www.malcolmhardee.co.uk



"DROWNED COMIC WAS STILL CLUTCHING HIS BEER"

www.lse.co.uk
Wednesday, 20th July 2005


Hell-raising comedian Malcolm Hardee, who drowned in the Thames after a marathon drinking session, was still clutching his bottle of beer when his body was brought up three days later, a police diver told an inquest today.

The 55 year-old father of two, who helped launch the careers of Jo Brand, Harry Hill, Johnny Vegas and a host of other top comics, went missing on 30 January after a late night binge on the floating pub where he was landlord.

He had intended to go to his houseboat, moored ten yards nearby, and which he used to reach by dingy, but he never arrived.

On February 2 a police search team was called and his body was located on the bottom of the river, still holding a bottle of his favourite Budweiser.

PC Martin Spirito told Southwark Coroners Court in a statement: "The search commenced at 10am. At 10.24am one of the officers came up and said he had found a lifeless body. I followed the officer's line down. Six metres down I saw a white male. The male had a bottle of beer clenched in his right hand."

Sergeant Roy Dawson, overseeing the dive, said: "The bottle was held in his right hand. It fell from his hand on the ascent and was placed beside him in the tray."

Coroner John Sampson, recording a verdict of accidental death, said. "The cause of his death was drowning. He was last seen on the quay side outside the Wibbley Wobbley public house at about 6am on Sunday January 30 having left friends inside the pub some while before. It appears that whilst he was attempting to access his houseboat from the quay he fell into the dock and was recovered three days later. I believe on the evidence I have heard that the only plausible explanation is that an accident took place here. I declare that this is an accidental death.

Hardee's career begun with a stretch in prison for stealing the Rolls Royce of a prominent politician. On release he became a comedian, pioneering the naked balloon dance on infamous 80s late night ITV show OTT and becoming the inspiration for generations of comics that followed.

At his comedy club Up The Creek, he was pictured on the wall as Christ in a parady of Da Vinci's 'The Last Supper', with pals such as ex-girlfriend Brand and Julian Clary as disciples and Ben Elton as Judas Escariot.

The coroner noted: "He does seem to have had a colourful career and been a most interesting and valuable friend and an important member of his family."

Brother Alex Hardee, who is also manager of pop band the Scissor Sisters, said he had fallen in the dock before and someone had to pull him out. "It just seemed obvious the next day the little dingy was floating on its own further down the dock. That night it had been dark, he had had a few drinks, it was the middle of winter. He didn't stand a chance."

Friend Jamie Harris had been drinking with Hardee that fateful Saturday evening.

"The last time I saw him he had a couple of bottles of beer with him. He said he was going to go, it was about 4.30am. I can't be certain. I was quite drunk myself. "

Barmaid Magita Stuber said: "The last time I saw him he had two bottles of vodka, one in each pocket. He was in a fantastic mood. He used to have quite a bit to drink before going on stage and he had had a bit that night before performing. He was drunk when he left us."

The inquest heard that a pathologist found large quantities of alcohol in the comedian's blood and urine.

Speeaking outside court, sister Clare Hardee said: "Malcolm never had any enemies ever. Right now I am angry with him because he had so much more living to do. He would have made a great old age pensioner had he lived."

Clare and Malcolm's son Frank, 19, an undergraduate at Oxford University, had both tried to persuade him to live somewhere more landlocked. "We both begged him to move to a flat," said Clare. "We knew about his recklessness. We knew he had fallen in before. The boat where it was was not the best place to be."


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Photo by John Fleming, 1995

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