Inquiry Into Linda McCartney's Death Begins

Although Linda McCartney's ashes have reportedly already been scattered at a family ranch in Arizona and farm in England, questions about the exact location and nature of her death have yet to be laid to rest.

Contrary to reports that Linda McCartney's death last week occurred in Santa Barbara, where she and husband Paul had been vacationing, family spokesperson Geoff Baker has now confirmed that her passing occurred at an undisclosed location "that was private to her and her family."

"Everyone has assumed that it was Santa Barbara, California," Baker said in a statement yesterday to Britain's national Press Association. "In an effort to allow the family time to get back to England in peace and in private, it was stated that she died in Santa Barbara."

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department announced Wednesday that it had opened an inquiry into McCartney's death when no death certificate or cremation authorization request were filed with the county.

Although People magazine reported on its website Wednesday that McCartney died at a family estate outside of Tucson and the Arizona Daily Star quoted unidentified sources claiming the Pima County medical examiner authorized her cremation, the family has neither confirmed or denied the reports. As death certificates are not entered into the public record in Arizona, state officials can't confirm the reports.

Suggestions that McCartney's death might have been an assisted suicide have been flatly denied by the family. A statement issued by McCartney's oncologist, Dr. Larry Norton of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York said "she died of natural causes of metastic breast cancer."

In response to the flurry of questions that have surrounded his wife's death, Paul made a plea to the British Press Association Wednesday that his family be left in peace.

"Any suggestion that her death was assisted is complete and utter rubbish, a total nonsense," refuted the former Beatle, who in a statement Tuesday said his wife died in his arms. "Our family has received many beautiful messages of sympathy from ordinary people around the world. Reading their messages, we know that ordinary people would want our request for simple privacy to be respected. This is a personal request from me ..."

The McCartneys maintained a 150-acre ranch outside of Tucson, which they purchased in 1979. In the mid-Sixties, Linda briefly attended the University of Arizona before returning to her home state of New York.