The heartbroken brother of Bryan Ferry’s ex-wife Lucy Birley has told MailOnline his sister lost a battle with depression as police confirmed her death aged 58 is being treated as suicide.
Former model Mrs Birley died ‘surrounded by her beloved dogs, Daisy, Peg and Daphne’ while on holiday in County Clare, Ireland this week.
Her brother Ed Helmore, a British New York based journalist, told MailOnline: ‘Lucy fought a long battle with depression, a battle that she lost on Monday’.
She was found dead at a house at Mount Vernon, County Clare, and police sources said officers were investigating her death as ‘personal tragedy and suicide.’
It is the second time tragedy has struck their family in Ireland as their father, Patrick Helmore – Mr Ferry’s father-in-law – was killed in a fire in his home in Connemara, Co. Galway, 22 years ago.
Lucy’s second husband Robin Birley, son of Annabel’s night club owner Mark Birley, announced her death yesterday in a family statement that suggested she was alone with her dogs.
Robin runs the private club, 5 Hertford Street in Mayfair and lives above it, while teetotal Lucy, who had a long battle with drink and drugs, apparently disliked his late-night lifestyle, and instead spent most of her time in a Shropshire farmhouse with her dogs.
One friend, who saw her a fortnight ago, said she had looked ‘very unwell’ and was surprised she had gone to Ireland.
Bryan Ferry yesterday paid an emotional tribute to his ex-wife – just a fortnight after fellow socialite Annabelle Neilson passed away.
Lucy’s death is the fourth in their socialite circle after Annabelle died, as well as fashion icons Isabella Blow, who killed herself in 2007, and Alexander McQueen, who killed himself in 2010.
Bryan Ferry’s ex-wife Lucy Birley (pictured last September) died on Monday died after a long battle with depression, her brother Edward (right) told MailOnline
Lucy Birley – the former wife of singer-songwriter Bryan Ferry (pictured together in Hyde Park in 1995) – has died on holiday in Ireland at the age of 58 (right with her now ex-husband in 1981)
Lucy Birley married again in 2006 after falling in love with Robin Birley, pictured together at Kew in 2013, the stepson of the late Sir James Goldsmith and son of nightclub king Mark Birley
Pictured: Annabel Neilson (left in 2006) and Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow (together right in 2005)
Bryan Ferry said he was shocked and saddened by his ex-wife’s death on Monday
Lucy and Bryan Ferry had four sons during their 21-year relationship before they divorced in 2003 having ‘drifted apart’ after her long battle with addiction to drink and drugs and his workaholism.
Lucy and Bryan pictured together at a purple party in London in 1981 – a year before they married
Mr Ferry, 72, said Lucy was his musical inspiration and she appeared on the cover of his Roxy Music’s eighth and final album Avalon – but she struggled with being in the spotlight and gave her last major interview in 2011.
Her ex-husband said: ‘I’m much saddened and shocked by this tragic news of Lucy’s death. The family request that our privacy be respected during this difficult time’.
After their divorce she then married again in 2006 after finding love with Robin Birley, son of Annabel’s night club owner Mark Birley.
Mrs Birley’s death in Ireland came a week after friend Annabelle Nielson collapsed and died aged 49 in Chelsea.
A statement on behalf of Mrs Birley’s husband and her children said: ‘On Monday Lucy Birley (nee Helmore) passed away whilst on holiday in Ireland, surrounded by her beloved dogs, Daisy, Peg and Daphne.
‘Her husband Robin, and her sons – Otis, Isaac, Tara and Merlin – are understandably devastated and request that their privacy be respected during this difficult time.’
No further comment will be given on the circumstances of her death, a family spokesman said.
Birley and Ferry married in 1982 and they divorced in 2003.
In 2011, Birley told The Guardian that she retreated from public life following the breakdown of her 21-year marriage to Ferry and for other personal reasons, including her son Otis’ arrest and brief incarceration in a series of pro-hunting cases.
She said: ‘I didn’t want to be put in the spotlight.
‘My family’s attitude to the press and publicity was very much that it was frowned upon. You only appeared in papers if you were born, married or had died. That affected me when I got married to Bryan.
‘I didn’t want to reveal myself and, actually, probably there wasn’t much to reveal at that point.’
Daughter of the late Lloyd’s underwriter Patrick Helmore, Lucy was a successful model before she met Bryan Ferry.
