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Shirlie Kemp says George Michael’s sister Melanie ‘was one of the kindest I had ever met’

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George Michael’s former backing singer Shirlie Kemp today paid tribute to his sister Melanie Panayiotou who died at the age of 59 on Christmas Day.

The hairdresser was found by her sister Yioda Panayiotou, 57, at her home in Hampstead, north west London on Wednesday, December 25 – exactly three years since her brother’s death on Christmas Day 2016.

Ms Kemp, who is married to former Spandau Ballet bassist and singer Martin Kemp, said Melanie was ‘was one of the kindest most considerate of others I had ever met’.

She added: ‘We both shared a great love of flowers and many of the flowers in my photos were hers as she loved me photographing them. Her kindness to me and others even when she was in pain herself was incredible.

‘I pray she is now with her beautiful brother and her lovely mother. Rest in peace dear Mel.’ 

Kemp found fame in the 1980s as a backing dancer with Wham! and she was one of seven named beneficiaries in his will – in addition to George’s family. 

Melanie Panayiotou, sister of singer George Michael, holding balloons as she attends the Wham! farewell party in London on July 8, 1986

Melanie Panayiotou, sister of singer George Michael, holding balloons as she attends the Wham! farewell party in London on July 8, 1986

This morning, Shirlie Kemp, an English singer who found fame in the 1980s as a backing dancer with Wham!, also paid tribute to Melanie (pictured, her Instagram post)

This morning, Shirlie Kemp, an English singer who found fame in the 1980s as a backing dancer with Wham!, also paid tribute to Melanie (pictured, her Instagram post)

George Michael with sister Melanie Panayiotou at a party in the early 1980s. The two were close and she has spoken fondly of her brother in the past

George Michael with sister Melanie Panayiotou at a party in the early 1980s. The two were close and she has spoken fondly of her brother in the past

George Michael with Andrew Ridgeley and sister Melanie Panayiotou watching Live Aid at Wembley Stadium on July 13, 1985

George Michael with Andrew Ridgeley and sister Melanie Panayiotou watching Live Aid at Wembley Stadium on July 13, 1985

Mystery remains over Melanie’s sudden death, with police not treating it as suspicious.

Her former neighbour was also among those paying tribute today. Alex Kovaleski said: ‘Sad news about George Michael’s sister Melanie. She was a neighbour of ours for some years. 

‘Melanie seemed to know everyone and everything that was going on. She was a rather gregarious and a rather kind person. The fact that her brother was so famous was just a matter of fact.’ 

And one of her hairdresser colleagues, Shari Reynolds, who worked with Melanie in Knightsbridge, said: ‘[We are] devastated and in shock that our dear friend and former colleague from the Allan Soh salon in Knightsbridge, London, Melanie Panayiotou has sadly passed away. 

‘We are grateful to have shared many wonderful times both in and out of the salon with Melanie and have very fond memories of her. Melanie had a cracking sense of humour and was great company, as well as being very down to earth. Our thoughts are with Yioda and Jack. RIP.’

It comes after Andrew Ridgeley, 56, shared his heartache over the death of his Wham! bandmate’s sister on Twitter yesterday afternoon. 

He said: ‘Utterly tragic news of Mel Panayiotou’s passing. My thoughts are with her sister and father at this desperately sad time.’

Melanie and George were close, and she was left part of his estate – which included a £97.6million fortune and a Grade II listed mansion in Highgate, North London – after his death. 

Her age was initially reported as 55, but the family’s lawyer later said she was 59 at the time of her death. 

George's Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley paid tribute to Melanie on Twitter yesterday afternoon

George’s Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley paid tribute to Melanie on Twitter yesterday afternoon

Andrew featured in 1980s pop duo Wham! with Melanie's brother George (pictured together)

Andrew featured in 1980s pop duo Wham! with Melanie’s brother George (pictured together) 

He said: 'Utterly tragic news of Mel Panayiotou's passing. My thoughts are with her sister and father at this desperately sad time'

He said: ‘Utterly tragic news of Mel Panayiotou’s passing. My thoughts are with her sister and father at this desperately sad time’

One of her hairdresser colleagues, Shari Reynolds, who worked with Melanie in Knightsbridge, paid also paid tribute to Melanie

One of her hairdresser colleagues, Shari Reynolds, who worked with Melanie in Knightsbridge, paid also paid tribute to Melanie 

She has spoken fondly of her brother in the past, and just days ago released a joint statement in which she told his fans that their kind messages ‘lift us when things are tough’.

In November she stood up for her brother in a magazine article, saying he was ‘my “very proud to be gay” brother, contrary to what you may have read recently.’

Tragically, her little brother George was found dead at his home in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, on Christmas Day 2016, aged 53.  

Melanie’s last public words – just 48 hours before her death – were about her love for older brother George, and she and other members of her family asked that people continue to do ‘good deeds in his memory’. 

How Melanie and her brother George Michael remained close throughout their lives

Melanie Panayiotou, who on Christmas Day this year died at the age of 55, shared an incredible bond with her younger brother George. 

The two would travel around the world together at the height of his fame and she has written of their close friendship in the past. 

