It’s been 30 years since the death of Queen front man Freddie Mercury and those closest to him are reflecting on the bond they shared with the legendary singer.
Before losing his battle against AIDS, Freddie asked his former partner Mary Austin to bury his ashes in a private place where no one would find it.
Three decades later, Mary has stated that she has honoured his wishes and kept the location a secret from even Freddie’s family and friends.
Mary (70) says Freddie wanted to keep the location of his burial private, out of fear that it would be targeted by vandals. The singer died at a time where AIDS was stigmatised and misunderstood.
“He didn't want anyone trying to dig him up, as has happened with some famous people,” she told Mail Online.
“Fans can be deeply obsessive. He wanted it to remain a secret and it will remain so.”
For two years after his death at age 45, Mary kept his ashes in her bedroom. When she eventually gathered the courage to fulfil his final wish, she conjured up a story so her staff wouldn’t suspect anything was afoot.
“I said I was going for a facial. I had to be convincing. It was very hard to find the moment.”
She added that it “had to be like a normal day” because “staff gossip”.
Fans have speculated that Freddie’s resting place is in Zanzibar, where he was born, while others believe he’s buried under a cherry tree in the garden of his home in London.
When a pedestal was erected at Kensal Green cemetery in West London earlier this month, bearing his birth name, Farrokh Bulsara, fans believed they had uncovered his final resting place.
But Mary has denied the rumours.
She and Freddie were engaged until the singer told her he was bisexual, but the two remained close until his death.
Freddie often referred to her as his “common-law wife” and said he never stopped loving her.
In his autobiography, Freddie Mercury: A Life In His Own Words, Freddie said he would love Mary “until I draw my last breathe”.
“There have only been two individuals who have given back as much love to me as I gave to them. Mary, with whom I had a long affair, and our cat, Jerry.
“I might have all the problems in the world, but I have Mary and that gets me through. . . I still see her every day and I am fond of her now as I have ever been.”
After their six-year relationship ended, Mary later married Piers Cameron and they had sons Richard and Jamie.
They divorced in 1993 and she married Nicholas Holford in 1998, but after four years together they went their separate ways.
After his death Freddie left most of his fortune to Mary, including a mansion in West London worth £20million (R422 million). He also gave Mary a share of the profits from his future record sales.
Mary says the singer “chose his time to die”.
"He knew it was coming. The quality of his life had changed so dramatically and he was in more pain every day,” she says.
As if to prepare for his death, Freddie bought Christmas gifts for his close friends and family, which were delivered after he died.
One of those gifts was for Elton John, who has credited Freddie with saving his life at the height of his cocaine addiction, when he encouraged him to check into rehab.
During Freddie’s final days, it was Elton’s turn to show support for his friend.
“Once Freddie got sick and he was at home a bit more, Elton would come around regularly, maybe every fortnight he would come around and he would sit and talk with him particularly during that last year,” said Freddie’s long-time assistant, Peter Freestone.
“[He would] just sit there talking with him, just so that Freddie knew he wasn’t alone, and that really showed the genuine, deep friendship between them.”
Elton says on Christmas Day he learned Freddie had left him a final gift, which Elton said was a “testament to his selflessness”.
“I was moping about when a friend showed up at my door and handed me something wrapped in a pillowcase.
“I opened it up and inside was a painting by one of my favourite artists, the British painter Henry Scott Tuke. And there was a note on it from Freddie.”
Freddie's note read, "Dear Sharon, I thought you'd like this. Love, Melina. Happy Christmas".
“Years before, Freddie and I had made up pet names for each other, our drag-queen alter egos,” Elton explained.
“I was Sharon and he was Melina."
Elton said he was overcome with emotion, “crying like a child” when he read the note.
“Here was this beautiful man, dying from AIDS. And in his final days he had somehow managed to find me a lovely Christmas present.
“As sad as that moment was, it's often the one I think about when I remember Freddie, because it captures the character of the man. In death he reminded me of what made him so special in life.”