CamdenNewJournal

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Fans gather to pay tribute to George Michael at his house in Highgate Village

Wham! star's death was announced late on Christmas Day

26 December, 2016 — By Dan Carrier

Fans Margaret Sorrell and Sarah Butler-Ford outside the star’s home today

FANS gathered this morning (Boxing Day) at the Highgate home of George Michael, the global pop star who passed away on Christmas Day.

By 11am scores of mourners – joined by TV crews and reporters from around the world – were outside his home in The Grove, where tearful fans of the singer laid wreaths and lit candles.

Mother and daughter Margaret Sorrell and Sarah Butler-Ford from Islington brought candles to light.

Sarah told the New Journal: “I loved George from the moment I left the womb – my mum is such a big fan. She was totally dedicated to him and it rubbed off on me. We adored his songs – we can’t believe he has gone.”

Margaret said she had first fallen in love with his voice when she saw him appear on Top of the Pops as a teenager. She said: “He was electric – I just loved him as soon as I heard him. That was it for me.”

She spoke of how she was devastated to hear the news, which broke late on Christmas Day when Mr Michael’s publicist issued a brief statement that said he had passed away peacefully in his sleep at his country house in Oxfordshire.

She added: “It was such a shock – we could not believe it. We had to come here to pay our respects.”

Margaret recalled how she had gone to a concert with a friend when Mr Michael had split from his early collabrator Andrew Ridgeley in Wham! wearing T-shirts they had made that spelt the band’s name out.

She said: “I was in my 30s then and the magazine Just 17 took a picture of us. My daughter, who was a teenager, was a bit embarassed at the time to see her mum in the magazine.”

Billie Laing and Alex Charalam Boys

Tearful nursery school teacher Billie Laing travelled from Hertfordshire early on Boxing Day morning to pay her respects – and told the New Journal it wasn’t the first visit she had made to Mr Michael’s Highgate house. She said: “A couple of years ago I got my class to paint pictures for him based on photographs from a gig he did at the Albert Hall, so I brought them down here to give to him. It was Christmas Eve and one of his relatives opened the door to me and took them. They said he was having a rest so I didn’t get to meet him, but they said he’d have been very grateful for the pictures.”

Alex Charalam Boys had brought flowers from her Enfield house and told the New Journal what Mr Michael, who was born in East Finchley to a London Greek Cypriot family, meant to people of her community. She said: “I remember hearing him on London Greek radio and he was very aware and proud of his heritage, and of his family. He never lost touch with his roots.”

She added that his legacy would live on. She said: “He was inspirational. He was timeless. He was an incredible singer, an incredible person.”

She recalled how Mr Michael had thrown a free ‘thank you’ concert at the Chalk Farm Roundhouse for NHS nurses in 2006, giving away every ticket to staff to say thank you for the care they gave to his mother, Lesley, who had died from cancer in 1997.

She said: “That sums up what a kind and generous person he was.”

The home had its curtains drawn on the ground floor but two people – believed to be his cousins – watched silently from an upper floor as flowers were laid at the front gate.

Kentish Town-based dustbin round worker Paul Lewis met and befriended Mr Michael as he covered the Highagate patch. He added: “Rest In Peace, George. God bless you, from all of us on Round Eight.”

George Michael

His publicist announced his passing, which police say was “unexplained but not suspicious”, in a statement that read: “It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period. The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this dificult and emotional time.’

Mr Michael, whose career took off in the 1980s as one half of the pop duo Wham!, sold around 100 million records in a career that spanned four decades.

He was known to be a friendly and approachable face in Highgate, with staff on Hampstead Heath speaking fondly of meeting him on walks and cafe workers in the village remarking he was generous with his time – and tips.

The New Journal revealed in 2010 how the singer had turned up at a fan’s birthday party being held at Greek bistro The Carob Tree in Swain’s Lane, a short walk from his house in The Grove, and entertained them with a tableside concert. Fans stuck their noses to the restaurant’s windows to catch a glimpse of him performing.

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