They shared another sibling, Yioda, now 57, but George was particularly close to Melanie.    

In a magazine piece she wrote in 1985 titled ‘Melanie: My Little Brother’ his sister 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’. 

‘We can be quite honest with each other and we share the same sense of humour,’ she said, revealing that fans would pester her for locks of George’s hair.  

Asked how often he would return home, she said: ‘At every opportunity he’ll be slumped in an armchair at our place.’ She noted her favourite record of Wham! was Everything she Wants.

She is said to have ‘adored’ George’s Highgate house, one of the first he bought, and according to a source who spoke to The Sun ‘they shared some wonderful times there’. 

Just weeks before her death, Melanie defended her late brother in an article for the Big Issue after disagreeing with Elton John over comments he made on a US talk show. 

And earlier this week was part of a family statement in which she and others asked that people continue to do ‘good deeds in his memory’.

She and Yioda, his father Jack and longtime manager David Austin shared a statement on Michael’s official website saying that the family have ‘come to fully appreciate (although we already knew really), quite how much love there is out there in the world, for both Yog and his beautiful music.’

They added: ‘We know how much his lyrics can offer support when things are tough and help celebrate when times are good and life is going well… and that is just as powerful now as if he were still with us and as many of you say in your messages, it’s a gift. 

‘It seems important that his generosity of spirit and natural empathy have touched you in a way that would have him embarrassed, all your kind words are really good to hear and we know you have always known his true heart.’

They thanked fans for embracing the recent film Last Christmas based on Michael’s music, adding that it ‘is going to be there to celebrate and remember Yog and his music well into the future… and we thank everyone whose efforts brought his music to you.’  

George was found dead at his home in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, on Christmas Day 2016, aged 53. A subsequent autopsy later cited an enlarged heart and fatty liver as contributory factors in his death.

A vast portion of his estate – which included a £97.6million fortune and a Grade II listed mansion in Highgate, North London – was left to his siblings, sisters Melanie and Yioda. 

His family added they ‘will be swerving the bad and enjoying the good as much as we can this coming year’, adding that the past year has been ‘difficult and busy’ for Michael’s ‘hardworking team’.

‘We are, as usual, staying as positive as possible, which is what we and Yog would wish for you all, and we are all hoping for a peaceful 2020. (Wow 2020! – when you grew up with Yog, that used to seem so far away but, here we are folks – It’s the future)!!!’ they added.

‘We’ll close by saying, don’t forget to say your ‘I Love You’s’ and enjoy your celebrations wherever you are.

‘Thank you so much for your kind messages, they lift us when things are tough.’

Referring to Michael’s lifelong charitable efforts, they added: ‘Keep on doing those good deeds in his memory, ‘paying it forward’ if you can.

”Take Care’ he says from up there in the stars, with mum, Anselmo, and his beloved doggies.

‘Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and celebrations to you all – we send our best from here in London!’ 

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George Michael and his sister Melanie arrive together at Heathrow Airport

George Michael and his sister Melanie arrive together at Heathrow Airport

A vast portion of George Michael's estate - which included a £97.6million fortune and a Grade II listed mansion in Highgate, North London - was left to his siblings, sisters Melanie (pictured, Melanie Michael (Panayiotou), sister of George Michael) and Yioda

A vast portion of George Michael’s estate – which included a £97.6million fortune and a Grade II listed mansion in Highgate, North London – was left to his siblings, sisters Melanie (pictured, Melanie Michael (Panayiotou), sister of George Michael) and Yioda

Ahead of the third anniversary of the singer-songwriter's death, his relatives asked that people continue to do 'good deeds in his memory' (pictured is an image of Michael they shared)

Ahead of the third anniversary of the singer-songwriter’s death, his relatives asked that people continue to do ‘good deeds in his memory’ (pictured is an image of Michael they shared)

His sisters Melanie and Yioda, his father Jack and longtime manager David Austin shared a statement on Michael's official website

His sisters Melanie and Yioda, his father Jack and longtime manager David Austin shared a statement on Michael’s official website

The Metropolitan Police confirmed it had been called to a property in north west London on Wednesday evening.    

In a statement, the force said: ‘Police were called by London Ambulance Service at approximately 7.35pm on Wednesday, December 25 to reports of the sudden death of a woman, aged in her 50s, at an address in Oak Hill Park, NW3.

‘The death is not being treated as suspicious by police.

‘A report will be compiled for the Coroner into the circumstances.’

How Melanie’s death tragically echoes George Michael’s passing on Christmas Day 2016 

George Michael – who sold more than 100million records with band Wham! and during a hugely successful solo career – passed away in his bed at home in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire on Christmas Day afternoon 2016.   

After his death, an coroner stated that the 53-year-old Wham! star died from a disease of the heart muscle and a fatty liver, meaning an inquest into his death was not needed.

The singer was found by his boyfriend Fadi Fawaz. Michael, whose hits including Last Christmas and Freedom, had suffered health scares and fought drug addiction for years.  

Dilated cardiomyopathy, identified as a cause of Michael’s death, is a disease of the heart muscle which affects how blood is able to pump around the body.