Mrs Birley was last photographed at the Cheltenham Gold Cup last year (pictured) and died on Monday, a week after fellow socialite Annabelle Neilson died suddenly aged 49
Her death came a week after friend Annabelle Nielson collapsed and died aged 49 and both were part of a London set that included fashion icon Isabella Blow, who killed herself in 2007, and supermodel Kate Moss (pictured at London Fashion Week in 1993)
Lucy was close to her four boys, pictured here with sons Otis and Merlin at Cheltenham in 2011
The former couple couldn’t have come from more different backgrounds, with Ferry the son of a miner and she was the daughter of a man who made millions in the City.
Bryan and Lucy Ferry in St Peter’s Square, Rome, in June 1982 shortly after they married
Lucy was well-educated and welcomed in the finest houses in London with her family were linked to two baronetcies.
A friend said when they split: ‘She gave Bryan what he wanted more than anything else in the world – a touch of real class.
‘She knew everything about the country pursuits that he identified with the aristocracy, and he learned so much from her’.
They got together after Mr Ferry split with Jerry Hall after she found Mick Jagger.
In her last major interview in 2011 she told the Guardian: ‘I was very surprised when I met Bryan that he was interested in going out with me. It seemed slightly surreal I suppose’.
They married in 1982 and he toured the world with her husband: ‘It was exhilarating’, she said, adding: ‘I learned a lot from Bryan and met a lot of other artists I probably never would have met otherwise. I was very young and I was bowled over by the whole idea of touring and recording, and the world being open to you.’
Initially she was a stabalising influence on her husband but as he focussed on his work she fell into addiction.
She said: ‘I know I have an addictive personality. I grew up with alcoholism. My father was an alcoholic. It’s genetic, partly’.
The couple, pictured left in 1986 and right in 1997, split but remained amicable describing it as a ‘working relationship’ and met with their children
Lucy clings to her son Otis at the 2007 funeral of friend Isabella Blow, the magazine editor and muse of hat designer Philip Treacy
Gaps between Bryan’s releases reached up to six years in the early 1990s as he supported his wife.
Before her death she had been teetotal since 1993 after she was detoxed during a nine week stint at Farm Place clinic, near Ockley in Surrey, helped her beat drink and drugs.
Mr Ferry said Lucy was the inspiration for much of his later music and she appeared on the cover of his band’s eighth and final album Avalon, albeit under a helmet
The following January Bryan spent the New Year on his own in Barbados, working on an album as he concentrated on his work.
Within ten years they had split having ‘drifted apart’ but still got on, she said, adding: ‘We have a sort of working relationship to do with our children, but we don’t see each other on any other basis’.
After their 2003 divorce, where she was reportedly handed £10million of Bryan’s fortune, she was romanced by Robin Birley, the stepson of the late Sir James Goldsmith and they married in 2006.
But there was a notable absentee on their wedding day – the groom’s father Mark.
Despite the couple’s efforts to heal the rift in the bridegroom’s family, Mark, the man who created Annabel’s nightclub – named after his ex-wife – failed to show up to support his son.
Mrs Birley, pictured with son Otis after he left Gloucester jail after a pro-hunting stunt in 2009, stepped away from public life after years struggling in the limelight
Lucy Birley’s death is another Irish tragedy for her family
Lucy Birley’s father, Patrick Helmore, was killed in a fire which destroyed his home in Connemara on December 12 1997.
A faulty electric heater was believed to be the most likely cause of the fire, which killed the 73-year-old in the 100-year-old Crumlin Lodge, Inverin, an inquest in Galway heard. The retired insurance broker, had been living alone in the two-storey house in Ireland when he perished in the fire.
Ferry was a regular visitor to the wooden lodge during the early 1980s and the picturesque wooden house had featured on one of Roxy Music’s bestselling albums, Avalon.
It was not known last night where in Ireland Mrs Birley died.
Robin is the son of the late Sir Mark and Lady Annabel Goldsmith, and the half-brother of Zac, Ben and Jemima Goldsmith.
After their divorce Bryan fell in love with Kate Turner, a dancer 35 years his junior, but they would split six years later in 2008.
He then met PR woman Amanda Sheppard and in early January 2012 they married in a private ceremony on the Turks and Caicos Islands.
But 19 months later they separated.
Their eldest son Otis spent some time in jail in 2008 after being charged with assaulting a hunt protester.
