Police Investigate Circumstances Of Linda McCartney's Death

Widower Paul McCartney flatly denies assisted suicide.

With the precise nature and location of Linda McCartney's death suddenly in

question, authorities in Santa Barbara County, Calif., launched a probe

Wednesday into the singer and rock photographer's passing. The flurry of

speculation has prompted Linda McCartney's widower, ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, to

flatly deny that his wife's death was an assisted suicide rather than a

natural death brought on by cancer.

McCartney announced on Sunday that Linda, who revealed she had breast

cancer in 1995, had died last Friday on the family's Santa Barbara ranch,

following the recent discovery that the cancer had metastasized in her

liver. Questions about the matter arose several days later, after the

local coroner received no death certificate for Linda McCartney. In

addition, there was no authorization for the cremation of Linda McCartney's body,

as is required by county law.

Compounding the confusion was a report on Wednesday from People

magazine's online edition that cited anonymous sources confirming that

Linda McCartney, who was 56, had actually died in Tucson, Ariz., 400 miles from

Santa Barbara.

On Thursday, the Arizona Daily Star newspaper reported that unnamed

local officials had privately confirmed that Linda McCartney had died on the

family ranch east of Tucson. However, authorities will not publicly

corroborate that an Arizona death certificate has been issued because such

documents are considered sealed, private records under state law.

A representative for Pima County, Ariz., Medical Examiner Bruce Parks said

Thursday that the office had no comment on the matter.

"We certainly heard the rumor that she may have passed away in Arizona,"

Sgt. Jim Peterson, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County sheriff's

office, told CNN. "Until we can confirm that either through the state of

Arizona or through an attending physician, we're not going to be able to

cease our investigation."

The mounting inquiries compelled Paul McCartney to issue a statement

through family spokesman Geoff Baker that disclosed the location of Linda's

death only as a "private" place.

"When Linda died last Friday with her family around her, it was in a place

that was private to her and her family," said the statement, according to

London's Times newspaper. "Everyone has always assumed that it was

Santa Barbara, Calif. So in an effort to allow the family time to get back

to England in peace and in private, it was stated that she had died in

Santa Barbara. The family hopes that they can maintain this one private

place that they have in the world."

Linda McCartney's ashes were reportedly carried back to the U.K. over the

weekend and scattered about the family estate in Sussex, England.

The statement went on to dismiss any rumors that Linda McCartney's death

was assisted, referring reporters to the singer's doctor, Larry Norton of

New York, for confirmation. Norton told CNN that he believed

McCartney died of natural causes.

"Any suggestion that her death was assisted is complete and absolute

rubbish, a total nonsense," Baker said in his statement.

The former Linda Eastman, a renowned rock photographer, married Paul

McCartney in 1969. She sang backup and played keyboards with her husband's

band Wings throughout the 1970s and more recently became known for her

animal-rights activism.