Freddie Mercury’s final days in 1991 remain enshrined in mystery, nearly 30 years on.
The Queen frontman succumbed to his battle with Aids on November 24, having released a public statement just 24 hours previously that confirmed he was HIV+.
Rumours had been swirling about his health status for a number of years, with speculation that he had been tested for HIV and Aids as far back as 1986, after his health declined so rapidly that Queen had to halt their 1987 Magic Tour before it was due to finish.
Freddie, real name Farrokh Bulsara, had been something of a recluse in his last two years, preferring to stay at his lavish Garden Lodge home in west London’s Kensington than rub shoulders with other celebrities at showbiz parties.
Tragically, Freddie’s health continued to deteriorate in private, as feverish speculation mounted that he was gravely sick.
The last known photos of him show how much weight he had lost during his rare public appearances towards the end.
On September 3 1991, the talented frontman was spotted outside his house looking almost skeletal.
The haunting image showed Freddie making his way along a pavement wearing sunglasses to block out the late summer sun.
He wore a black printed shirt with oversized sleeves, which only went to highlight his thin arms.
Freddie appeared frail but in good spirits as he avoided the camera lens, something his Queen co-star Brian May would later confirm was deliberate.
“We all knew there wasn’t much time left,” Brian told the Telegraph in 2013.
“Freddie wanted his life to be as normal as possible. He obviously was in a lot of pain and discomfort.”
He went on: “He was pursued by the press and curious people. He just wanted peace and quiet, to be able to get on with what he did.”
Freddie’s partner Jim Hutton also snapped a couple of photos of the singer in his back garden on August 28.
They showed Freddie at peace with the man he loved, smiling as he stood then crouched down on the lush green grass next to a ginger cat.
Jim later wrote: “That summer Freddie posed for a camera for the very last time – mine.
“It happened like this. I was out in the garden photographing some of the flowers in full bloom and Freddie walked towards me. I trained the lens on – he wanted to move back a bit so it wasn’t a close-up. Then he posed while I took four pictures, and he managed a smile for each.
“He was so pale and drawn that he knew he didn’t look his best, but it didn’t matter a bit; of all the pictures I have of Freddie, those are the ones I love most.”
Brave Freddie found solace in his beloved music during the darkest days of his illness, urging his bandmates to continue writing as much as possible so he could secure his legacy for their fans.
“For him, the studio was an oasis, a place where life was just the same as it always had been. He loved making music, he lived for it,” Brian said.
“He just kept saying, ‘Write me more. Write me stuff. I want to just sing this and do it and when I am gone you can finish it off.’ He had no fear, really.”
Tragically, Freddie knew the end was coming as his body was breaking down even while he still found the strength to record his lasting lyrics.
He had lost most of his left foot to the cruel disease, showing what remained to his bandmates over one dinner then apologising for upsetting them.
“‘I’m not upset, Freddie, except to realise that you have to put up with so much terrible pain’,” Brian recalled telling his friend.
Freddie died at home with his close friend Dave Clark – lead singer of the Dave Clark Five – by his side.
“The doctors had left, and we knew it was only a matter of time. We were alone, and when he passed away, I went downstairs to tell Phoebe, his PA, and Joe, his chef,” Dave told the Daily Mail in 2008.
“His former girlfriend, Mary Austin, came over, and I phoned Freddie’s parents to break the news. He looked at peace. But it was such a waste.”
Sadly, Freddie’s death came just a few months before revolutionary antiretroviral drugs started being prescribed to Aids patients – something Brian believes would have saved Freddie’s life.
“He missed by just a few months. If it had been a bit later, he would still have been with us, I’m sure,” the guitarist added.
“You can’t do ‘what if’, can you? You can’t go there because therein lies madness.”