His mother said at the time: ‘I am worried sick about him being in prison without any clean shirts or socks. For someone who loves the outdoors so much, it’s very difficult to be in a cell without any windows or fresh air.’
Four years earlier Otis was among pro-hunt campaigners who stormed the Commons as MPs debated the hunting ban, which he described as ‘futile’.
Dead at 58, upper-class model Lucy Birley who bewitched Bryan Ferry and is now the fourth member of her gilded set gone before her time
Model Lucy Helmore, who has died aged 58, was never noted for drawing attention to herself. A quiet woman, whose friends remember her as ‘serene’ but said she was happiest alone with her dogs
Her friends were glamorous and often outrageous — troubled titans of the fashion set such as Isabella Blow and Alexander McQueen, aristocrats including Lady Amanda Harlech and, of course, musicians like her first husband, the pop star Bryan Ferry.
But model Lucy Helmore, who has died aged 58, was never noted for drawing attention to herself. A quiet woman, whose friends remember her as ‘serene and elegant’, she married Bryan Ferry and then nightclub boss Robin Birley, but said she was happiest alone with her dogs. She told an interviewer: ‘I’m definitely somebody who needs a lot of time to reflect and digest life.’
For the past four years she had been living quietly in a large farmhouse in Shropshire, hunting most weekends, and raising rare breed pigs while her second husband Birley remained in London running the exclusive 5 Hertford Street club.
She is survived by her four sons by Bryan Ferry: Otis, Isaac, Tara and Merlin.
In a statement, her family said that she had died while on holiday in Ireland ‘surrounded by her beloved dogs, Daisy, Peg and Daphne’.
The cause of her death remains unclear, but former husband Bryan Ferry declared himself ‘shocked and saddened’ by the ‘tragic news’.
One friend, who saw her a fortnight ago, noted that she had looked ‘very unwell’, but was surprised she had gone to Ireland.
Her late father, a Lloyd’s underwriter and an alcoholic, had connections to the Galway area. Lucy had emerged from her marriage to Ferry having needed treatment for drug and alcohol dependency, and never drank again.
She was, though, an enthusiastic smoker and was said to puff up to 60 Marlboro Lights a day.
Raised in a Kensington townhouse (courtesy of the millions her father made in the City) and educated at convent school, she had a successful modelling career, posing for renowned photographers such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Steven Meisel. They captured her sometimes sardonic gaze, and the unsettling perfection of her bone china face.
For the past four years she had been living quietly in a large farmhouse in Shropshire, hunting most weekends, and raising rare breed pigs while her second husband Robin Birley remained in London running the exclusive 5 Hertford Street club
She said: ‘The thing I remember about Robert Mapplethorpe is that he was incredibly quick and he knew exactly what he was trying to get; when he felt he’d got the photograph, we just lounged around in his loft and smoked a lot of joints.’
Through the fashion world she met Roxy Music singer Bryan Ferry. He was trying to get over being dumped by Texan supermodel Jerry Hall, to whom he’d been engaged, but who left him for Rolling Stones lothario Mick Jagger. Lucy, who when they met was 18 to Ferry’s 32, said: ‘I was very surprised when I met Bryan that he was interested in going out with me. It seemed slightly surreal I suppose.’
She posed as the cover model for the Roxy Music album Avalon — but with her back to the camera, a pose which Ferry felt was typical of her intriguing reserve.
He once told an interviewer that she had a touch of Greta Garbo and was ‘a Virgo . . . not easy’. And that was when they were still married. They were wed a month after the album was released in 1982, and set themselves up in a landed gentry lifestyle in West Sussex.
Ferry, whose father looked after pit ponies in Durham, was enchanted by his effortlessly upper-class bride whose family was linked to two baronetcies, and who favoured sofas covered in dog hair and mismatched cushions, and avenues of pleached limes.Lucy said of marriage to a celebrity: ‘I didn’t want to be put in the spotlight. My family’s attitude to the Press and publicity was very much that it was frowned upon.
‘You only appeared in papers if you were born, married or had died. That affected me when I got married to Bryan.’
But if theirs appeared to be an idyllic lifestyle, it was not long before fissures began to appear.
A friend of the pair said this week: ‘Boredom set in pretty early on in the marriage, Roxy Music were touring and touring, which did not help. I saw them together in 1983 and they were an amazingly glamorous couple, and then by 1985 it was obvious that there were some drink-related problems on her side.
