Robin Williams: cause of death fails to provide all the answers

Police confirm suicide but 'none of us will ever know' what was going through Williams's head

Actor and comedian Robin Williams
(Image credit: CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

Police have confirmed that Robin Williams hanged himself at his California home, but questions surrounding his state of mind in those final moments remain unanswered.

The actor's 25-year-old daughter Zelda has said she will "never, ever understand" how her father "could be loved so deeply and not find it in his heart to stay".

Williams battled demons for decades before his death, making no secret of his struggle with drink, drugs and depression. He famously quit cocaine and alcohol in the 1980s, but fell back into drinking many years later before joining Alcoholics Anonymous.

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Earlier this summer he entered rehab again and his publicist revealed after his death that he had "been battling severe depression of late".

Ty Burr in the Boston Globe says the news of his death came "as a shock and a sadness, but not – and maybe this is the tragedy of it – a terrible surprise".

The comedian could make an audience laugh so hard it was "as if he were handing out comedy dopamine", says Burr, but when the laughter stopped "the pain behind his eyes was unmistakable". Burr suggests "his comic genius and dramatic angst were the tip of an iceberg of sizable psychic pain, one he negotiated on a daily basis, until, perhaps, he couldn't".

Five years ago, Williams also underwent open heart surgery, which doctors say can occasionally lead to depression. He told The Guardian at the time that the operation had left him feeling "really mortal" but also less afraid of feeling unhappy.

Several tabloids today claim the actor had told friends he had "serious money troubles". Once worth £75m, Williams had complained of losing a large chunk of his fortune to his two ex-wives and of having to take on acting roles he did not want just to pay the bills. However, one of his lawyers has strongly refuted that he was in acute financial distress, says the New York Times.

Police say all the evidence indicates that Williams committed suicide by hanging and that there were superficial injuries on one of his wrists that were likely self-inflicted. A final ruling on his death will be announced after toxicology reports and interviews with witnesses are complete.

An inquest might provide some answers about his death, says Alastair Campbell in The Guardian, but the "truth is that none of us will ever know, even if he left a note, what was going through Robin Williams's mind in the final moments of his enriched and enriching life".

Campbell, who has openly battled depression himself, hopes that Williams will be remembered as someone whose death was "another staging post in the changing attitudes to mental health and mental illness that are desperately required all around the world".

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