Kirsty MacColl Death by Boat Propeller in Mexico

Kirsty MacColl, A High Profile Boat Propeller Accident From 2000.

Kirsty MacColl

Kirsty MacColl

Kirsty MacColl, well known female British recording artist, was scuba diving in Mexico off Cozumel Island with a friend (James Knight) and a dive master (Ivan Diaz) on the afternoon of 18 December 2000. As they surfaced from a dive she saw a large powerboat was bearing down on her and her two sons (13 and 15 years of age). According to reports, she swam to one, moved him out of the way, then grabbed her other son to protect him. She was struck by the propeller, “killed instantly, her body nearly sliced in half by the propeller” according to a report published by her mother, Jean Newlove / Jean MacColl.

The son Kirsty first pushed out of the way was also struck, but not severely. The boat belonged to a wealthy, influential Mexican businessman. He claims the boat was operated by an employee, Jean MacColl suspects it was driven by the wealthy businessman. Kirsty MacColl’s mother and those who assisted her, were unable to penetrate the protection, challenges, and roadblocks surrounding the event to positively discern the truth. The investigation was officially dropped in December 2009.

Kirsty MacColl had been working 18 months straight and was looking forward to the trip. She planned to introduce her sons to scuba diving in the beautiful diving environment at Cozumel. Her mother dropped by the night before they left the U.K. for supper, and they made plans for Christmas. Kirsty was killed at age 41 in a boat propeller accident that made world headlines. Her funeral was held in Mortlake Crematorium in London.

Kirsty MacColl was beloved by many and still has a strong following.

The Boat

A 31 foot boat, The Percalito, was owned by then 67 year old, Guillermo Gonzalex Novo, owner of a large Mexican supermarket chain and many other businesses. Mr.Nova was on the boat along with his family, a baby granddaughter, and a hired deck hand, Jose Cen Yam, age 26. Jose claimed to be driving the boat and only going about 1 knot per hour at the time of the accident. He did not possess a license to operate a craft this large. Jean MacColl, and many others, suspect Mr. Nova was actually at the helm. Many eye witnesses claim the boat was going much faster in the restricted zone.

A metal bar beneath the propeller was bent by some tubing from Kirsty’s diving equipment”and impeded the propeller’s action” causing the boat to stop.

Kirsty MacColl Autopsy Report / Reports

Two Kirsty MacColl autopsy reports were produced. The first autopsy was performed in Mexico, the second autopsy was performed by Dr. Richard Shepherd, St. Georges Hospital Medical School, London, England.

Per autopsy reports she was sliced open from the back of her neck to her waist, part of her chest and her left leg were almost severed, Dr. Richard Shepherd thought she might have had a mastectomy due to all the missing parts.

The Mexican Businessman

Guillermo Gonzalez Novo, owner of the boat, was a very successful businessman. Some reports called him a tycoon. Best known for his ties to Comercial Mexicana (known as La Comercial or La Corner) – a major Mexican hypermarket chain, likened to Wal-Mart in the U.S., he also owned many other businesses and restaurants.

Guillermo Gonzalez Novo was a co-founder of Comercial Mexicana, and Chairman of the Board of Directors until 1998. He then became Honorary Chairman until his 2009 death at age 92.

Who Was Driving the Boat?

Several eyewitnesses say the hired deck hand, Jose Cen Yam, was not at the controls.

Guillermo Gonzalez Novo was the only person on board with a license to operate the large boat.

Cen Yam was found guilty, sentenced two two years and ten months, but allowed to pay about $90 U.S. in lieu of his serving his sentence. He also paid about $2,150 U.S. to the MacColl family in restitution. Some reports claim he was paid to take the blame.

Justice for Kirsty

Kirsty MacColl’s mother, Jean MacColl, launched a Justice for Kirsty campaign, and was aided by many of Kirsty’s followers. They generally felt Mr. Novo was at the helm and should be called to justice for his actions.

They went about their efforts by raising funds and trying to get the Mexican government to reopen the case.

The group applied to the the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. During May 2006 a Mexican federal prosecutor was found liable for breach of authority in his handling of the Kirsty MacColl case.

In 2005, the BBC released a documentary, “Who Killed Kirsty MacColl”.

In February 2006 with some encouragement from a U2 band frontman, the Mexican government said they would take action.

December 2009, Justice for Kirsty disbanded saying “it was unlikely than any more could be achieved”. Their remaining funds were split between two charities.

The Life of Kirsty MacColl

Kirsty MacColl

Kirsty MacColl

Kirsty was born in south London at Croydon in 1959. Her father, Ewan MacColl was a folk singer in the 1950’s. Her mother, Jean Newlove, was a dancer. Although Kirsty MacColl is often remembered for her singing, she primarily considered herself to be a song writer. Among her best known songs are Soho Square, and Fairytale of New York.

