The one word that raised the alarm for friends of Socceroos star Stephen Laybutt, who was found dead in the bush – as his pal reveals their final fight to save his life


A friend of former Socceroos star Stephen Laybutt has shared chilling details of the moments before the footballer took his own life in the hope of helping others struggling with severe depression.

Laybutt had been visiting friends in Casuarina in northern NSW the day before his death and was last seen on January 12 at around 9pm.

The 46-year-old, who also represented Australia at the 2000 Olympics, posted a chilling one-word message on social media on the morning of January 13, raising the alarm from friends who knew about his ongoing mental health battle.

People began to reach out for help, but the former athlete answered only a few – telling them that he could not be spoken to.

Police were informed and a large-scale search was launched in the Casuarina area before his silver Mercedes was found parked outside a shop in nearby Cabarita at around 11.30am on January 13.

Laybutt’s body was found in the bush at about 7pm the following day.

One of Laybutt’s friends has now opened up to Daily Mail Australia about the tragedy in the hope it might convince others with the same problems to seek help.

Stephen Laybutt (pictured) was found dead in bushland in northern NSW on January 14. He was 46

Stephen Laybutt (pictured plays for Newcastle Jets) was visiting friends in northern NSW when he disappeared.

On the morning he went missing, Laybutt wrote «adios,» which is the Spanish word for «goodbye,» on his Facebook page.

A friend told Daily Mail Australia he was one of many who reached out to Laybutt after reading the post.

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He got no response, but said the few people who did were shocked by what he said.

«The news was chilling,» he said.

The friend did not go into detail, but said the former soccer star essentially told select friends: ‘I can’t do this anymore’.

He said there was a suggestion Laybutt may have tried to take his own life earlier.

«It was appreciated that he wrestled and some of us are wondering if we could have had that extra conversation … everybody lives with that guilt,» he said.

“Personally, I think he made up his mind a long time ago.

CCTV captured an image of Stephen Laybutt on January 13 (pictured). He was last seen wearing blue shorts, a thong, and a blue shirt

The cause of Laybutt’s mental health problems was unclear, but a friend said it was likely some of the problems began when the footballer came out as gay in 2008, sending him into early retirement after rupturing his Achilles tendon.

Rather than feeling liberated after opening up about his sexuality, he may feel burdened, the friend said.

After his retirement, Laybutt said that his sexuality had a «massive effect» on his career.

«Nobody knew. It takes a lot of effort to hide like this and lie to yourself all the time. That breaks you and you go down a path of self-destruction,” he said.

Laybutt said he «spinned out of control» after that because he thought things would be easier when he was honest about who he was, but it wasn’t.

But the friend said things got easier when he met his partner Michael Lutteral in 2010.

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«Everybody wanted to be his friend because he was so damn good and a good-looking guy,» he said.

“It will show, it doesn’t matter who you are.

Stephen Laybutt, 46, played 15 games for the national team between 2000 and 2004 and represented Australia at the 2000 Olympics

The friend also highlighted the fact that Laybutt donated his kidney to 67-year-old Ian Pavey in December 2021, whom he met while working in the rehabilitation unit at St Vincent’s Private Hospital.

«I mean, he donated a kidney to someone he barely knew,» he said.

«Who does this?» It’s kind of weird to do that, but he was that kind of guy.’

Laybutt was helping patients recovering from surgery and other ailments when he met Mr Pavey, who was on the transplant list waiting for a donor for his failing kidneys.

Mr Pavey endured three years on dialysis until a text message from Laybutt changed his life.

«Hey mate, this is Steve from St Vincent’s,» the message read.

“I want to explore if I could give you a kidney. Please consider it.’

The friend said he couldn’t stop thinking about Laybutt since the tragedy.

«If we can prevent this from happening … If we can save one more life, it’s worth talking about.»

If this has caused any problems for you, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636

What to do if someone you know is suicidal

It can be upsetting when someone you care about wants to end their life.

You may think that by getting involved you are making the situation worse, but taking action is the best thing you can do.

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The first step is to ask questions and find out if the person is in danger. Be direct but sensitive and honest and let them know they can trust you.

1. Ask if they are okay. Explain the differences you notice and ask how they are doing and tell them why you are concerned.

Asking someone if they are suicidal doesn’t put ideas in their head.

Questions include: Would you like to talk to me about what happened? I’m worried about you. You haven’t seemed like yourself lately – is everything alright?

2. Listen to them, encourage them to take their time, don’t judge or advise.

You may want to try to solve the problem to make them feel better, but it won’t help them feel heard.

3. Encourage them to get help and explore their options. Check that you understand the situation and what you can do to help.

Questions include: What can I do to support you? What have you already tried? Have you thought about seeing your doctor or calling a support service?

They may not want to talk about their mental health, so don’t push them. By starting a conversation, you show that you care and are willing to listen.

If someone is in imminent danger of suicide, call 000.

Source: Beyond Blue

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