Andrew Ridgeley has broken his silence following news his Wham! bandmate George Michael’s sister Melanie Panayiotou died suddenly over Christmas.
Hairdresser Melanie’s death at the age of 59 comes exactly three years since her beloved brother’s death in 2016.
Taking to Twitter to speak out on the heartbreaking circumstances, Andrew wrote: “Utterly tragic news of Mel Panayiotou’s passing. My thoughts are with her sister and father at this desperately sad time.”
George and Melanie shared a very close bond and through her pop star brother, Melanie also became very close with Ridgeley.
The trio were photographed watching Live Aid together at Wembley Stadium in 1985.
Melanie had been the one to break the news to Andrew that George had died in 2016.
In his book, Wham! George Michael & Me, Ridgeley said on Christmas Day he was texting George to thank him for a gift he’d been sent before receiving the life changing phone call from Melanie.
“I honestly thought she was calling to wish me a happy Christmas, or maybe she was with George and the family, and they were ringing to arrange a get-together,” he wrote.
“There was certainly nothing to hint at the awful news that followed — that George had passed away.”
“The news hit me like a punch to the gut. It was as if my world had been pulled out from underneath me.
“I put down the phone and, doubled over in grief, began to sob…I felt crushed by sadness.”
A representative for George confirmed news of Melanie’s death to the Mirror today.
“We can confirm that very tragically Melanie has passed away suddenly,” he said.
“We would simply ask that the family’ s privacy be respected at this very sad time.
“There will be no further comments.”
In a statement to the Mirror, the Metropolitan Police said: “Police were called by London Ambulance Service at approximately 19:35hrs on Wednesday, 25 December 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.”
London Ambulance Service told the Mirror: “LAS was called on Christmas Day at 19:36 with a request to attend an address in North West London.
“We sent a double crewed ambulance that arrived at the address at 19″46 to treat one adult patient. Sadly, the patient had died.”
The siblings were very close from birth, with Melanie travelling around the world with her beloved brother at the height of his fame.
She was also with him for most of his life milestones, and George left the bulk of his estate to her and Yioda when he died aged 53 from heart and fatty liver disease.
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.
“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,” Melanie added.
Melanie’s death came just two days after she issued a joint statement with the rest of the Panayiotou family thanking George’s fans for standing by them.
“Hello Everybody, Lovelies, (and pets of Lovelies)! We have come full circle again and Christmas time (and the holidays), are upon us once more,” she had written with Yioda, dad Jack and George’s manager David Austin on December 23.
“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.”
The family had gone on: “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.”
The statement continued: “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.”
The statement concluded: “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and celebrations to you all – we send our best from here in London! Melanie, Yioda, Jack & David x.”