welcome to bbc news. i'm lebo diseko. our top stories: george michael, one of the biggest pop—stars of the last 30 years, has died at the age of 53. the music world is paying tribute. elton john describes him as the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. a major search operation pinpoints a russian military plane that crashed into the water with 92 people on board. and queen elizabeth pays tribute to ordinary people, doing extraordinary things in her christmas message. in the past couple of hours, it's been announced that the british singer george michael has died. he was 53. police say they were called
to his home in oxfordshire shortly before 2pm on christmas day. they've confirmed he was found dead at the scene. it's being treated as unexplained but not suspicious. george michael shot to fame in the 1980s with the group wham, and went on to have a hugely successful solo career. andy moore looks back at his life. # well, i hadn't seen your face around town a while, so i greeted you, with a knowing smile... he burst onto the scene in the early 1980s when he formed wham with andrew ridgeley. the duo had number one singles around the world. they even conquered china, becoming the first western pop band to perform there. george michael loved fame but never became used to it. to be obviously a part of people's lives as an artist, that's what i dreamed of and that's what i'm still grateful for. but my god, i wish i could cope with the other stuff the way other people do.
i wish i'd been born with that particular suit of armour, you know, because i wasn't. # you know not everybody has got a body like you. but i gotta think twice before i give my heart away... as his career waned, he hit the headlines for other reasons. he was stopped for a series of traffic offences leading to a spell in jail. he was cautioned and fined for drug possession and received treatment for addiction. # time can never mend the careless whispers... in 2011, he suffered a life—threatening bout of pneumonia while on tour in austria. police said his death was unexplained but not suspicious. his family said he had died peacefully at home. they called him a beloved son, brother and friend. joining me now is our correspondent nick quraishi. nick, are there any other details
about what happened 7 nick, are there any other details about what happened? the police first announced this and obviously it is christmas evening, ii first announced this and obviously it is christmas evening, 11 o'clock, just before 11 pm. so details are scant at the moment but police tell us scant at the moment but police tell us that south central ambulance services attended a property in oxfordshire north—west of london. this happened at about 0xfordshire north—west of london. this happened at about 20 minutes past two in the afternoon on christmas day. they found george michael dead there. police say they are treating the death as unexplained but at this stage there are no suspicious circumstances. we had a statement in from the star's publicist saying that it is with great sadness we confirm that george michael passed away at home over the
christmas period. the family asked for their privacy to be respected at this difficult time. it goes on to say there will be no further comment at this stage because of the timing, i guess, we will not guess, get much more information now until daylight. but because of the news machine, as it is, tributes have been coming in thick and fast. have you got some we can look at? we will hear in a moment from elton john who can look at? we will hear in a moment from eltonjohn who is leading the tributes but a number of his contemporaries, remember this was a man about a career for decades. he formed wham in the early 19805 decades. he formed wham in the early 1980s and went on to forge an excellent solo career, notching up a lot of number ones. martin fry saying that he was devastated to hear of the loss of george michael a truly brilliant talent. duran to run, they were very well—known in
the 1980s, they refer to the so—called curse of 2016. they have lost so many artists this year and there specifically refer to prince, david burleigh and rick parfitt. love and sympathy to george michael ‘s family is from another twitter account. larue, a fellow pop star says another one gone. what a voice and what a songwriter. this was a man who had a career spanning decades and so many, many people ever so many ages decades and so many, many people ever so many ages will know him. decades and so many, many people ever so many ages will know himm terms of what happens next, you are saying, the police are saying it is not suspicious. what is the procedure now? we will have to wait and see. there will be an inquest, no doubt, a postmortem examination.
