December 21, 2009 / 12:10 AM / 10 years ago

Brittany Murphy death sparks speculation over cause

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles coroners will perform an autopsy on Monday on actress Brittany Murphy as speculation mounted that anorexia may have played a part in her sudden death one day earlier at age 32.

A television camera stands in the street near the driveway to the Hollywood Hills home of the late actress Brittany Murphy in Los Angeles, California December 21, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Police and coroner’s officials said no foul play is suspected in the actress’s cardiac arrest on Sunday morning in the bathroom of her Hollywood Hills home.

Assistant Coroner Ed Winter said initial reports showed the “Clueless” actress’ death may have resulted from heart-related causes but said the autopsy would include toxicology tests. Results will not be known for six to eight weeks.

Celebrity website TMZ, which broke the news, reported there was “a significant amount of vomit” in the bathroom area where Murphy was found unconscious in the shower. TMZ said Murphy was taking medication for flu-like symptoms for several days, and there were a lot of prescriptions in the house.

Other news reports focussed on Murphy’s emaciated appearance in recent weeks. Us Weekly printed a photo on its website of Murphy’s last known public appearance on the red carpet at a fashion event in Los Angeles on December 3, which showed the actress in a sleeveless dress with bone thin arms and legs. quoted one unnamed friend as saying Murphy had “insane self-image issues,” and columnist Courtney Hazlett said some magazines decided against running photos of her in December because she looked sick and “painfully thin.”

In 2005, Murphy denied widespread rumours she had an eating disorder or that her weight loss was due to cocaine use.

Murphy starred in films like “Girl Interrupted” and “8 Mile” opposite Michael Douglas, Ashton Kutcher, Eminem and Angelina Jolie, but failed to attain their level of success. In recent years, she worked mostly in low-budget movies.

Earlier this month, she left the set of indie thriller “The Caller” over what her publicist has said were creative differences. When Murphy and her husband of two years, British screenwriter Simon Monjack, returned to Los Angeles, he lost consciousness on the plane and was rushed to a hospital.

Murphy was last in theaters two weeks ago with the release of the low-budget thriller “Across the Hall.” She recently finished work on the Sylvester Stallone action film “The Expendables.”

A statement issued on behalf of her family said: “The sudden loss of our beloved Brittany is a terrible tragedy. She was our daughter, our wife, our love and a shining star. We ask you to respect our privacy at this time.”

Kutcher, a former boyfriend of Murphy, wrote on his Twitter page on Sunday that “(Today) the world lost a little piece of sunshine. (S)ee you on the other side kid.”

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Vicki Allen

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