Brian Epstein dies

Late on the night of Sunday 27 August 1967, The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein was found dead at his home in Chapel Street, London.

Epstein had invited his assistant Peter Brown and the chief executive of NEMS, Geoffrey Ellis, to spend the bank holiday weekend at Kingsley Hill, his house in Warbleton, East Sussex. At the time The Beatles were in Bangor, north Wales, with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Epstein also asked another assistant, Joanne Newfield, to come, and to bring along a mutual friend, the Scottish singer Lulu. However, both women had prior engagements and declined Epstein’s offer. Nonetheless, Epstein departed his London home in good spirits on the afternoon of Friday 25 August, and was joined later in Sussex by Brown and Ellis.

A young man with whom Epstein hoped to become better acquainted did not show up. Epstein was disappointed at the prospect of having to spend the long public holiday with two friends he saw frequently, and following dinner – during which he drank a considerable amount – Epstein chose to drive back to London in his Bentley convertible.

The Beatles with Brian Epstein, 25 June 1967

Shortly after Epstein’s exit, a London taxi arrived at Kingsley Hill containing four people Epstein had invited. Although surprised that the host had left, they stayed the night at the house, partying with Brown and Ellis.

After lunch on Saturday 26 August, Brown spoke to Epstein on the telephone.

He called late in the afternoon and was speaking in a woozy voice. He apologized for not coming back and maybe letting us worry. I suspect that when he went back to London he did go out, cruised the West End for a bit and then went home.

I urged him to come back to the country. But there was no way he could drive back because he sounded pretty awful, and I suggested him coming on the train. It was an unlikely thing for him to do but it was the only thing I could think of at the time.

Peter Brown
The Brian Epstein Story, Deborah Geller

Epstein’s Spanish butler, Antonio, and his wife Maria, saw their employer when he returned late on the Friday, but heard nothing from him on the Saturday. By the following day they had become worried. They were unable to contact Brown and Ellis, but Antonio did speak to Joanne Newfield. She urged him not to worry, but did decide to go to Chapel Street to check in the early afternoon.

Since it was Sunday, there was no one around and it was a very quick trip across town. I got to Chapel Street, let myself in, found Antonio and went up to Brian’s door and knocked on it. There were double doors leading into a dressing room and then there was a single door leading into a bedroom, so there was quite a bit of a distance between the hallway and Brian’s room.

I knocked on the door and I called out his name. I called, ‘Answer the door. Are you there?’ And then I went up to my room and I tried the intercom, and there was no reply…

I knew I didn’t want to be there on my own. Antonio and Maria couldn’t speak very good English and they were a very shy couple. I needed someone nearer, that could be a support system. So I called Peter back and I told him that Dr Cowan wasn’t there and Peter suggested I call his doctor, John Galway. He was there so I told him that I was concerned about Brian and asked if he could come over to the house. He would. And in the meantime I also called a few other people but I couldn’t find them. Then I found Alistair [Taylor] and asked him to come to the house.

Then John Galway arrived and we went up to Brian’s room, up to the outside doors. Antonio and John Galway broke the doors down. I think in the meantime I’d called Peter back and left the line hanging. Then I went up as they broke the doors down.

Antonio and John Galway were in and I followed them. Maria was staying behind. The curtains were drawn and John Galway was directly ahead of me. I could just see part of Brian in the bed and I was just totally stunned. I knew that something really bad had happened. Then I think John Galway told me, ‘Just wait outside.’ I stood in the doorway. A few minutes later John Galway came out. I’ve never seen a doctor so white. We were all white and we knew that Brian had died.

Joanne Newfield
The Brian Epstein Story, Deborah Geller

In the meantime, Brown was waiting on the telephone line. Galway informed him that Epstein had died, and Brown called David Jacobs, a lawyer and friend to Epstein who lived in Brighton. He and Ellis then left for London.

Last updated: 6 July 2022
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