however because of the timing, this is all christmas, isn't it? , it will be over the next few days we are likely to hear any more. george michael had a glittering career. we must not forget his brushes with the law, he has been controversial over the years however despite this he remained very popular. this outpouring of grief typifies how popular he was. i know you mentioned eltonjohn who has been leading expressions of grief on social media. let's have a look through some of those. singer elton john has expressed his condolences on social media, sharing a picture of the two on instagram, with the caption — "i am in deep shock. i have lost a beloved friend the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. my heart goes out to his family and all of his fans." ex supermodel linda evangelista who starred in michael's music video
for the song freedom also posted on instagram. he was also known quite well in the united states. bryan adams as well have posted his condolences. he conquered china. he did well there, becoming the first major western pop band to perform there to sell our performances in 1985. a global superstar, really. iwould performances in 1985. a global superstar, really. i would like to talk to somebody who knew him quite well. his former publicist who worked closely with him. first of all i would like to say how incredibly sorry i am for your loss. just tell us what you remember of him, what it was like working with
him. i worked under a lady who was his main publicist. i have had a long history with him. i went to boarding school in the 19805, the highlight of the whammy a5 and i was one of the girls who used to run after him and andrew to get their autograph. fa5t after him and andrew to get their autograph. fast forward to 1996 and i was working at mtb in europe met in london, when we had the mtv award5 in london, when we had the mtv awards at alexandra palace. i spent time with him and others and it graduated to working with him. he
ha5 graduated to working with him. he has been around in so many parts of my life. you went from somebody who looked up to george michael to somebody who worked with him and developed a friendship. what was that like? i worked for him. it was not so much a friendship. 0ther hollywood 5uch not so much a friendship. 0ther hollywood such a kind man and everybody liked him. he was very kind to everyone who worked for him. he was quite love it. he was quite 5hy a5 he was quite love it. he was quite 5hy as well, in the sense that he wa5 5hy as well, in the sense that he was not arrogant. there are many who are far more arrogant than he ever wa5. everyone they knew him closely, people who work for him, they all loved him. he was a very kind man. he had controversy and heartbreak and heartache of course. but he was
always loved and his legacy live5 and heartache of course. but he was always loved and his legacy lives on in his music. tell us what the man you knew, the man in private was like. i know you said you worked for him but there is a difference between what is projected in public and the real person. the real person ina 5en5e and the real person. the real person in a sense of years like one. he was gifted with phenomenal talent that everybody loved all races, all countries. everyone who went toward5 him. in public was a heartbroken arti5t him. in public was a heartbroken artist was troubled and spent time in jail artist was troubled and spent time injail unfortunately artist was troubled and spent time in jail unfortunately the5e artist was troubled and spent time in jail unfortunately these things happen in life. a family man, he loved his family members, he loved the people who was in love with. whoever he was dating he was quite caring toward5 saying that,
whoever he was dating he was quite caring towards saying that, like i saidi caring towards saying that, like i said i didn't know him, it is terrible to say this in the past tense, but the man we knew and loved was very kind and beloved. tense, but the man we knew and loved was very kind and belovedlj tense, but the man we knew and loved was very kind and beloved. i am so sorry that you are having to talk about him in the past tense in this way. i mean, what are the memories, the fondest memories that will stay with you? the fondest memory was that there was one thing he did when i was expecting back in 19961 that there was one thing he did when i was expecting back in 1996 i had a massive stomach and mud daughter was born at march and this was november when i was looking after him at the mtv awards. he touched my stomach and justin said bless this child with the gift of song and laughter. and now, my daughter is a singer. i tell my daughter that george michael
blessed her. it is very, very sad. a noble gentleman. a phenomenal talent. an incredibly moving story andi talent. an incredibly moving story and i am terribly sorry that you have to speak to us in the circumstances that were quite appreciate your time. thom geier is managing editor of the entertainment magazine the wrap and he joins us from new york .we are . we are talking about some of the tributes that have been pouring in that they have been tributes for people who knew george michael from the 19805 and people who were barely out of their 205. why was he so significant? i think that george michael came of age as a pop star in the early 19805, just as the music video phenomenon was really beginning to take off. it was the
early days of mtb and he was really one of the pioneers who helped launch that format as a vehicle of expression for music and for pop music in particular. and so when you think back to some of his early hits like kellas whisper or make faith. we are it was with lamb or as a —— whether it was with matt two or a solo artist. how did he manage to get from the artist to serious artists? he began as a teenybopper and transitioned quickly to be a new sort of sex symbol that we have not seen before. a man who went from being a teenybopper pinup idol to a man with stubble wearing jeans. and
it was a remarkable transformation. the video was quite interesting. we saw him bring in models and he went on to work with a number of other people from different types of music. collaborating with people from r&b but now that is quite common thing to do. it was at that time at time, wasn't it? for him to work with artists of different genres, be they r&b or symphony orchestras, more recently, in 2014 he did that. the other thing as well to remember is that he was one of the early stars to come out as gay. but as bisexual and then as gay and that evolution that we have seen in terms of the public acceptance of a artists, he was really at the cutting edge of the phenomena as well. it was in the circumstances that he may have chosen. as you said it was hugely significant, wasn't it? absolutely. he became a faith
that phenomena in. somewhat relu cta ntly that phenomena in. somewhat reluctantly in some cases but his interview in 1999 was really one of the seminal coming out moment we saw in terms of a public figure of that stature accepting and embracing his status as a gay man. and how was that reflected in his music and how did it go on to of influence his career? there were so many things you saw in the 19905. he was not nearly as popular as he was in the early 19805 but there seem to be a legacy attached, certainly among the 95v legacy attached, certainly among the gay community. he continued to be embraced as a seminal figure. and how do you think he will be remembered? one of the things that i think is remarkable is that he has died on christmas day and he is also associated with two of the biggest p0p associated with two of the biggest pop hits associated with christmas. last christmas was one of the last
