Fame and celebrity

‘No signs of trauma, suicide’: US authorities share early findings as they investigate Prince’s death

It could be weeks before they can conclusively say what killed the enigmatic musician, whose death at age 57 plunged the entertainment world into grief.

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 April, 2016, 10:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 April, 2016, 10:02am

There was no evidence of trauma on Prince’s body when he was found unresponsive in an elevator at his huge compound or any indication the late music icon committed suicide, US authorities said on Friday.

Stunned fans massed outside the superstar’s Paisley Park studio complex on the outskirts of Minneapolis are looking to an autopsy carried out earlier in the day to resolve the mystery around the sudden loss of their idol.

But medical officials cautioned it could be weeks before they can conclusively say what killed the enigmatic award-winning musician, whose death at age 57 plunged the entertainment world into grief.

Prince was found dead on Thursday, a week after he was hospitalised for flu-like symptoms that he later downplayed. There have been reports the incident may have been triggered by an overdose of an opioid-based painkiller.

We have no reason to believe at this point that this was a suicide
Carver County Sheriff Jim Olson

“We have no reason to believe at this point that this was a suicide,” Carver County Sheriff Jim Olson told a packed news conference. “But again, this is early on in the investigation and we’re continuing to investigate.”

A search warrant for Prince’s vast studio complex will be filed in the coming days, but authorities stressed this was standard procedure.

The sheriff said there were “no obvious signs of trauma” on Prince’s body, noting: “A sign of trauma would be some sign of violence that had happened, there was no sign of that at all.”

Olson said Prince was alone at the premises when he died and refused to comment on reports of painkiller use.

Prince – a Grammy and Oscar winner who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 – was last seen alive on Wednesday evening by staff at the compound, but his body was only discovered the following morning.

The local medical examiner’s office says preliminary autopsy results will take days and the results of a full toxicology scan could take weeks.

Asked if Prince’s body showed signs of drugs or a drug overdose, the medical examiner’s spokeswoman Martha Weaver said: “There’s no information at this time in regard to exactly what you’re talking about, as part of the investigation.”

Grieving fans around the world took to wearing purple – Prince’s signature colour – in his honour.

Those milling about outside his studio complex to pay their respects placed flowers and handwritten messages at the scene, which has become a place of pilgrimage. In turn, Prince’s staff delivered 50 boxes of pizza to fans.

It breaks my heart. Hopefully it was just God needed him in heaven
Cindy Legg, Prince fan

Many in Minneapolis said how proud they were of the city’s native son, and how saddened they were by the thought he died alone, as well as by the suggestion his death could be linked to an overdose of painkillers.

“It breaks my heart,” said Cindy Legg, a 41-year-old nurse. “Hopefully it was just God needed him in heaven.”

Small in stature but an electrifying live performer, Prince became an international sensation in the 1980s, fusing rock and R&B into a highly danceable funk mix.

The sudden loss of the Purple Rain legend, who was acclaimed for his instrumental wizardry and soaring falsetto, prompted an outpouring of tributes – and spontaneous celebrations.

In New York, director Spike Lee led a Prince singalong at a packed block party in Brooklyn while in Minneapolis, where a bridge was lit up in purple in Prince’s memory, the atmosphere was carnival-like with fans bursting into song.

“You know, he was the greatest artist of all time. There will never be another one like him,” said Antonio Harper, one of thousands who partied through the night in Prince’s hometown in a bittersweet farewell.

“I cried, I cried a few times all night,” said Melody Johnson, part of the crowd at the First Avenue club, where Prince shot Purple Rain, the rock musical featuring songs from the album of the same name.