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BBC SHAMED INTO AXEING BARRYMORE LIFE STORY; U-turn on pounds 500,000 contract.

Byline: AIDAN McGURRAN and JAMES SCOTT

EMBARRASSED BBC chiefs yesterday abandoned their book deal with Michael Barrymore, in the wake of the inquest on the party guest found dead in the star's pool.

Barrymore - likely to have been paid a hefty advance - planned to include an extra chapter on the Stuart Lubbock tragedy after refusing to answer a series of questions at the hearing last week.

The news was greeted with disgust and yesterday the publishers BBC Worldwide, an independent arm of the corporation, decided not to go ahead with the book. It was provisionally titled Running Away From Myself and due to be released next month, promising a candid look at Barrymore's public and private life.

The axeing announcement was made after talks between Rupert Gavin, chief executive of BBC Worldwide, and BBC director general Greg Dyke.

A statement said the book had been "postponed indefinitely".

When news of the auto- biography first broke, the BBC appeared to defend the deal.

It said the pool-death chapter would not contain any details that had not been aired to the police and coroner.

BBC Worldwide agreed the pounds 500,000 deal two years ago. Barrymore is now likely to get most of the money due to him and may be able to secure another publication fee.

Police were unaware of the book deal and believed to be furious over possible revelations about the night father-of-two Mr Lubbock, 31, died at Barrymore's home in Roydon, Essex.

He had drugs and alcohol in his system and internal injuries thought to have been caused by a sexual assault.

As 50-year-old Barrymore left the inquest after giving evidence last Thursday, he turned to Chief Supt Ian McNeill and joked: "Don't worry, I've been kind to you in the book."

Yesterday the star's chauffeur said Barrymore had left his home on Saturday and flown out of the country the following day.

Meanwhile, inquest coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray, who recorded an open verdict, has referred claims that Barrymore lied at the hearing to police.

If he were to be charged with perjury and found guilty, he could be jailed for seven years.

Barrymore told the inquest he could not swim. His ex-wife Cheryl contradicted that and factory worker Gordon Mann has told the Daily Mirror he was rescued from a holiday camp pool by Barrymore as a child.

It is far from certain that a prosecution will follow. A police source said earlier: "His ability to swim had very little bearing on the outcome of the inquest."

Barrymore's solicitor David Corker said yesterday the coroner had behaved "quite properly" in referring the matter to police. "Mr Barrymore has no concerns about that," he added.

The family of meat factory supervisor Mr Lubbock are still considering taking civil action against Barrymore for damages.

His mother Dorothy Hand said on Channel 4's Richard and Judy last night: "I was a big fan of Michael Barrymore, but now I am just disgusted by him."

She urged watchers to boycott any of his future programmes and her call was backed by 82 per cent of the show's viewers in a telephone poll.

Dorothy, of Braintree, Essex, who divorced Mr Lubbock's father 18 years ago, said the inquest had raised more questions about her son's death.

She said: "I'm convinced someone knows the truth. It's inconceivable that no one does. I don't know about him (Barrymore), but I want the truth. His honesty. I want him to be honest.

"Someone who was there must know the truth and must know how Stuart got those injuries."

Dorothy dismissed the entertainer's now aborted book deal as "just cashing in".
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 17, 2002
Words:604
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