life released dramatic clips of the final footage of the Hurricane to show that he was cared for until the end. His beloved family left his flat heated and his cupboards and fridge stacked with food.

Higgins said his daily routine could be filmed after he gave the newspaper his last ever interview on May 8.

When Sunday Life arrived at his sheltered accommodation flat on south Belfast’s Sandy Row with a camera, he inched open his door and beckoned us in with the words: “Come in, take pictures, and talk to me.”

Just weeks later he was found dead and alone in bed.

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Higgins showed Sunday Life into his living room and then into his kitchen — laden with medicines, ready meals, and protein shakes used by bodybuilders to build their strength.

His emaciated body betrayed the consequences of a lifetime of excess and the ravages of his long battle with throat cancer.

And barely able to talk as his vocal cords had been ravaged by throat cancer and a vicious mugging in 2008 when he was strangled, Higgins wheezed: “I take all this stuff to try and get myself back to health.

“I want back up to at least 10 stone.

“I’m now just 6st 7lbs. I take liquid meals and gravy, and mix these protein milkshakes.”

Helpless Higgins was reduced to sucking down pate and pureed meals as he’d lost all his teeth after gruelling radiotheraphy treatment as he battled cancer.

He had 10 sets of dentures when he died — but he couldn’t use them as they left him in agony.

As Higgins showed the stacks of treats in his cupboards, he made the sad confession: “I can’t eat any of it.”

Houseproud Higgins also showed how his wardrobe and airing cupboard were stacked with clean sheets and clothes.

“It’s not that bad, is it?” the man who had once lived in a Cheshire mansion asked.

At one point he dropped his glasses, and when he bent down to pick them up he gasped: “I’m getting old... I’m the walking dead.”

Higgins’ sisters Jean Simpson and Anne Brown, who lived nearby, regularly filled his house with shopping and mashed up his food in the hope he could get it down.

But pals of the family told Sunday Life Higgins was in too much pain to eat from years of battering his body with the excesses of booze binges.

One close friend said: “Alex never ate that much. Even in his hey-day, dinner would be booze and cigarettes. He was always twitching away and picking over his food, basically because he was an alcoholic.

“And like most alcoholics, he never ate that much. In the end, he just didn’t want to endure the pain that eating caused him.”

Higgins’ sister Jean — who is now on holiday in Turkey to get away from the pain of losing her brother — told us before she left: “We always left his home piled with food and pureed dinners.”

Jean was among the relatives who found Higgins body on July 24.

They had arrived at his flat to deliver food and check he was okay.

Last Tuesday, coroner Brian Sherrard said a post-mortem examination into Higgins’ death showed that the 61-year-old had died from four “entirely natural” causes.

Two-time world champ Higgins was finally beaten by a devastating combination of malnutrition, pneumonia, a bronchial condition and throat cancer.

When filmed, Higgins’ trophies and a treasured set of snooker balls were lying scattered on his living room floor.

He barely had the strength to pick up a cue when he spoke.

Higgins stepped over the abandoned tools of his trade and slumped in his favourite armchair to speak about his life.

His parting shot to was the vow: “I’m going to get back to health to play in a veterans’ tournament in November.”

The comeback never materialised.

Last month thousands gathered for his funeral in the centre of Belfast where Higgins had fought to cope with the fame and fortune thrust on him in his youth.

Sunday Life

Video interview by David Ferrarotto

More videos

Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins - tributes to a sporting legend

Snooker says farewell to Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins

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