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Monday, 24 December, 2001, 02:48 GMT
Diving legend commits suicide
Big Blue
Jacques Mayol was the inspiration behind The Big Blue
Jacques Mayol, the French diver who inspired the film The Big Blue, has been found dead in his villa on the Italian island of Elba.

He said he felt alone, but never did I imagine he would do something like this

Friend and rival Umberto Pelizzari
Police said Mayol had hanged himself on Saturday. His body was found on Sunday by a worried neighbour.

His Italian friend and rival Umberto Pelizzari said the 74-year-old had been depressed in recent months.

"He said he felt alone, but never did I imagine he would do something like this," Mr Pelizzari said. "I considered him my master."

Diving daredevil

In 1976 Mayol became the first man to reach 100 metres (330 ft), a record he followed up in 1983 with a free dive to 105 metres (346 ft) at the age of 56.

Mr Pelizzari later beat this record with a free dive of 131 metres (432 ft).

Jacques Mayol
Mayol was the first man to dive to 100 metres without oxygen
Mayol's life formed the basis of Luc Besson's 1988 film The Big Blue, which he co-wrote, and which proved very successful at the European box office.

French President Jacques Chirac hailed Mayol, who was born in 1927 in Shanghai, as a "visionary, who for the 'Big Blue generation' will remain as a symbol of the quest for the absolute."

Police said they found a letter at his home in which Mayol asked to be cremated.

The ceremony is due to be held in the coming days in the Italian town of Livorno.

See also:

02 Aug 00 | Wales
Diver sets new world record
11 Nov 98 | Sci/Tech
Take a deep breath
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