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Reference Library: What Killed Stu?

From: Paul Robertson [75224.153@compuserve.com]
Newsgroups: rec.music.beatles
Subject: Re: Backbeat Question - Stu's Death
Date: Wed, 24 Jan 1996 07:49:37 -0800

Shawn McNulty wrote:

The movie made it seem like that scene when they got beat up directly lead to Stu's brain tumor. Could that possibly be true?

It seems so. A composite story of Stu's death -- which I've assembled from various books & interviews -- goes like this:

On April 10, 1962 -- as Paul, John and Pete Best departed on a plane from Manchester Ringway airport bound for Hamburg -- Astrid was working in her photo studio in Hamburg when she got a phone call from her mother. Stu, who lived with Astrid's family, was having another of his "severe headaches" -- so bad that he sometimes tried to jump out the second-floor window -- and this time it seemed to be worse than ever. Astrid rushed home and they bundled Stu into an ambulance to take him to the hospital. On the way there, Stu died in Astrid's arms.

Millie Sutcliffe, Stu's mother, said later: "At half-past four I was in my bedroom at home in Liverpool. I felt as if a great strong cold wind came through that house, lifted me up and laid me across the bed. For 15 or so minutes, not a muscle in my body was capable of movement. That was the time, I discovered later, when Stuart was dying."

The news reached Millie from Astrid in two telegrams, delivered out of sequence. The first said he had died, the second that he was seriously ill.

Stu's father was away at sea. Millie faced alone the ordeal of breaking the news to her two daughters, then getting leave from the school where she was teaching and booking herself on the first available flight to Hamburg. By chance, it was the same flight on which Brian Epstein and George Harrison were traveling to join the other Beatles. Brian gave her a lift to Manchester, and sat with her on the plane.

At Hamburg airport, Astrid was waiting with John, Paul and Pete Best. Paul and Pete were red-eyed, but John showed no emotion. Their paths then diverged. The Beatles left for the Star-Club, where they were to open in a few hours. While Millie went to the mortuary, to make a formal identification of Stu, and sign the papers for his clothes, watch, and signet ring.

Stu's cause of death was listed officially as "cerebral paralysis due to bleeding into the right ventricle of the brain."

Astrid said later: "Stu's brain was actually expanding -- getting too big for the space it floated in. It's a very rare medical condition, but it can happen. Even if Stuart had lived, he would have been blind and probably paralyzed. He wouldn't have been able to paint. He would have preferred to die."

Millie Sutcliffe bequeathed Stu's brain for scientific research at the hospital which had been treating him. Eighteen months later, a set of German x-ray plates, taken after Stu's death, were brought across to Liverpool by Astrid. They revealed, for the first time, the presence of a small brain tumor. The Hamburg radiologist had attached a note in English: "Note the depressed condition of the skull."

Studying the pictures, Millie remembered a night, some three years before, when Stu had been playing bass with the Beatles, and she had found him in his room late at night with blood pouring from his head after he had been kicked in a scuffle outside Litherland Town Hall.

Astrid was plunged into black despair by Stu's death and for a while seemed to give up on life. She later said, "It was John who saved me. He convinced me, after Stu was gone, that I couldn't behave as if I were a widow. He pretended to be heartless, but I knew what he said came from a heart. 'Make up your mind,' he told me. 'You either live or you die. You can't be in the middle.'"

Hope this helps
Paul

*********************************

From: liveletdie@usa.pipeline.com (M Kintyre)
Newsgroups: rec.music.beatles
Subject: Re: RE: Backbeat Question
Date: 24 Jan 1996 14:33:24 GMT

On Jan 24, 'Shawn McNulty (slmcnulty@tiny.computing.csbsju.edu)' wrote:

The movie made it seem like that scene when they got beat up directly lead to Stu's brain tumor. Could that possibly be true?
No. Stu's autopsy showed bleeding into the brain but no brain tumor. (There is no causal link between brain tumors and head injuries anyway.) The fight -- if indeed it is a real event and not just a Beatle myth as some suggest -- did not cause Stu's death either. Bleeding into the brain from a head injuries generally causes death in a matter of days. Slow bleeding can occur with symptoms of confusion, sleepiness and unsteady gait worsening over several weeks and leading to coma and death. Neither of these are consistent with the timing of the fight (Stu was in Hamburg and John in Liverpool for several months prior to his death) or with Stu's symptoms. Eyewitness accounts say Stu suffered only from severe headaches. Stu's history points very strongly to the cause of death being a ruptured aneurysm or AVI - both are problems present from birth and unrelated to head injury.

Hope this answers your questions -- and allows you ignore the inevitable post that not only was Stu's death due to the beating, but that John is the one who beat him.

************************************

From: liveletdie@usa.pipeline.com
Newsgroups: rec.music.beatles
Subject: Re: Backbeat Question - Stu's Death
Date: 25 Jan 1996 01:21:56 GMT

On Jan 24, 'Paul Robertson (75224.153@compuserve.com)' wrote:

Stu's cause of death was listed officially as "cerebral paralysis due to bleeding into the right ventricle of the brain." . . . Eighteen months later, a set of German x-ray plates, taken after Stu's death, were brought across to Liverpool by Astrid. They revealed, for the first time, the presence of a small brain tumor.

Interesting! I have never read about the report about the small brain tumor, but even if a tumor was present, small brain tumors are very unlikely to cause anything but microscopic bleeding, not fatal bleeding. A tumor small enough to go unoticed on autopsy would not cause headaches unless placed so that it blocks spinal fluid flow and causes hydrocephalus -- easily identified on autopsy. Astrid's report that "Stu's brain was actually expanding -- getting too big for the space it floated in." is certainly the kind of over simplified explanation of hydrocephalus she would have been given, (it also decribes death from bleeding, brain tumor, stroke and just about anything that can go wrong with a brain!) Unless Stu was having problems which Astrid has never discussed (progressively worsening memory and visual problems, unsteady gait, continuous headache that is worse after sleeping) Stu's symptoms simply don't match hydrocephalus. The only problem I have ever heard mentioned was excruciating and episodic headaches, not consistent with either brain tumor or hydrocephalus.

The Hamburg radiologist had attached a note in English: "Note the depressed condition of the skull."

This could certainly indicate an previous depressed skull fracture, but head trauma is unrelated to brain tumors. It could have caused hydrocephalus, but again, that doesn't match the description we have of Stu's symptoms. And head trauma definitely does not a fatal bleeding years later.

Interesting new information, but without reports that Stu had other symptoms, I'll have to stick with my diagnosis of aneurysm/AVI rupture.

M.K.


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