George Michael and Melanie Panayiotou

Melanie Panayiotou, the younger sister of pop icon George Michael, died on Christmas Day, exactly three years after her brother.

The family confirmed in a statement that Melanie “passed away suddenly” over Christmas and “simply ask that the family’s privacy be respected at this very sad time.”

The 55-year-old hairdresser was found by her older sister, Yioda, on the evening of December 25th.

The Metropolitan Police also confirmed the death in a statement, noting that the London Ambulance Service was called shortly after 7.30pm on Wednesday to reports of the sudden death of a woman. Her death is not being treated as suspicious.

Andrew Ridgeley, Michael’s former Wham! bandmate, offered his condolences to the family on Twitter. “Utterly tragic news of Mel Panayiotou’s passing. My thoughts are with her sister and father at this desperately sad time.”

Just 48 hours before her death, Melanie along with her family issued a joint statement remembering her brother two days before the third anniversary of his death. “It seems important that his generosity of spirit and natural empathy have touched you in a way that would have him embarrassed; all your kind words are really good to hear, and we know you have always known his true heart,” the statement read. “Everyone has been working so hard to bring you his music, the movie is going to be there to celebrate and remember [George] and his music well into the future … and we thank everyone whose efforts brought his music to you. We will be swerving the bad and enjoying the good as much as we can this coming year (2019 has been difficult and busy for George’s hardworking team).”

Michael was close to Melanie and left £50m in his will to the makeup artist, who used to cut her brother’s hair as she travelled with him.