Martial arts icon Bruce Lee was on the verge of becoming an international superstar when he died at the age of 32.
In perfect physical shape, his shock death in 1973 came a month before the release of Enter The Dragon, the film that was to give the Asian-American kung-fu king the sort of posthumous fame last seen with the early deaths of Hollywood stars like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe.
Married with two children, Lee died in the Hong Kong apartment of Taiwanese actress Betty Ting Pei.
He was found on the bed, which led to tabloid rumours of a sex and drug-filled orgy but Ting Pei denied being his mistress, saying Lee died after an allergic reaction to a painkiller she had given him for a headache.
She said she found him unconscious in the flat when she returned from a dinner meeting and he was dead by the time he was taken to hospital.
Officially, Lee died from a cerebral edema (a swelling of the brain) and the coroner’s report concluded that it was caused by an allergic reaction to the tranquilliser meprobamate, the main ingredient in Equagesic, an over-the-counter painkiller.
There was only one flaw with the theory that Lee’s death was caused by such an allergy. He was in excellent physical health with no known underlying problems and as a veteran martial arts expert, he had taken painkillers most of his adult life without any side effects.
Lee’s sudden death kickstarted a number of rumours and alternative theories about the possible cause.
He had become an overnight cult hero and fans were so upset by speculation over his death that they started to protest in the streets and even make bomb threats.
The trouble on the streets of Hong Kong got so bad that the British government started a full investigation into his death.
Some alleged that Ting Pei was really his mistress and that she killed him in a fit of rage.
Others claimed that maybe Lee’s business partner, Raymond Chow, killed him out of greed because Lee was about to become such a huge international box office star.
There remains nothing to back up these wild claims.
Lee was already known around the world as one of the greatest action stars thanks to the movie Fists of Fury, which had broken box office records in Hong Kong.
More extreme theories claimed his death was a result of an ancient curse that had been put on the Californian-born kung fu star who appeared in over 20 films and ran his own martial arts schools.
There was also a lot of speculation that he was killed by a gang or even the Triads, a theory that may have had a grain of truth as Lee had a feud with Triad members in Hong Kong in the late 1950s, before moving to the US.
Another rumour was that his friend Ting Pei was connected with Triads and possibly even a member herself. Again, there is no evidence to support this.
But the latest, and possibly the most plausible, explanation came from writer Matthew Polly, who published his Bruce Lee biography in 2019.
Polly revealed that a few months before his death, Lee had the sweat glands in his armpits surgically removed because he didn't like their sweaty appearance in films.
The day he died was the hottest of the month in tropical Hong Kong and Lee had just demonstrated a vigorous kung fu scene in Ting Pei’s tiny flat when he began to feel dizzy.
Lee complained of a headache and went to lie down. He never woke up.
Dead at 32, Lee’s films and cult status have grown in stature ever since that fateful day but then so have the conspiracies surrounding his death.
Like the star's legend, the mystery lives on.
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