Former Wigan Warriors, St Helens, Wakefield Trinity and Leigh Centurions forward Ricky Bibey found dead in Italy
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Bibey was reportedly found dead in his room at the four-star Hotel Continentale in Florence, Italy on Saturday morning after staff alerted the police.
He was said to have arrived on Friday with a 43-year-old woman, thought to be his partner, who is being treated at the city’s Careggi hospital after she was found alongside him with serious injuries.
Italian newspaper La Nazione said that the man found dead was Bibey, who was a rugby league professional for more than a decade until he retired in 2012 due to an Achilles tendon injury.
Bibey is reported to have worked as an estate agent in the years following his retirement, and had previously run a development company.
When approached by the PA news agency, Florence police and hotel staff were unable to provide any information regarding the incident, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) did not confirm reports of the man’s identity.
An FCDO spokesperson said on Saturday: “We are in touch with the Italian police following the death of a British man in Florence."
Local media reported the couple were 'both owners of a real estate buying company that often led them to come to Italy'.
The news has shocked the rugby league world.
“Wigan Warriors are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former prop forward, Ricky Bibey,” tweeted the Warriors. “Between 2001-2003, Ricky played 42 games for Wigan and was part of the 2002 Challenge Cup winning squad. We send our condolences to Ricky's family and friends at this sad time.”
St Helens tweeted: “We are saddened to hear of the passing of former Saint Ricky Bibey. Ricky played 21 times for us and was part of the 2004 @TheChallengeCup winning squad that defeated Wigan. All our thoughts are with Ricky’s friends and family at this terrible time.”
Wakefield tweeted: "We are saddened to hear of the passing of former prop-forward Ricky Bibey, aged 40. Ricky played for Trinity between 2007 and 2009, making 60 appearances. We send our condolences to Ricky's family and friends at this tough time."
Leigh tweeted: “We are desperately saddened to learn of the passing of their popular former prop forward Ricky Bibey (HN#1211) while on holiday in Italy. Ricky was only 40 years of age. Everyone at the club sends sincere condolences to his family and friends at this time.”
Leeds tweeted: “Sad news this morning of the untimely death of former Wigan, Saints, Wakefield and Leigh player Ricky Bibey, are thoughts are with his friends and family at this sad time.”
Widnes tweeted: “We would like to send our deepest condolences to the friends and family of former Rugby League player Ricky Bibey, who has sadly passed away aged just 40. The thoughts of everyone at the club are with them at this time.”
Former Saints team-mate Apollo Perelini tweeted: “Sad to hear of the tragic passing of friend and former @Saints1890 Ricky Bibey. Condolences to his family at this time.”
Ex-Huddersfield forward Eorl Crabtree tweeted: “Very saddened to hear of the passing of Ricky Bibey, only 40 years of age, rugby league is a tough game but life is often far more brutal. My Thoughts are with the family. #ripwarrior”
Former Great Britain star Leon Pryce tweeted: “Sincere condolences to Ricky’s family. We played against each other since the age of about 14. Yorkshire vs Lancashire and together for England schools boys U16’s. A great lad. Absolutely devastating news.”
Ex-Great Britain forward Paul Cooke tweeted: “Sad news regarding Ricky Bibey. First met him when we toured France as schoolboys under our coach the great Mike Gregory. A larger than life character and so much fun to be around. Had an amazing career in rugby league too! Rest easy big man. Condolences to family and friends.”
Ex-England half-back Chris Thorman tweeted: “RIP Ricky. Thoughts and love to his family.”
Former Leigh team-mate Ryan Brierley tweeted: “Awful news this morning hearing the passing of Ricky Bibey, looked after me in them early years at Leigh, always put his arm around me. Rest easy big man.”
Ex-Wigan junior Chris Mayor tweeted: “He was one of a kind mate. RIP Rickyxx”
Former Wales forward Chris Morley tweeted: “Gone to soon Ricky B RIP pal x”
Ex-Super League referee Ian Smith: “Very sad news. RIP Ricky.”
Rochdale chairman Andy Mazey tweeted: “Terrible news this morning. RIP Ricky and thoughts with Ronny and the Bibey family.”
Sky pundit Barrie McDermott – the former Wigan and Great Britain internatonal – tweeted simply: “#RIPRicky”.