Melanie Panayiotou, friend of Big Issue, sister of George Michael, dies at 59

Melanie Panayiotou, a great friend of The Big Issue and beloved younger sister of the late George Michael, has died aged 59

We are sad to report that Melanie Panayiotou, a great friend of The Big Issue, has passed away – three years to the day after the death of her pop star brother George Michael.

A statement from her family confirmed the tragic news of Melanie’s death, after police were called by London Ambulance Service on Christmas Day. The death is not being treated as suspicious.

A statement from her family, delivered via lawyer John Reid, said: “We can confirm that very tragically Melanie has passed away suddenly.

“We would simply ask that the family’ s privacy be respected at this very sad time. There will be no further comments.”

Melanie had been a true friend of this publication. The friendship began in 1996 when a chance encounter with Big Issue founder John Bird led to her brother breaking his media silence to give an exclusive interview to us.

In this, as in so much else, George Michael was a pioneer – becoming the first of hundreds of world famous cover stars.

Our friendship with Melanie continued. Only last month she recalled her first meeting with John Bird in an article timed to coincide with the film Last Christmas, based on her brother’s music.

She wrote: “Once upon a time, many moons ago, at a lunch table far, far away, a short conversation took place about which of the many competing glamorous magazines should benefit from a front cover interview with our beloved Yog…

“I suggested that a way out of his and his much loved PR’s predicament was to offer The Big Issue the interview, his first for many years… consequently a new positive precedent was set.”

Melanie ended her article with a message from her family. It read: “And, most importantly, we all, together with our dear departed Yog (my ‘very proud to be gay’ brother – contrary to what you may have read recently!) wish a very Merry, Merry Christmas to Big Issue sellers and readers alike. Melanie x”

Our deepest condolences to Melanie’s family and friends…