Belfast Telegraph

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

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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