‘Bryan was so self-absorbed, and I think that was a problem. He spent all his energies trying to project the image of a perfect English gentleman.’
Lucy (pictured left and right in 2003 after divorcing Bryan) was a model and photographer who said she ‘drifted’ from Bryan Ferry before their high-profile split
In an interview, she was rather kinder about the way things had panned out for them. She said: ‘I learned a lot from Bryan and met a lot of other artists I probably never would have met otherwise.
‘I hope when I was married to Bryan I was helpful creatively to him, but it’s very consuming being with an artist because the whole focus is their creativity . . . there isn’t a lot of space to develop your own.’
She also raised their four boys, whom she described as ‘extremely energetic’, and needing to be ‘engaged in physical tasks at all times’.
The domestic whirl seems to have overcome her. In 1993, she spent nine weeks detoxing at Farm Place clinic, near Ockley in Surrey, and was teetotal afterwards. She regularly attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings after that.
She said: ‘I know I have an addictive personality. I grew up with alcoholism. My father was an alcoholic. It’s genetic, partly.’
When it came, as perhaps it inevitably did, the end of their marriage was painful. Lucy herself once said simply that ‘we drifted apart’, but she also acknowledged that ‘the whole feeling of failure around being divorced was something I felt very strongly’.
Ferry was notably generous in their 2003 divorce, paying her a reported £10 million.
Friends say he also bought her the house in Kensington where she had grown up, and report that she sold it again fairly recently in order to provide each of their boys with a handsome nest egg.
As the boys grew up, she revived an interest in photography and her works were exhibited. They included pictures of friends including the artist Damien Hirst and the late aristocratic magazine editor Isabella Blow, probably her closest friend, who killed herself in 2007. Another member of their London set, which included Kate Moss, was the outre designer Alexander McQueen who took his own life in 2010.
Lucy’s death in Ireland has come less than two weeks after her friend Annabelle Neilson — former wife of financier Nat Rothschild — collapsed and died aged 49 in Chelsea.
It is an elevated social circle which has now lost four members in a decade.
Although Lucy’s greatest interests were country pursuits, she was ‘never out of Tatler magazine’, and was often spotted going to art exhibitions and first nights, and parties with friends such as Bunter Worcester, the 12th Duke of Beaufort.
And there were always her boys to look out for.
In 2004, her eldest son Otis stormed the chamber of the House of Commons at the age of 22 to protest against the fox-hunting ban.
Four years later, he was briefly jailed after assaulting a hunt protester. She said at the time: ‘I am worried sick about him being in prison without any clean shirts or socks. For someone who loves the outdoors so much, it’s very difficult to be in a cell without any windows or fresh air.’ Although as the years passed, she grew to like early nights and would retire with a pot of tea before 10pm, she remained sociable.
A chum said: ‘She was not gossipy or opinionated. She was a very loyal friend.’
Twelve years ago Lucy married again, to Robin Birley, son of Annabel’s nightclub owner Mark Birley. Befitting the place of the Birley dynasty at the heart of London society, their wedding was attended by stars such as actor Hugh Grant, who was then dating Robin Birley’s half-sister Jemima Goldsmith (their mother is Annabel Goldsmith), plus musician Jools Holland and the Marquess of Londonderry.
Robin, who was famously cut out of his father’s will following a bitter family feud, had been left permanently disfigured after being mauled by a tigress as a boy when he was on a private visit to the zoo of John Aspinall, owner of the Clermont Club, the casino above the old Annabel’s.
Today, Robin runs the private club, 5 Hertford Street and lives above it.
But Lucy apparently disliked his late-night lifestyle, and instead more or less lived in the kitchen of her Shropshire farmhouse with her dogs.
Her great hobby was riding and fox-hunting; she had been doing both since 12.
‘She was a very, very talented rider,’ said a friend. ‘She retained the elegance she had as a human on the horse, almost an Edwardian elegance.’
She liked to look chic in the field, too, with riding boots by Maxwells of Jermyn Street.
Lucy herself once said: ‘I suppose I do spend as much time as I can with horses and dogs. I can’t understand people who don’t like to be alone.’
Now, the solitary life she loved has been cut short — but the grace and beauty that bewitched a rock star will live in the memories of those who encountered this very singular woman.