Snooker legend Willie Thorne dies aged 66 after suffering respiratory failure

17 June 2020, 10:10 | Updated: 17 June 2020, 10:17

Willie Thorne has died aged 66
Willie Thorne has died aged 66. Picture: PA Images/Getty Images

Willie Thorne has passed away after suffering from respiratory failure aged 66.

Former snooker player Willie Thorne has died at the age 66 after a short battle with leukaemia.

The sporting legend had been in an induced coma at Torrevieja Hospital in Spain after suffering respiratory failure on Sunday.

He was diagnosed with leukaemia in March and later suffered sepsis which paralysed his arms and legs.

Willie Thorne is remembered as a snooker legend
Willie Thorne is remembered as a snooker legend. Picture: PA Images

Willie had to undergo three blood transfusions following his initial diagnosis, and his latest admission to hospital was following a drop in his blood pressure.

His friend and carer Julie O’Neill confirmed that he sadly died on Wednesday after going into ‘septic shock’.

Announcing the tragic news on the GoFundMe page set up for his care, she wrote: ‘It is with a very heavy and broken heart that I have to officially announce that at 1.55am this morning Willie Thorne lost his battle and passed away!

Willie Thorne's friend and carer Julie O’Neill confirmed that he sadly died
Willie Thorne's friend and carer Julie O’Neill confirmed that he sadly died. Picture: GoFundMe

“Willie went into septic shock and was not responding to any treatment so the decision was made by the hospital to turn off the machines.

“I was with him all the way to his end and reading out messages to him from people.”

She added: “He passed away very peacefully and without pain listening to his children saying they love him ❤️ that gives me some comfort in this difficult time.

“Over here in Spain everything happens very quickly so today myself and his family will he making plans and will inform you accordingly!

“It disappoints me some what that people were tweeting he has passed away when he was still holding on and with us! I guess that’s celebrity life…."

Willie Thorne and his ex wife Jill Saxby
Willie Thorne and his ex wife Jill Saxby. Picture: PA Images

Julie then went on to thank all those who had supported Willie with his care, and fans for their ‘beautiful messages’ during his short illness.

Willie is a legend in the snooker world, with a career spanning 25 years from 1975-2001, before he went on to be a regular commentator on the BBC.

He also won the Classic in 1985, while he reached the final of the UK Championship, British Open, Scottish Masters and twice at the Irish Masters.

Willie was married to former Miss Great Britain Jill Saxby for 24 years, but they split in 2019. He leaves behind three children and two step children.

Friends and fans have been quick to share messages of support, with Stephen Hardy writing: “Very sad news today ,Willie was one of my favourite people in snooker.

"I know he had faults and weaknesses (we all do) but he was one of the games greatest ever characters, I’ll miss him .”

Mike Dunn said: “RIP Willie Thorne , you did a huge amount for snooker on and off the table and it was a pleasure to call you a friend ❤️😢”

While Gary Linekar added: "Deeply, deeply saddened to hear that my friend Willie Thorne has passed away. One of life’s great characters. A marvellous snooker player and a lovely man, who’s potted his final black much too soon. RIP Willie."