The death of Kirsty MacColl at 41 made world headlines. She was at a peak in her career, following the release of an acclaimed new album, and tributes poured in from showbusiness colleagues, friends and fans; obituaries stressed not only her unusually wide-ranging gifts as a singer and lyricist, but also her warm, unpretentious, outspoken nature, which made her a controversial and much-loved figure in the music business. At the time of the accident James Knight had been relaxing at their rented villa, so he was able to give Newlove little information.
Kirsty MacColl had been working 18 months straight and was looking forward to the trip. She planned to introduce her sons to scuba diving in the beautiful diving environment at Cozumel. Her mother dropped by the night before they left the U.K. for supper, and they made plans for Christmas. Kirsty was killed at age 41 in a boat propeller accident that made world headlines. Her funeral was held in Mortlake Crematorium in London.
Kirsty MacColl, well known female British recording artist, was scuba diving in Mexico off Cozumel Island with a friend (James Knight) and a dive master (Ivan Diaz) on the afternoon of 18 December 2000. As they surfaced from a dive she saw a large powerboat was bearing down on her and her two sons (13 and 15 years of age). According to reports, she swam to one, moved him out of the way, then grabbed her other son to protect him. She was struck by the propeller, “killed instantly, her body nearly sliced in half by the propeller” according to a report published by her mother, Jean Newlove / Jean MacColl. The son she first pushed out of the way was also struck, but not severely. The boat belonged to a wealthy, influential Mexican businessman. He claims the boat was operated by an employee, but Jean MacColl suspects it was driven by the wealthy businessman. Kirsty MacColl’s mother and those who assisted her, were unable to penetrate the protection, challenges, and roadblocks surrounding the event to positively discern the truth. The investigation was officially dropped in December 2009.
A 31 foot boat, The Percalito, was owned by then 67 year old, Guillermo Gonzalex Novo, owner of a large Mexican supermarket chain, Comercial Mexicana (known as La Comercial or La Corner, and many other businesses. Mr.Nova was on the boat along with his family, a baby granddaughter, and a hired deck hand, Jose Cen Yam, age 26. Jose claimed to be driving the boat and only going about 1 knot per hour at the time of the accident. He did not possess a license to operate a craft this large. Nova was the only licensed individual on board.Jean MacColl, and many others, suspect Mr. Nova was actually at the helm. Many eye witnesses claim the boat was going much faster in the restricted zone.
McColl’s sons returned to London almost immediately after the accident, and over Christmas, although Jamie was unable to discuss the accident, Louis, Newlove’s youngest grandson, filled in more of the horrific details. “We were going to do two dives,” Louis recalled. “On the first, about 2pm, we all went down together. There were wonderful things there. I came up to the surface first, Mummy was next to me. I said, ‘Wow!’ She smiled and said, ‘Great!’ Then she suddenly screamed, ‘Look out!’ and tried to push us out of the way. The boat was already over us — I could see the propellers.” Swimming fast in the direction in which his mother had pushed him, he noticed the sea becoming tinged with red. “I was swimming in Mummy’s blood. I heard Jamie shout, “Where’s Mummy?” I screamed that she’d been hit, and to swim the other way and not look back.
Cen Yam was found guilty, sentenced two two years and ten months, but allowed to pay about $90 U.S. in lieu of his serving his sentence. He also paid about $2,150 U.S. to the MacColl family in restitution. Some reports claim he was paid to take the blame.
Two Kirsty MacColl autopsy reports were produced. The first autopsy was performed in Mexico, the second autopsy was performed by Dr. Richard Shepherd, St. Georges Hospital Medical School, London, England.
The autopsy reports she was sliced open from the back of her neck to her waist, part of her chest and her left leg were almost severed, Dr. Richard Shepherd thought she might have had a mastectomy due to all the missing parts.
Kirsty MacColl’s mother, Jean MacColl, launched a Justice for Kirsty campaign, and was aided by many of Kirsty’s followers. They generally felt Mr. Novo was at the helm and should be called to justice for his actions.They went about their efforts by raising funds and trying to get the Mexican government to reopen the case.
In 2005, the BBC released a documentary, “Who Killed Kirsty MacColl”.
In February 2006 with some encouragement from the U2 band frontman, Bono, the Mexican government said they would take actionThe group applied to the the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. IN May 2006 a Mexican federal prosecutor was found liable for breach of authority in his handling of the Kirsty MacColl case.
December 2009, Justice for Kirsty disbanded saying “it was unlikely than any more could be achieved”. Their remaining funds were split between two charities.
Kirsty married a music producer, Steve Lillywhite, in 1985 and focused on raising their two sons. Divorced in 1995, she later fell in love with musician James Knight.
Her whole life was spent in the entertainment world, her father a folk singer, her mother a dancer, her ex-husband a producer, herself a singer and song writer, her current boyfriend a musician. Her friends were entertainers. She probably had an interesting perspective on the life of an entertainer.
English songwriter and singer Kristy MacColl had hits with such albums as “Kite” (1989), “Titanic Days” (1994) and “Tropical Brainstorm” (2000). Her first hit as a songwriter was “They Don’t Know” for Tracey Ullman in 1983. Her trademark style is a sharp wit allied to strong melodies. Her work combines these with Cuban and Brazilian rhythms, creating her most upbeat collection yet. She has written and performed theme songs for three British TV series. Surprisingly for such a gifted writer, her biggest single hits have been cover versions, notably “Days” by Ray Davies, Billy Bragg‘s “New England” and of course “Fairytale of New York” with The Pogues. Kirsty MacColl was beloved by many and still has a strong following.
Kristy had a beautiful voice and a wonderfully plaful attitude. I have certainly not listened to all her recordings, but personally, I like her version of “Days”. It demonstrates her lovely voice. I would also suggest listening to her 2000 album “Tropical Brainstorm” which displays brilliant songwriting, a catchy Calypso beat, and rather naughty lyrics.