Ledger died of prescription drug abuse, say officials

Australian actor Heath Ledger’s death was an accident caused by the abuse of prescription drugs, six of which were found in his body, the New York City medical examiner’s office said on Wednesday.

Ledger (28), renowned for his role as a gay cowboy in the 2005 movie Brokeback Mountain, was found dead in bed at his Manhattan apartment on January 22, naked and with prescription sleeping pills, painkillers and anti-anxiety medicine nearby.

“Mr Heath Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine,” the office said in a statement.

“We have concluded that the manner of death is accident, resulting from the abuse of prescription medications.”

Ledger’s death shocked film fans and fellow actors around the world and added his name to the list of movie stars who died young, like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.

The handsome star had been romantically linked with a number of actresses and models, periodically spotted in fancy clubs and nightspots around New York.

He recently had been in a committed relationship with actress Michelle Williams, the mother of their two-year-old daughter, Matilda, but the couple split in September. Some reports said Ledger was having difficulty with the break-up and badly missed his daughter.

Ledger and Williams met during the filming of Brokeback Mountain, in which they played husband and wife.

The actor’s family in Western Australia called his death a tragic accident, but close friend and model Sophie Ward told Australian media he was edgy and anxious during his Christmas holidays.

Ward, sister of supermodel Gemma Ward, with whom Ledger had been reportedly linked, said Ledger was distressed during holidays in his hometown, Perth, worried about his split with Williams and not seeing their daughter.

“He was clean and wasn’t drinking any alcohol or taking drugs,” Ward told the West Australian newspaper.

Ledger received an Oscar nomination for Brokeback Mountain and had completed filming his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight, a Batman film due out this year.

Other film credits included The Patriot in 2000, Monster’s Ball in 2001 and I’m Not There in 2007.—Reuters

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