Kirsty married a music producer, Steve Lillywhite, in 1985 and focused on raising their two sons. Divorced in 1995, she later fell in love with musician James Knight.

Her whole life was spent in the entertainment world, her father a folk singer, her mother a dancer, her ex-husband a producer, herself a singer and song writer, her current boyfriend a musician. Her friends were entertainers. She probably had an interesting perspective on the life of an entertainer.

The Life And Songs Of Kirsty MacColl

The Life And Songs Of Kirsty MacColl - one hour BBC special

The YouTube video above includes clips of several performances not seen in the more well known one song videos.

An Annual Memorial

In response to one of her better known songs, Soho Square, a bench has been placed in London’s Soho Square Park in her honor. Every year on the Sunday nearest her October 10 birthday, fans gather at the bench to pay tribute and sing her songs.

Kirsty MacColl Soho Square

Kirsty MacColl Soho Square

She has a beautiful voice. I have certainly not listened to all her recordings, but personally, I like “Days”. It demonstrates her lovely voice. Her recognition of the importance of days is nice to know with her passing at an early age.


Kirsty MacColl Death is often used to search for this entry.


  1. i am Mexican and I am ashamed that this has happened to Kirsty McColl. I am ashamed not only because due to the ignorance and arrogance of a stupid businessman a great Musician died 12 years ago, but because we suffer as a nation the same injustices that McColl relatives experienced.

    I love my country but I hate its polilticians and its failed state. I hope that someday, my children could see a beautiful country whose authorities serves its citizens and not the contrary…

    • Spent two and a half months in Mazatlan in 1974. Fantastic place, fantastic people. I have never found another place like it. Great memories.

  2. Such a shame a life was taken too soon of a wonderful Musial person her music will live on forever RIP Kirsty

  3. Iam so sad she was such an amazing singer we will miss you xoxo

  4. Kirsty was a massive talent and will forever be remembered for her inspiring vocal performance in Fairytale of New York.
    I feel so frustrated that the detailed circumstances of her death have not been properly investigated.

  5. James Dylan Rivis

    Although very familiar with Kirsty’s Dad Ewan this was the first I had experienced Kirsty. To say the least I was truly shocked to learn of her violent and avoidable death.

    Most disgusting to me is how the most probable real driver of the boat that caused Kirsty’s death, in typical Mexican fashion. Completely circumvented his responsibilities and obviously passed the buck to a hapless unlicensed employee. edited comment

  6. I had been a fan of Kirsty since I heard.”He Never Mentioned Love” on the radio in the early 90s. I searched for nearly a year until I found who the singer was and then purchased and listened often to the rest of the songs on the Electric Landlady album.
    I married in May of 1999 and we honeymooned in Cozumel. There my wife learned to scuba dive. We dove many times on the Chankanaab reef. It is a beautiful place to dive with a steady current that moves you along the reef.
    I can understand why she would bring her family to a place that has so much wonder and beauty. I am very sorry for her family’s great loss and for loss of such a talented singer and caring mother.
    As a father who lost a son to an accident that involved alcohol I understand the pain of loosing a loved one. The person responsible for my son’s death did not go unpunished so I cannot share in this loss. I do know that I was able to speak at the sentencing hearing and found great peace in being able to share my loss with the court and the responsible party.
    I found the greatest peace in forgiving the offender who, while acting irresponsibly, had no intention of hurting, much less taking the life of my son. While it appears that the person responsible for Kirsty’s death has escaped legal guilt I am sure he lives with the burden of his actions now and will forever endure this pain.
    May the family of Kirsty be blessed by the memories of a loving mother and great artist and be free of the burden of seeking justice in this world. For everyone will be held accountable for their actions by a perfectly just God in the next world. May we all find forgiveness and grace that was extended to all at the cross. May God’s Spirit fill all of Kirsty’s family will peace and healing.

  7. RIP Kirsty a true legend and loving mother. I hope someday the Mexican government issue a formal apology for the way they have dealt with this tragic accident.
    In the meantime we should just remember Kirsty for the brilliant musician and person she was. Sadly missed xx

  8. Just one more message to the family and friends of Kirsty MacColl;

    Fans of truly great music will forever enjoy these treasures Kirsty has left for us.
    Those closest to her must have in some way inspired this huge talent.
    Take pride in this heritage and know how grateful so many will remain.
    This legacy will stand the test of time.

    The rich and privileged will never be able to take THIS away.

