George Michael’s devoted sister was found dead on Christmas Day – exactly three years after the singer’s death in 2016.
Police yesterday said that Melanie Panayiotou, 55, was found by her older sister Yioda, 57, at her home in Hampstead, north west London, on Wednesday.
She had moved into the £6.2million house, which previously belonged to Michael, after he bought a mansion in nearby Highgate.
A private person who kept a deliberately low profile, former hairdresser Melanie was known for accompanying Michael on tours when he was with Wham! and in the early days of his solo career.
George Michael with Andrew Ridgeley and sister Melanie Panayiotou at a Live Aid event at Wembley Stadium in 1985
The singer, 53, was found dead by lover Fadi Fawaz at his palatial Thames-side house in Goring, Oxfordshire, on Christmas Day 2016. A coroner later found that he died of heart and liver disease. Fawaz later launched a legal fight for a share of his will.
A friend told the Daily Mail yesterday: ‘You have got to feel for George and Melanie’s father Jack – he’s an old man now and is going to bury a daughter after burying his son. It’s a terrible business for the family.
‘Neither Melanie nor Yioda ever worked, George took care of them. They were both very similar to him, very private people and very complicated people.
‘They all struggled after the death of [their mother] Leslie in 1997, and the two sisters then supported George who was on the floor for years.
Pictured: Melanie (seen second from right) with her parents, George and older sister Yioda
Police said Melanie, 55, was found by her older sister Yioda, 57, at her home in Hampstead, north west London, on Wednesday (Pictured with George at Heathrow Airport)
‘They also looked after him with his drug problems – when he went to prison in 2010 and when he was in rehab for drug problems for a year in 2016 and 2017.
‘Melanie never married or had a family. She was involved to an extent in George’s legacy in terms of allowing the [recently released] film Last Christmas to use his songs and so on, but she did not get involved in the fight with Fadi Fawaz – that was left to the lawyers.
‘George was only close to a tiny number of people who were allowed to see him, and she was one of them.’
How the singer shared out vast £97m fortune
The singer left £97,645,179 in his will – but there was nothing for boyfriend Fadi Fawaz.
After George Michael died on Christmas Day in 2016 Fawaz, 46 – who found the body – based himself in his £5million mews house in Regent’s Park, central London.
He left earlier this year after being arrested for causing ‘significant’ damage inside the property. Fawaz was seen living in a Travelodge in central London, and apparently later sleeping rough.
Instead, Michael’s will stipulated his property and personal belongings went in equal shares to sisters Yioda and Melanie. His father Jack got a stud farm in Hertfordshire ‘for so long as he wishes’.
Paintings and art including his John Lennon piano (which is on display at a museum in Yorkshire) were to go to the trustees of the Mill Charitable Trust – a charity which Michael set up in 2009 to give money away to other charities.
The remainder of the estate was to be sold by the trustees then divided as they saw fit between his father, sisters, Shirlie Kemp, Kay Mayer (Beckenham), David Austin, Michelle May, Alex Giorgiou, Connie Filippo and Sonia Bird.
Or it can be given to a charity or charitable cause as chosen by the trustees at their ‘absolute discretion.’
The executors and trustees are lawyer Christopher Organ and his sister Yioda.
The friend added: ‘Who knows what happened, but of all the 365 days of the year to die, this happened on Christmas Day.’
Michael’s Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley, 56, wrote on Twitter: ‘Utterly tragic news of Mel Panayiotou’s passing. My thoughts are with her sister and father at this desperately sad time.’
Melanie and her brother were exceptionally close. She recently wrote in a post on Michael’s official website saying that the family found life without him ‘tough’ at times. She said that kind messages from the fans ‘lift us when things are tough’.
Lawyer John Reid said on behalf of the family: ‘We can confirm that very tragically Melanie has passed away suddenly. We would simply ask that the family’s privacy be respected at this very sad time.’ The cause of death is not yet known. Police said it was not being treated as suspicious.
Melanie had spoken proudly of her famous brother, whom she and her family called Yog – a diminutive form of his birth name Georgios. In November, the told The Big Issue about the release of the Michael-inspired film Last Christmas, starring Emilia Clarke.
She said: ‘My family and I hope you all enjoy the film, and Yog’s music old and new, woven beautifully into this fun, easy tale of love and self-love. As many of you know, Yog adored Christmas and he loved the idea of this film. I am sure he will be enjoying seeing Emilia’s amazing light bulb smile, something they share, across the celestial miles!’
Melanie also defended her late brother after Elton John told a US talk show he had been uncomfortable about being gay.
She said: ‘And, most importantly, we all, together with our dear departed Yog (my ‘very proud to be gay’ brother — contrary to what you may have read recently!) we wish a very merry, merry Christmas to Big Issue sellers and readers alike.’
Michael and his sisters were raised in Kingsbury, north west London, and later Radlett, Hertfordshire. Their father Kyriacos, known as Jack, was a restaurateur and mother Lesley a former dancer. Jack still lives in Radlett, and is 83 years old and said by family friends to be in poor health.
Flowers are left outside George Michael’s house in Highgate, North London after the singer was found dead on Christmas Day in 2016
In a piece for the now defunct pop magazine Number One in 1985 Melanie noted that George ‘definitely knew what he wanted to do at an early age’.
She added that she and her brother were ‘similar in quite a few ways’. She and Yioda were given an equal share of all major assets in Michael’s will, which was declared only in June this year. The singer left £97million.
The singer, 53, was found dead by lover Fadi Fawaz (seen together) at his home in Goring, Oxfordshire
Melanie was not one of the executors of the will but Yioda was – George had leaned on her for years, particularly since the incident in 2010 when he crashed into a London branch of Snappy Snaps while under the influence of drugs, and was sent to prison.
Yioda runs a charitable trust which looks after his artwork and she was asked to hand out money at her discretion to seven other named beneficiaries of the will.
They are: his former backing dancer Shirlie Kemp, old ‘girlfriend’ Kay Beckenham, publicist Connie Filippo, loyal retainer Alex Georgiou, 50 – who started out as his driver in the 1980s – his best friend since childhood David Austin, his PA Michelle May and family friend Sonia Bird.
Nothing was left to Fawaz who based himself in Michael’s £5million mews house in Regent’s Park after his death.
He left earlier this year following his arrest on suspicion of aggravated criminal damage after causing ‘significant’ damage inside the property.