Former snooker player Willie Thorne (66) dies

Popular BBC commentator was in an induced coma after respiratory failure

 Former snooker player Willie Thorne, pictured in February 1994, has died at the age of 66. Photograph: PA Wire/PA Wire.

Former snooker player Willie Thorne, pictured in February 1994, has died at the age of 66. Photograph: PA Wire/PA Wire.

 

Former snooker star Willie Thorne has died at the age of 66 after a short battle with illness.

A message on Thorne’s GoFundMe page read: “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.”

Thorne, who announced he was battling leukaemia in March, had been placed into an induced coma in hospital in Spain over the weekend after suffering respiratory failure.

He reached two World Championship quarter-finals and won his only ranking title, the Mercantile Credit Classic, in 1982.

He later commentated on the sport for the BBC, and appeared on the fifth series of Strictly Come Dancing.

The message, written by Thorne’s carer Julie O’Neill, continued: “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.

“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.”

World Snooker responded by tweeting: “We are deeply saddened to hear that the Great WT himself, Willie Thorne, has passed away at the age of 66. It’s a great loss to our sport. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time. RIP Willie.”

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn said: “I had the pleasure of managing the Great WT as part of the Matchroom team in the 1980s. He was a larger than life personality and he was a major part of the rebirth of snooker at that time. It’s so sad to hear he has passed away and our thoughts are with his family.”

Thorne’s friend Gary Lineker was among the first to pay tribute, tweeting: “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.”

Thorne was regarded as one of the game’s finest break builders but failed to clinch one of his sport’s major titles.

He was haunted by his error in the 1985 UK Championship final against Steve Davis, when, leading 13-8 and on the verge of extending his lead to within two of victory, he missed the simplest of blues off its spot.

Writing many years later, Thorne admitted: “I went back to my seat and the doubts kicked in straightaway. I was still 13-9 in front, but all I could think about was the way I’d failed in big games in the past.”

Thorne struggled with a gambling addiction and revealed he lost £1 million to gambling during his career. He was declared bankrupt in 2016. – PA

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