Inquest told Bay City Rollers star Les died after years of drink and drug use

Bay City Rollers frontman Les McKeown died as a result of the long-term effects of a rock 'n' roll lifestyle of 'excessive' drink and drugs, an inquest heard.

Thursday, 9th September 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th September 2021, 12:32 pm

Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article.

The former pin-up's widow said she gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when she found him unconscious at their London home the day after he began drinking again after ten months of trying to stay off alcohol.

But the Edinburgh-born star was pronounced dead at the house in April, aged 65, following a cardiac arrest.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Les McKeown with The Bay City Rollers, playing at the Budokan in Tokyo in December, 1976

He told family before his death he was trying to get healthier by walking a mile twice a day with his wife, and had quit drinking in June last year.

He avoided New Year's Eve parties and friends' houses where he might be pressured to drink.

But he relapsed at his home in Lower Clapton, east London, and suffered the fatal cardiac arrest the next day.

Alan Longmuir and Les McKeown pose with the boys from I Ran With The Gang, a show based on the early life of Alan, and the forming of the Bay City Rollers.

His widow Peko Keiko, who attended the inquest at Poplar Coroner's Court, burst into tears on hearing how one of his last acts was kissing her goodbye as she went to tennis practice.

Her statement, read out by the coroner, said: "I left the house at 9.20am to go to tennis practice and my husband wanted to help me take my bike downstairs.

“He kissed me goodbye and went back upstairs. I returned at 11.30am. I placed the key in the front door but it wouldn't move.

“I pushed the door and I saw my husband's head on the door. He was not moving. I called out to my son and he was in his room.

The Bay City Rollers famous five

“Leslie was not breathing and I was trying to call 999. I started doing mouth-to-mouth. My husband was pale but still warm.

'”I got my phone out to call the ambulance, but it was still connected to my bike's Bluetooth. I saw a man passing by and asked him to call an ambulance.

“My son and I continued chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth. The ambulance arrived around 20 minutes later.”

In his statement, son Jubei McKeown, 36, said he last saw his father when he walked into his bedroom. He said: “He had been drinking alcohol the day before and was lying on the bed.

“I asked, ‘Are you alright?’ But he didn't respond. I touched his arm and he said, ‘Yes, I'm okay’.”

Jubei said he went into his room to play computer games and later heard the doorbell as his mother tried to get in.

His statement continued: “I saw my father lying on the floor.

“He did not look normal and was cold. I was in a state of shock.

“I shouted at my mum to call an ambulance.”

Paramedics found McKeown with an abnormally high blood sugar level and delivered several shocks by a defibrillator.

Resuscitation was stopped at 12.31pm.

Police officers learned from his family that McKeown had been alcohol-dependent for the past 20 years and that he had used cocaine in the past.

A post-mortem examination found no alcohol or morphine in his blood.

Senior Coroner Mary Hassell said the cause of death was hypertrophic heart disease caused by long-term blood pressure due to the effects of long-term drug and alcohol abuse.

She said: “Mr McKeown died from heart disease.

“It was not an abuse of drug and alcohol use that day.

“I make the determination Leslie McKeown died from a combination of a natural cause, being long-term blood pressure and the long-term effects of alcohol and drugs.”

Paying tribute, she said to his widow: “I remember your husband. I remember him very well. He gave a great number of people a lot of pleasure.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.