    Kirsty -forever loved and remembered always


  9. Greg Campbell

    It has been 18 Years’, And what a Tragic Loss it is’, Kirsty’ ,was Awesome! On the subject of who was piloting the boat and the Responsibility of this Tragedy ,Don’t just blame Mexico’ Such things as Shunning or Thwarting the Blame Happen in the USA, The UK ,and many other Countries ‘its just a matter of Money and Noteriaty ‘, if it were not Someone Rich and Prominent they would be Investigated , Prosecuted, and Incarcerated to the Umteenth Parallel ! Its just the Unrighteous Way of It’. God Rest Her Soul, I Love and still listen to Her Music.God Bless

  10. Timothy Whitehead

    Kirsty was a fantastic singer – I still play her songs regularly in the car – she is my favourite female singer – so sad what happened to her

  11. I have listened many time to ‘Fairy tale’ on the radio in the car over the years and never knew the tragic death story! I now listen to it with tears in my eyes for what happened to her and her family who saw it happen.

  12. I heard Kirsty singing “New England” on the Richard Blade Radio show a few months ago. Remembered it from years before. I looked the song up and hoping she was still touring so I could go see her. What I found was the news of her tragic death in 2000, almost 20 years ago. Her music touched me in a way I can’t even explain.
    Rest In Peace sweet lady.

  13. Eva Lorraine Appleby

    I am still sad nearly twenty years on that a beautiful soul and singer was ripped away from us so violently and no one has answered for it makes my blood boil. RIP Kirsty Love you always xoxoxox

  14. Was in Cozumel with gf at around the same time, Club Cozumel Chereb. The dive boat had only one engine for drift dives with 80 people onboard for the full week. One engine and anything happens cant start an engine and 80 people scattered across the Atlantic. I was almost electrocuted in the club by a ground electrical hotplate whose element porcelain insulator cracked and dropped a wire to plate the should have been attached to a ground — it wasn’t. The list goes on. I have been to Mexico and its a dangerous place. We aren’t perfect but their concept of safety is almost nonexistent compared to ours. Go there expecting the worst — take care of yourself. Why the h*ll do you think it is cheap?

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences in Mexico. We have visited with several people with horrific experiences once an accident does happen in third world diving areas. But as you point out they are more likely to happen in the first place with due to the lack of concern for safety, medical care, and infrastructure. All the focus is on tourism money, not energy left to focus on tourism safety. This is not to say there are not some top notch diving operations in such areas, but even then if things go wrong you are hosed. Thanks for the comment.

  15. I have always loved Kirsty macColl. Her songs and music are the story of life itself. Such zest and energy and what a voice. A unique talent that touches the spirit of so many. I was devastated when i heard of Kirstys untimely and unjust death. It filled me and my friends with a deep sadness which is still palpable on Kirstys anniversaries. My wife and myself visit Soho square each year and love the fact that Kirsty MacColls music and beautiful personality are all there to be discovered and enjoyed by future generations. We will hear her music and have a drink in her honour on 18th December Kirstys 21st Anniversary. Thank you for such a gift

    • Thank you for such a nice tribute to Kirsty. We are glad to hear from somebody that is able to visit Soho Square.
      Her music is timeless. It is great that you and others still celebrate it.


  16. Kirsty is really missed. A very nice person and singer. May she rest in peace.

    • Thank you Lorna. Kirsty Maccoll always stood for what was good and right. She always put others first. A selfless and kind person so rare these days. It was a devastating tragedy to lose such a unique voice and writing talent which reflected every situation in life. I will always miss her and will attend the Kirstyfest in Soho Square on October 19th 2022 to honour Kirsty and celebrate all the good she did that still carries on today in Cuba etc. Thanks to all those genuine friends and comrades who were 150% behind Kirsty and helped to make possible all the fabulous works. Kirstys music is a fitting memorial as it is about life of which she was an excellent commentator. Kirstys songs will last forever as will her beautiful spirit. You still watch over us dear spirit

      • Thank you for the beautiful tribute to Kirsty Maccoll.
        Glad to hear you will be attending Kirstyfest in Soho Square.
        If you get a chance, please send us a picture or two of the event and we will post them.

  17. Always a happy sounding singer and good tracks by her. Her songs will sound excellent always..An unmistakable voice so strong and meaningful..R.I.P.

  18. Massive crush on Kirsty back in the day. Loved her voice, it seemed to have ancient vibes and gave me goosebumps every time I hear it. I miss her very much she was a beautiful lady who has left a massive impression on my life. There will never be anyone quite like her. RIP Kirsty much loved by me x

  19. This is the first time hearing about this and it was so sad I know a few of the songs she sang but for her sons to witness it was even worse RIP Kirstyou hope you are at peace now and family can get justice for her untimely death x

  20. Susan Carrington-Perrin

    Ten and two months is not enough for a life. He should have served life, lock him up and throw away the key, that’s my opinion

  21. Susan Carrington-Perrin

    Authorities are being a bit leaniant on the sentencing. He should have gotten life regardless of who he is

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