Actor and comedian Robin Williams hanged himself with a belt in his San Francisco Bay Area home, authorities have said.
Marin County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Keith Boyd said Williams was last seen alive by his wife on Sunday when she went to bed. She left the next morning thinking he was still asleep.
Shortly after that, Williams’ personal assistant came to the home and found the 63-year-old clothed and dead in a bedroom.
Boyd said all evidence indicated Williams, star of Good Will Hunting, Good Morning, Vietnam and dozens of other films, killed himself. A final ruling will be made once toxicology reports and interviews are complete.
The condition of the body indicated Williams had been dead for at least several hours.
Williams had been seeking treatment for depression.
“We still have people we want to speak with, so there is some information we’re going to withhold,” Boyd said. “We’re not discussing the note, or a note, as the investigation is ongoing.”
It was no secret that the Oscar-winning actor had periodic bouts of substance abuse and depression – he made reference to it himself in his comedy routines. Just last month, Williams announced he was returning to a 12-step treatment programme.
When word spread about his struggles with drugs in the early 1980s, Williams responded with a joke that for a time became a catchphrase for his generation’s recreational drug use: “Cocaine is God’s way of telling you that you are making too much money.”
The circumstances of the death do not help explain what motivated him, suicide experts said. They stressed that suicide was rarely triggered by a single factor, such as depression or substance abuse. Typically there are at least two such influences.
“We know from decades of research that there are numerous factors that contribute to suicide risk,” said Michelle Cornette, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology.
Word that he had killed himself left Bay Area neighbours stunned and grief-stricken. Williams had lived in the neighbourhood for eight years.
Noreen Nieder said Williams was a friendly neighbour who always said hello and engaged in small talk. Nieder said she felt comfortable enough to approach him and ask about his stint in drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
“He was very open about it,” Nieder said. “He told me he was doing well.”
Makeshift memorials of flowers and notes popped up on Williams’ star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at his home and outside the house where the 1980s sitcom Mork & Mindy was set in the state of Colorado.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Assistant found Williams hanged with belt