On April the 10th 1962, Stu Sutcliffe died aged 21 of a cerebral haemorrhage. He'd already left The Beatles at this point after deciding to stay in Germany to continue his art studies.
In the decades since his death, John Lennon has been accused of being responsible for Sutcliffe's death (mainly by Sutcliffe's sister) - a fight had apparently taken place between the two months previously in Liverpool. The facts are shakey, there apparently was a fight but Lennon came to Sutcliffe's rescue when he was being beaten up by a gang in Liverpool.
The following is a posting to the rec.music.beatles newsgroup which goes some way to clarifying what may have caused Stuart Sutcliffe's death. It can in no way be regarded as THE authoritative version of what happened as it is not based on a first-hand account of the actual autopsy. However, it does much to explain in layman's terms the possible causes of death and the likelihood of those being affected by John Lennon's alleged kick.
The Goldman inspired innuendo that John was responsible for Stu's death has surfaced here before. As a Neuro Nurse, I was always curious about how Stu died and compiled the following "faq" of the medical probabilities and am reposting it for those who are interested. It is a little heavy, but there will not be a quiz at the end!
The information we have is pretty thin when it comes to facts. In this category would be things that were documented at the time by medical personnel and therefore retrievable from Stu's medical records:
1. Stu visited a doctor in Hamburg in Feb, 1962 complaining of episodes of severe headaches. X-rays did not reveal any problem. 2. Stu died in an ambulance en-route to the hospital on April 10, 1962. 3. His autopsy showed cerebral haemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) with bleeding into the right ventricle. THE TESTIMONY OF WITNESSES
.According to statements from Astrid and her mother, Stu had his studio in the attic of Astrid's mothers home and was living in the house at the time of his death. Astrid reports that Stu had terrible headaches. Bill Harry in"The Complete Beatles Encyclopedia" quotes her as saying that "the headaches became violent, they seemed like fits." Information on how long he had the headaches is sketchy, but according to some sources, his mother believes they began about a year before his death. Astrid's mother reports that he fell down the attic stairs but it is difficult to ascertain whether this was weeks or days before his death. Astrid states she found him unconscious in his bed on April 10 and called the ambulance.
There are stories of John and Stu being involved in a fight in a Liverpool or Hamburg alley, in which Stu was kicked in the head. Some Beatles historians believe this is Beatle Mythology, not fact. The date of the fight is unknown, but unless it occurred during Stu's visit home at Christmas 1961, (four months before his death) it would have had to have been before they went to Hamburg in March of 1961 (a year before his death) since Stu stayed in Hamburg when the others returned to Liverpool. Even if the fight occurred in Hamburg it would have had to have been about nine months before his death as the Beatles left Hamburg in mid-summer of 1961 and returned in April of 1962, the day after Stu's death.
THE MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS.
STROKE is virtually unheard of in people Stu's age as it is the result of atherosclerosis and/or high blood pressure.
A BRAIN TUMOR may cause bleeding, however, the presence of a tumour large enough to cause bleeding would have been obvious on autopsy.
TRAUMA. A blow to the head can cause three possible types of bleeds.:
1. AN EPIDURAL BLEED.
A ruptured artery rapidly pumps blood into the skull and the brain is compressed by the growing blood clot. The patient becomes unconscious within hours after the injury and dies within about 24 hours if it is not treated. This could be the result of the fall down the stairs. In this scenario, however, there would be no history of headaches (though the headaches may have been coincidental) and the blood clot would not be in the ventricle. Since John was not in Hamburg immediately preceding Stu's death, he could not have caused an epidural bleed.
2. A SUBDURAL BLEED.
A ruptured vein oozes blood into the skull. The patient deteriorates slowly over a period of about two weeks, (occasionally several weeks) with unsteady gait progressing to confusion, then lethargy and coma. Several things rule out a subdural bleed as the cause of Stu's death.
a. A subdural is easily identifiable on autopsy and the blood clot is found on the surface of the brain, not in the ventricle.
b. There is no evidence that Stu experienced progressive deterioration. Death from a subdural would have resulted in Stu being confused and unable to walk several days before his death, then difficult to wake up, and finally comatose for several hours to a day or more before his death. It is inconceivable that Astrid watched him slowly deteriorate into a coma before deciding to take him to the hospital which is what she would have had to do in order for him to die enroute.
c. All reports are of episodes of headache. Any headache caused by a subdural would be nearly continuous and they are not generally reported as severe. If John had kicked Stu in the head it would have had to have been almost four months before his death (at Christmas time). This is again outside of the necessary time frame for John to be implicated in Stu's death if it were due to a subdural bleed.
3. AN INTRACRANIAL BLEED.
A severe blow to the head can cause bleeding deep into the brain, fequently with rupture into the ventricles. Death can be rapid, but the patient may last up to about 3 days and during that three days the patient is near comatose or comatose. This fits the situation only if the fall down the stairs occurred just before he died. Neither Astrid nor her mother reported that. Again, John was not present in the necessary time frame to have caused the injury.
ANEURYSMS are weak spots in arteries. They are present from birth and gradually enlarge. They most frequently rupture in patients over 30. Although there may be some warning headaches, most often there is simply a single, explosive headache. Half of aneurysm patients die immediately. The location of most aneurysms makes bleeding into the ventricle very possible. An aneurysm is certainly a strong possibility in Stu's case.
An AVM, also present from birth, is a malformation in the connection between an artery and a vein. The veins in the area have arterial blood pumped into them. Because veins are not made to handle the high pressure of arterial blood, they become enlarged and eventually bleed. They frequently have repeated small bleeds causing severe episodic headaches before a large bleed occurs and seizures ("fits") are common. The large bleed can be fatal. AVM ruptures are most common in teens and young adults. Bleeding into just one ventricle is less likely with an AVM than with an aneurysm, but the history of headaches, age, and rapid death make AVM a very strong possibility.
In summary, the two causes of death that best fit the scenario are Aneurysm and AVM, both congenital and unrelated to any blow to the head. None of the causes of death from a blow to the head fit the time frames or history we have on Stu. More importantly to this discussion, John was not with Stu in the four months prior to his death. No head trauma causes cerebral bleeding and death that long after injury. Therefore, John could not have been responsible for Stu's death.