singles he did with wham and the band—aid phenomena from 1984, do they know it's christmas? ? it was one of the singers on that hit. and those two songs, on this day, it is a kind of carol calls to mind everything that made him successful and popular. there is a lot to talk about what we need to leave it there. stay with us on bbc news. still to come: more on our top story, the death of the singer george michael, at the age of 53. we saw this enormous tidal wave approaching the beach, and people started to run, and suddenly it was complete chaos. united states troops have been trying to overthrow the dictatorship of general manuel noriega. the pentagon said the operation had been 90% successful, but it's failed in its principal objective, to capture general noriega and take him to the united states to face drugs charges. the hammer and sickle
was hastily taken away. the russian flag was hoisted over what is now no longer the soviet union, but the commonwealth of independent states. day broke slowly over lockerbie, over the cockpit of the pan—am's maid of the seas, nose—down in the soft earth. you could see what happens when a plane eight storeys high, a football pitch wide, falls from 30,000 feet. christmas has returned to albania after a communist ban lasting more than 20 years. thousands went to midnight mass in the town of shkoder where there were anti—communist riots ten days ago. this is bbc news. the latest headlines: the singer george michael, who shot to fame in the 19805 with the pop group wham!, has died at the age of 53. tributes have come in and eltonjohn described him as the kindest, most general soul,
and a brilliant artist. as we've been describing, george michael died peacefully at home. police were called to his house just after 2pm on christmas day and say his death was unexplained but not suspicious. paul lester is a freelance music journalist who's written for the guardian, and sunday times newspapers here in the uk. he explained how george michael also used his celebrity status as singer songwriter to focus on other causes that he cared about. i think he was like prince, one of those artists that really wanted to be taken more seriously and he did try to make moves into the political arena and he did espouse causes, so i think it wasn'tjust about songwriting and singing, there was more to him than that and i think that's what he wanted to do latterly. it was of course what he had done by his mid— 205, was absolutely achieve everything you could possibly achieve as a
songwriter and musician. he was one of the biggest stars in britain, he made the move to become a global superstar, he played in china, he did everything you could do, there was really nothing left for him to do in the musical world and so he was looking outside of that to espouse causes that were dear to his heart. let's have a look at a couple of other stories now. russian authorities say the location where a military plane with 92 people on board crashed into the black sea has been pinpointed. more than 100 divers have been exploring the seabed. so far, they have recovered 11 bodies. vigils have been held to remember those who died in the crash. most of the passengers were members of the russian army's famous band, formerly known as the red army choir. the transport minister says investigators aren't ruling out any possible reasons for the crash, that includes terrorism. steve rosenberg reports from moscow. this is one of the final images of the tupolev 154 jet. it was taken by a journalist before he boarded the plane.
the flight would end in tragedy. the aircraft crashed into the black sea. the russians scrambled helicopters and ships, but the search became a recovery operation. there were no survivors. the plane had taken off from a military airfield near moscow. it flew south, stopping in sochi to refuel. the final destination was syria and russia's airbase near latakia, but minutes after leaving sochi it crashed. president putin offered his condolences to the families of the victims and promised them his full support. on board were more than 60 members of the russian army's famous song and dance ensemble once known as the red army choir. they'd been due to give a concert at the russian airbase in syria. translation: we loved them, we value
them. they were our brothers, friends, colleagues. may they rest in peace. also killed in the crash, this activist, known to millions of russians. most civilian airlines have stopped using the tupolev154, once the workhorse of the russian aviation industry. in 2010, a tupolev154, carrying the polish president, crashed in russia while trying to land. the following year a similar plane caught fire in siberia before takeoff. throughout the day muscovites brought flowers to the headquarters of the russian army choir. this disaster has left russia stunned and silent. the kremlin has promised a thorough investigation into this tragedy. it's also declared monday a day of national mourning. steve rosenberg, bbc news, moscow. for the first time in nearly 30 years, queen elizabeth has missed
the christmas day church service at sandringham. buckingham palace says she's still recovering from a heavy cold. in her pre—recorded christmas message, the queen said she often draws strength from meeting ordinary people, doing extraordinary things. 0ur royal correspondent, nicholas witchell, reports. christmas day service at sandringham church, but this year without the queen. while other members of her family, including the duke of edinburgh, attended, the queen remained at sandringham house, continuing to recover from what buckingham palace has described as a heavy cold. as they left church after the service, the family appeared relaxed. the queen's absence is understood to have been precautionary and there's no sense of undue concern. also absent from sandringham this year, the duke and duchess of cambridge and their children, george and charlotte. they attended church at bucklebury in berkshire, where they've spent christmas day with the duchess's family, the middletons. inspiration was the theme of this
year's christmas broadcast by the queen, which was recorded at buckingham palace some days ago. she cited the achievements of olympic and paralympic athletes, and she said she also found inspiration from daily life. i often draw strength from meeting ordinary people doing extraordinary things. volunteers, carers, community organisers and good neighbours. unsung heroes whose quiet dedication makes them special. she recalled that this had been the year of her 90th birthday and paid tribute to the inspiring work of charities with which she's been associated. and she said much more could be achieved globally by acting with others. it's understandable that we sometimes think the world's problems are so big that we can do little to help. on our own we cannot end wars or wipe—out injustice, but the humility of impact of thousands of small acts
of goodness can be bigger than we imagined. her own life, she said, had been guided by the inspiring message of christianity. christ's example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe. it was a broadcast by a monarch who, although unusually indisposed this christmas, shows little sign of yielding to the passage of years. for the queen this year there's been that significant 90th birthday and some lightening of her workload but there's no expectation whatsoever that she will step away from the core duties of her role as monarch and head of state. nicholas witchell, bbc news, at buckingham palace. a reminder of our top story: the singer george michael has died at the age of 53.
