BANGKOK: The body of Shane Warne left Thailand early Thursday, flying back to Australia where the cricket superstar will receive a state funeral.
Wrapped in the Australian flag, the coffin of the 52-year-old – who died on Thailand’s Koh Samui island Friday – left Don Mueang International airport at 8.24 am local time (0124 GMT) on a private plane, a Thai airport official confirmed.
Autopsy results confirmed that the leg-spin bowler, one of the greatest Test cricketers of all time, died of natural causes after a suspected heart attack.
Warne “didn’t just inspire a cricketing generation – he defined it,” said a statement by the Victoria government, announcing the state funeral would be held on March 30 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Warne was discovered late Friday at a luxury villa on Koh Samui where he was on holiday, after failing to meet friends that evening.
He was taken to the Thai International Hospital Samui but despite medical efforts he could not be revived. On Monday, police said an autopsy had found “the death was due to natural causes”.
Surachate Hakparn, assistant to the national police chief, added that Warne’s father said the player “had been suffering chest pains and was planning to return home for a check-up after this trip”.
In their first public comments since his death, Warne’s parents, brother, children and ex-wife expressed deep sorrow.
“To find words to adequately express our sadness is an impossible task for us and looking to a future without Shane is inconceivable,” parents Keith and Brigitte Warne said in a statement.
“I miss you so much already,” said daughter Summer Warne. “I wish I could’ve hugged you tighter in what I didn’t know were my final moments with you.”
“I wish I could’ve told you that everything was going to be OK and hold your hand.”
Son Jackson Warne reminisced about playing golf and poker, and watching Australian rules football while eating pizza with someone he saw as a brother and best friend, as well as a father.
“I love you so much. I don’t think anything is ever going to fill the void you have left in my heart,” he said in a statement.
“You were truly the best father and mate anyone could’ve asked for. I love you so much Dad, see you soon.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison led tributes to one of the country’s “greatest characters”.
Over the weekend fans paid homage to Warne at his statue outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground – including offerings of cigarettes, beer and meat pies – to remember an extraordinary cricketing talent with a huge appetite for life.
Credited with reviving the art of leg-spin, Warne was part of a dominant Australian Test team in the 1990s and 2000s and helped his country win the 1999 limited-overs World Cup.