MELBOURNE: Australian cricket superstar Shane Warne was farewelled at a private memorial service on Sunday with former fiance Elizabeth Hurley saying her “heart aches” for not being able to attend.
The legendary leg spinner’s body was found at a luxury resort in Thailand on March 4, with his death aged just 52 provoking shock and grief around the world from prime ministers, rock stars and fellow players.
An autopsy revealed he died of natural causes following a suspected heart attack with a private jet flying him home to his native Melbourne.
He was remembered before family and friends in an invitation-only service at St Kilda Football Club, an Australian Rules team he supported all his life.
Warne’s three children Brooke, Jackson, and Summer were expected to be at the centre of proceedings with local media personalities and his close-knit poker group also attending.
Cricket teammates including Mark Taylor, Ian Healy, Mark Waugh, Michael Clarke, Glenn McGrath and ex-England captain Michael Vaughan were all seen arriving.
But Warne’s former partner, British actress Hurley, said she was unable to make the celebration of a larger-than-life character who transcended his sport.
“My heart aches that I can’t be in Australia tomorrow for Shane’s funeral,” she wrote on Instagram late Saturday. “I was filming last night and, with the time jump, physically can’t get there.”
She accompanied her message with pictures of the couple celebrating their engagement in Sri Lanka.
They became a couple after Warne split with the mother of his children, Simone Callahan. But they parted ways in late 2013.
“It still hasn’t really sunk in that he’s gone,” Hurley added. “It seems too cruel that all the people who loved him will never have another Lion hug, but our memories will live forever. RIP Lionheart, with love, your Luna.”
The public will be able to pay tribute to Warne at a state memorial at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 30 where thousands of people are expected to attend.
Coldplay’s Chris Martin will reportedly deliver a musical tribute remotely with Elton John and Ed Sheeran to send messages.
The Sydney Daily Telegraph said Greta Bradman, granddaughter of legendary Australian batsman Donald Bradman, would sing the national anthem.
A stand at the famous cricket ground is to be named after Warne.
Credited with reviving the art of leg spin, Warne took 708 Test wickets as part of a dominant Australian Test team in the 1990s and 2000s before becoming a respected commentator.