Reference Library: What Killed Stu?
From: Paul Robertson [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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
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
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
From: email@example.com (M Kintyre)
Subject: Re: RE: Backbeat Question
Date: 24 Jan 1996 14:33:24 GMT
On Jan 24, 'Shawn
McNulty (firstname.lastname@example.org)' wrote:
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
- 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?
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.
Subject: Re: Backbeat Question - Stu's Death
Date: 25 Jan 1996 01:21:56 GMT
On Jan 24,
'Paul Robertson (email@example.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
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
Interesting new information, but without reports that Stu had other
symptoms, I'll have to stick with my diagnosis of aneurysm/AVI rupture.
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