Australians mourn Heath Ledger

Wed Jan 23, 2008 4:51am EST
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By Michael Perry

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Shocked Australians were on Wednesday mourning the death of actor Heath Ledger in a New York apartment possibly from a drug overdose, but his family said the death was a tragic accident.

Ledger, 28, the gifted leading man acclaimed for his role as a gay cowboy in the film "Brokeback Mountain," was found naked at the foot of the bed by his housekeeper in what police said was a possible drug overdose. An autopsy is to be conducted.

"We, Heath's family, can confirm the very tragic, untimely and accidental passing of our dearly loved son, brother and doting father of Matilda," his father Kim said, reading from a statement outside the family home in Perth, in Western Australia.

Ledger's mother Sally and sister Kate gathered with Kim Ledger at the family's suburban home and said they wanted to be left to grieve in private.

"We would like to thank our friends and everyone around the world for their well-wishes and kind thoughts at this time," Kim Ledger said.

"Heath has touched so many people on so many different levels during his short life that few had the pleasure of truly knowing him," he said.

People and neighbors left flowers and cards outside the house where Ledger spent much of December and January on holiday visiting friends.

"What a terrible tragedy. My heart goes out to his family," actress and fellow Australian Nicole Kidman said.   Continued...

<p>Heath Ledger arrives at the premiere of the film "Candy" in New York in this November 6, 2006 file photo. Ledger was found dead in his Manhattan apartment on January 22, 2008, possibly of a drug overdose, New York City police said. REUTERS/Eric Thayer</p>