In some cases, it is an inherited condition, otherwise, it is caused by things such as viral infections, uncontrolled high blood pressure and problems with the heart valves.

Myocarditis meanwhile is inflammation in or around the heart and is usually caused by a viral, bacterial or fungal infection.

London Ambulance Service also confirmed its attendance saying: ‘We sent a double crewed ambulance that arrived at the address at 7.46pm to treat one adult patient. 

‘Sadly, the patient had died. We then called the Metropolitan Police to request their attendance.’

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.’   

Her cause of death is not yet known. 

An auction site that has sold George Michael’s outfits for charity paid tribute to Ms Panayiotou on social media.

It said: ‘We are saddened to hear of the loss of Melanie Panayiotou, George’s sister. Sending all our hugs and thoughts to the Panayiotou family.’ 

Melanie had spoken proudly of her famous brother in November, telling The Big Issue about the release of the George-inspired Christmas movie Last Christmas.

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,’ she wrote in the publication.

‘As many of you know, Yog adored Christmas and he loved the idea of this film. I am sure he will be enjoying seeing Emelia [Clark]’s amazing light bulb smile, something they share, across the celestial miles! 

‘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!) wish a very merry, merry Christmas to Big Issue sellers and readers alike.’ 

She also dismissed Sir Elton John’s claim that he was ‘uncomfortable’ with his sexuality.  

The legendary Wham! singer - seen in 2005 - died at the age of 53 on Christmas Day 2016

The legendary Wham! singer – seen in 2005 – died at the age of 53 on Christmas Day 2016

Goerge Michael's house in Highgate was adorned with tributes following his tragic passing on Christmas Day in 2016

Goerge Michael’s house in Highgate was adorned with tributes following his tragic passing on Christmas Day in 2016

Pictured: Hairdresser Fadi Fawaz, who discovered George Michael on Christmas Day 2016

Pictured: Hairdresser Fadi Fawaz, who discovered George Michael on Christmas Day 2016

Speaking to close friend Sharon Osbourne on her American chat show, The Talk, Sir Elton claimed the late singer was ‘so uncomfortable in his skin about being gay even though he said he wasn’t.’

George’s sister Melanie Panayiotou has since rubbished his comments, telling The Big Issue that he was ‘my ‘very proud to be gay’ brother, contrary to what you may have read recently.’

His sexuality had remained private until 1998, when he was arrested for performing a ‘lewd act’ in front of an undercover police officer in a restroom at Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills.  

Following his death on Christmas Day three years ago, a post-mortem examination found Michael died from heart disease and a build-up of fat in his liver, which can be linked to drug and alcohol abuse. 

He and his siblings were raised in Kingsbury, London, and later Radlett, Hertfordshire, while their father Kyriacos ‘Jack’ Panayiotou worked. His mother died in 1997, but he and his sister are survived by their father. 

Michael’s family called him ‘Yog,’ which is a nickname derived from his Greek name.

During his career Michael enjoyed seven number ones on the UK singles charts, including Careless Whisper, A Different Corner, Jesus To A Child and Fast Love.

He had 23 top 10 hits, including Faith, Father Figure, Outside and You Have Been Loved.

Michael – whose real name was Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou – sold more than 100 million albums throughout his career. 

‘We’ve come to appreciate how much love there is in the world’: George Michael’s family offers their Christmas message just 48 hours before Melanie’s death  

Hello Everybody, Lovelies, (and pets of Lovelies)!

We have come full circle again and Christmas time (and the holidays), are upon us once more.

I think we as a family, (there are lots of us, we Greek Cypriots, we’re everywhere)!! have come to fully appreciate (although we already knew really), quite how much love there is out there in the world, for both Yog and his beautiful music.

We know how much his lyrics can offer support when things are tough and help celebrate when times are good and life is going well… and that is just as powerful now as if he were still with us and as many of you say in your messages, it’s a gift.

It seems important that his generosity of spirit and natural empathy have touched you in a way that would have him embarrassed, all your kind words are really good to hear and we know you have always known his true heart.

Thank you for embracing and supporting the ‘Last Christmas’ movie and soundtrack, we knew you would enjoy it!! ‘This Is How’ is good, isn’t it?? We love that you love it, as would Yog.

 Everyone has been working so hard to bring you his music, the movie is going to be there to celebrate and remember Yog and his music well into the future…and we thank everyone whose efforts brought his music to you. We will be swerving the bad and enjoying the good as much as we can this coming year (2019 has been difficult and busy for George’s hardworking team).

We are, as usual, staying as positive as possible, which is what we and Yog would wish for you all, and we are all hoping for a peaceful 2020. (Wow 2020! – when you grew up with Yog, that used to seem so far away but, here we are folks – It’s the future)!!!

We’ll close by saying, don’t forget to say your ‘I Love You’s’ and enjoy your celebrations wherever you are. Thank you so much for your kind messages, they lift us when things are tough.

Keep on doing those good deeds in his memory, ‘paying it forward’ if you can. ‘Take Care’ he says from up there in the stars, with mum, Anselmo, and his beloved doggies. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and celebrations to you all – we send our best from here in London! Melanie, Yioda, Jack & David x

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