Snooker star Higgins 'refused to eat'
Alex "Hurricane" Higgins died from "lack of nourishment" after refusing to eat properly, his friend and fellow snooker star Jimmy White said today.
White said that Higgins was surviving on Guinness and small amounts of pureed food towards the end of his life.
He told the Daily Mirror: "In the end it wasn't cancer that killed him, the cancer had gone, he died from lack of nourishment, how sickening is that?
"His sister Jean would bring food round, make a roast dinner and put it in a blender, but it was hard work to get him to eat anything. Higgins was in a catch-22, he didn't like food very much and couldn't eat because he had no teeth."
A book of condolence for Higgins will be opened in Belfast today to give the city a chance to pay tribute to one of its most famous sons.
The troubled genius of the table was discovered dead in his sheltered home near Belfast city centre on Saturday after years battling throat cancer.
Friends of the charismatic two-times world champion are expected to join snooker fans young and old in signing the book at Belfast City Hall.
Lord Mayor Pat Convery said: "Many citizens and visitors to our city will want to pay tribute to Alex Higgins in recognition of the contribution the Belfast man made to snooker and raising the profile of the sport to a worldwide audience."
The closest friends of 61-year-old Higgins have vowed to send the sporting great off in style, using £10,000 raised for his medical treatment to fund a lavish funeral.
Despite squandering his snooker winnings in a life blighted by drink and gambling, those who knew him best are adamant that Higgins will be given a proper send-off.
Some £10,000 raised to help Higgins receive medical treatment prior to his death will go towards his funeral, it was revealed yesterday.
Alex Higgins' friend and former personal assistant Will Robinson said the remaining money from an auction and Manchester fund-raising dinner would be used to give the snooker star a "great send-off".
"There was £15,000, there's probably about £10,000 in total when we get everything in. Now that's going to pay for a great send-off," Mr Robinson said.
Funeral details have not yet been finalised and Mr Robinson said there may be a delay to allow White to return from Thailand.
"He's asked to hold things up until he gets back. That's the plan and the family have agreed to that," Mr Robinson said.
Higgins' body was discovered after concerned friends broke into his flat having failed to contact him by phone. It is not known how long he had been dead inside the sheltered accommodation apartment in the Sandy Row area where he grew up.
It was a humble end for a former champion considered to be one of the finest snooker players of all time.
Taking up the sport at the age of 11, he won the All-Ireland and Northern Ireland amateur snooker championships in 1968.
After turning professional he became the youngest World Championship winner at his first attempt, beating John Spencer in 1972. The record was eventually beaten when 21-year-old Stephen Hendry claimed the trophy in 1990.
Higgins claimed the title for a second time in 1982.
A controversial figure, Higgins was banned from five tournaments and fined £12,000 in 1986 when he headbutted UK Championship tournament director Paul Hatherell.
In 1990 Higgins threatened to have fellow player Dennis Taylor shot and he was banned for the rest of the season after he punched a tournament director at the World Championship.
But despite his numerous fights and rows with referees, he continued to play the game regularly and appeared at the Irish Professional Championship in 2005 and 2006.
He inspired a generation of players to take up the game, with his influence seen in the style of later crowd favourites such as White and Ronnie O'Sullivan.
O'Sullivan was one of the many players paying tribute to Higgins yesterday.
In a statement on his website, the three-times World Champion said: "Alex was one of the real inspirations behind me getting into snooker. He is a true legend and should be forever remembered as being the finest-ever snooker player."
Former world champion Steve Davis also paid tribute to his former rival.
Davis said: "To people in the game he was a constant source of argument, he was a rebel. But to the wider public he was a breath of fresh air that drew them in to the game.
"He was an inspiration to my generation to take the game up. I do not think his contribution to snooker can be underestimated."