police, who were called to his house in oxfordshire shortly before 2pm on christmas day, say his death is unexplained but not suspicious. he was one of the most successful recording artists of the past 30 years, selling more than 100 million records worldwide. in a statement his publicist said that: "it is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend george passed away peacefully at home over the christmas period. the family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time." we've got lots more on that on our website. i've just been looking at a picture story, showing george michael over the years. really moving. also more about his life there. just go to bbc .com /news. well, let's see what's in store for boxing day after that incredible
mild christmas day — among the mildest in 100 years but not quite a record breaker. boxing day, lots of sunshine on the way for england and wales but in the north of scotland it's going to be very windy. storm conor, we've been talking about it for a couple of days, is passing way to the north of us, but those winds will be felt further towards the south, across scotland. severe gales blowing through the night, and we are eveen feeling the effects of the storm in the pennines, with very strong winds blowing, and lots of wintry showers across scotland. but notice this line of rqain here — that's the cold front, which is all linked and wraps into storm conor, way further north. behind this cold front, we are getting colder air from the north atlantic so those temperatures dropping rapidly, there in the north, not far off freezing by the hours of boxing day. a little bit milder in the south. this is the weather map for boxing day, itself. storm conor there across the norwegian sea and those severe gales blowing in the north, particularly 0rkney and shetland.
an amber warning in force from the met office. wintry showers too. then we go down south, and it's a completely different story. some sunshine on the way for you here. now, remember, on christmas day we would have had around 13—14 degrees, we are down to six or seven celsius, so quite a bit colder but then you've got the sunshine so actually not a bad day for england, wales, norethern ireland. then the winds increase when you get into scotland and then blowing that severe gale across the northern isles. for most of us it should be a nice day on boxing day, something like this, maybe minus the horse. let's a have a look at europe, then, how our friends are doing during the course of boxing day. not particularly cold. in paris around 12 degrees. not far off that in rome, with some sunshine. look at that, even moscow only —1, so not exactly a deep freeze across europe. here's tuesday — a big area of high pressure builds,
which means a touch of frost in the morning across a large chunk of the uk maybe not in the far north—west. here, a bit more of a breeze and thicker clouds. but those temperatures into single figures and now closer to what they should be this time of the year. the high—pressure is going to stick around for most of the week. in fact, into the run up to the new year. with the high pressure sticking around, that spells more frost and some fog as well, so wednesday morning could be quite foggy in a few areas. chilly where the fog persists through the day, so bear that in mind — that the fog could be quite persistant across parts of england and wales. so rather than the wind being a problem in the coming days, it could well be the thick fog. the latest headlines from bbc news. i'm lebo diseko. the british pop—singer george michael, who shot to fame in the 19805 with the pop group wham, has died. he was 53. his publicist said he died peacefully at home. wham achieved worldwide success with hits such as ‘wake me up before you go—go' and ‘careless whisper‘. a huge search operation
is continuing through the night off russia's black sea coast for victims of a military plane which crashed — killing all ninety—two people on board. more than 3,000 rescue workers are searching a wide area. vigils are being held in sochi and several other cities. queen elizabeth has missed her annual christmas day visit to church in sandringham because of a heavy cold. in her christmas message she said she drew strength from ‘ordinary people doing extraordinary things', describing volunteers, carers, community workers and good neighbours as ‘unsung heroes‘. next up for our world, victoria gill went to antarctica