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'He was a beautiful person': Boyzone pals lead tributes to tragic Stephen Gately

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Ronan Keating (right) and his fellow "devastated" Boyzone bandmates arrived in Majorca, where their friend was found dead following a night out
 Photo: © Rex

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"Stephen was a beautiful person in both body and spirit. He lit up our lives and those of the many friends he had all over the world," said the group, (pictured in 2003). The quartet had known Stephen since 1993 when they answered Louis Walsh's advert to find an "Irish Take That"
 Photo: © Rex

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After the band split up, the singer found his vocation on the West End stage, appearing in a number of productions – including Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat
 Photo: © Rex

12 OCTOBER 2009

As friends and family struggle to come to terms with the tragic death of Stephen Gately, his former Boyzone bandmates have paid tribute to the singer, who died at the age of 33.

"We are completely devastated by the loss of our friend and brother, Stephen," said pals Ronan Keating, Shane Lynch, Mikey Graham and Keith Duffy.

"Stephen was a beautiful person in both body and spirit. He lit up our lives and those of the many friends he had all over the world.

"We love you and will miss you forever, 'Steo'."

The singers flew into Majorca on Sunday night, immediately heading to the £1million holiday home where Stephen was found dead by his long-term partner Andy Cowles.

It appears the couple, who wed in a civil partnership ceremony in London in 2006, had gone out for drinks on the Spanish island. After returning home Stephen went to sleep but sadly never woke up.

The star's family invited a friend to speak out on their behalf following the tragedy. "There's no foul play involved and it's not suicide," said the statement.

"It's just a tragic accident... There is nothing untoward. It's not drugs... it's not murder, it's not a fight. That's what we've been told."

A post mortem will be conducted this week.

As grieving fans laid flowers at the apartment where Stephen spent his last moments, his friend Elton John also had kind words to say.

The Rocket Man singer, who helped rescue Stephen from depression following the break-up of Boyzone, said: "(He) was the kindest, gentlest soul."

He said he and partner David Furnish were "stunned" by his death. "We send our love and condolences to his partner Andy and his friends everywhere," he added.

Others paying tribute included Emma Bunton, who said the news was "devastating." She continued: "He was such a sweetheart."

The son of a painter and decorator, Stephen dreamed of stardom from an early age. His first success came in 1991 with a small part in The Commitments.

But things really took off for the youngster when he answered an advert by Louis Walsh, who was putting together a new boy band.

Billed as "the Irish Take That", Boyzone enjoyed meteoric success until the boys went their separate ways in 2000.

Stephen struggled with depression following the split, but helped by Elton, the singer battled his demons, going on to have a brief solo career before finding his vocation as a stage actor in London's West End.

As well as rejoining Boyzone in 2008, Stephen was ploughing his energies into new projects, including writing. At the time of his death he was working on a new children's fantasy novel titled Tree Of The Seasons.

His final Twitter message, posted last week, said: "Still busy, lots going on. Focusing on finishing my book next so may be quiet here."

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