News

Miriam Margolyes says it was her ‘public duty’ to reveal claim that cellist Jacqueline du Pre was helped to take her own life, aged 42, after being left wheelchair-bound from multiple sclerosis

Miriam Margolyes has defended her controversial claim that tragic cellist Jacqueline du Pre died from lethal injection in an assisted suicide.

The veteran actress, 80, likely best known for playing Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films, told the Observer Magazine that she felt it was her ‘public duty’ to include ‘such an important story’ in her new memoir. 

Miriam recounted a startling confession from a London therapist who claimed she had helped Miss du Pre, doyenne of The Proms, with an assisted suicide. 

The acclaimed artist was one of the world’s most brilliant classical musicians when multiple sclerosis cruelly struck. She died in 1987 aged just 42.

Miss du Pre had allegedly begged for a mercy killing when the debilitating disease ravaged her body and asked therapist Margaret Branch to give her a lethal injection. 

Miriam Margolyes (pictured) has defended her controversial claim that tragic cellist Jacqueline du Pre died from lethal injection in an assisted suicide

Miriam Margolyes (pictured) has defended her controversial claim that tragic cellist Jacqueline du Pre died from lethal injection in an assisted suicide

Miriam recalled in her book how the therapist, whom she consulted in the 1980s, confessed and said: ‘I want to tell you something, and I don’t want you to speak about it until after I’m dead.’   

The actor said it was a ‘deliberate decision’ to include the claim in her memoir, and now wonders if others will come forward to defend the allegation.

‘I felt it was such an important story about a very great artist, it should be known, a kind of public duty,’ she said. 

Miriam, who was asked by Miss Branch to keep the story a secret until after her death, added: ‘I felt it was wrong to say it then. And this time, I thought, it’s an important story. I think it’s wonderful. Heroic, actually.

‘I don’t know if she told anyone else… I think that I am the sort of person that people tell things to.’

The veteran actress, 80, likely best known for playing Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films, told the Observer Magazine that she felt it was her 'public duty' to include 'such an important story' in her new memoir. Pictured, Jacqueline du Pre in 1968

The veteran actress, 80, likely best known for playing Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films, told the Observer Magazine that she felt it was her ‘public duty’ to include ‘such an important story’ in her new memoir. Pictured, Jacqueline du Pre in 1968

According to Miriam, Miss Branch told her: ‘One day Jacqueline said to me, “Margaret, if I wanted to kill myself, would you help me?” And I said, “Of course I would”. Because I would.’ 

Then, it is claimed, the musician had phoned and said: ‘I want to do it today. I’ve given my staff the day off. I want you to come over.’

Miss Margolyes says the therapist confessed: ‘I had a key. I took along a syringe and the liquid … she was in bed and we talked for a bit. Then I said, “Are you absolutely sure that you want me to do this?”

‘Jacqueline said, “Yes. I am. And I can only trust you to do it for me”. I was a trained nurse during the war. I knew what to do.’

It is said Miss Branch – who was in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in the Second World War and was involved with the French Resistance, according to her Times obituary – injected her and then left Miss du Pre’s Kensington apartment, leaving the musician to pass away later when family and friends were in attendance.

However, earlier this week Miss du Pre’s family and friends told The Daily Mail that the claims allegedly made by the therapist, who died in 1997, could not be true. 

One said Miss du Pre could barely move or speak and would have been unable to ask anyone to ‘put her out of her misery’.

The Queen Mother talking with Jacqueline du Pre in 1979, pictured. Miriam recounted a startling confession from a London therapist who claimed she had helped Miss du Pre, doyenne of The Proms, with an assisted suicide

The Queen Mother talking with Jacqueline du Pre in 1979, pictured. Miriam recounted a startling confession from a London therapist who claimed she had helped Miss du Pre, doyenne of The Proms, with an assisted suicide

In her prime, the Oxford-born musician’s exuberant performances electrified the nation. Playing a 1673 Stradivarius, she was regarded as one of the finest cellists the world had ever seen.

She married pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, who is now music director of the Berlin State Opera. 

Mr Barenboim said the therapist’s allegation had ‘absolutely nothing to do with the reality of Jackie’s passing’, and called it ‘unverifiable’.

His spokesman said: ‘The article is based on a book, which refers to an incident between two people, and the one person who can verify it is no longer with us. I don’t see that it is newsworthy.’

The account was also rejected by one of Miss du Pre’s closest companions, Cynthia Friend, 81, who told the Daily Mail: ‘I don’t believe it for one minute. She was very special to me, and I had been staying there for a few nights with Ruth, her wonderful nurse. 

‘You couldn’t leave Jackie on her own. She was totally bound to her wheelchair, and at the end her head was even strapped to that thing, because it was shaking and jumping, it was so terrible.

‘I don’t know when this lady is saying Jackie was well enough to say, “I’d like to be put out of my misery”, because Jackie couldn’t speak at the end. 

‘There is no way she could have asked anybody. Ruth never left Jackie. There were a number of her close friends there at the end. I cannot imagine what Jackie would say, if she heard these things.’

Miss du Pre’s death certificate shows that her cause of death was recorded by her GP as ‘bronchopneumonia and multiple sclerosis’.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button