A statement on his GoFundMe page confirmed that the sporting favourite – nicknamed ‘Mr Maximum’ due to his record number of 147s during his career – passed away in the early hours of Wednesday morning in Spain after being placed in an induced coma due to septic shock.
Thorne was being treated at Torrevieja Hospital near Alicante, and is said to have “passed away very peacefully” with messages from wellwishers being read out to him, with his family also by his side.
The former world No 7 was diagnosed with leukaemia in March, and had been undergoing chemotherapy while living at a rented apartment in Spain. However, the illness brought about a number of health scares in recent months. Thorne needed three blood transfusions before returning to hospital in May for heart checks and an MRI scan, and he was readmitted to hospital this month due to a dangerous drop in blood pressure, before being placed in an induced coma at the start of the week.
A message on his GoFundMe page, issued by friend and carer Julie O’Neil, read: “It is with a very heavy and broken heart that I have to officially announce that at 1.55am this morning Willie Thorne lost his battle and passed away!
“Willie went into septic shock and was not responding to any treatment so the decision was made by the hospital to turn off the machines
“I was with him all the way to his end and reading out messages to him from people.
“He passed away very peacefully and without pain listening to his children saying they love him that gives me some comfort in this difficult time.
“Over here in Spain everything happens very quickly so today myself and his family will be making plans and will inform you accordingly!
“It disappoints me some what that people were tweeting he has passed away when he was still holding on and with us!
“I guess that’s celebrity life….
“Thank you so very much to everyone that has been involved in Willies care you have all been absolutely amazing and Willie couldn’t have asked for better
“Thank you for all the donations that enabled him to get the care he needed!
“This will now pay for his funeral.
“Thank you for all the well wishes and beautiful messages of support xxx.”
Thorne clinched 14 titles after turning professional in 1975, winning his only ranked tournament in 1985 when he beat Cliff Thorburn in the final of The Classic. He also reached the final of the UK Championship in the same year, but finished as runner-up to Steve Davis.
He held a world championship-best of reaching the last eight, having made the quarter-finals in both 1982 and 1987, though it was his 126 century breaks that he became best known for.
After retiring from the sport, Throne remained involved through his commentary work with the BBC.
But he also suffered from a gambling addiction that left him with a debt of more than £1m in 2015, and he was later declared bankrupt. Thorne used his experiences to help others with similar issues, and he also worked with Sport Relief to tackle homelessness as well as other schemes focussed around prostate and testicular cancer.
His passing prompted a number of tributes, with former England football and BBC colleague Gary Lineker expressing his sadness at hearing of Thorne’s death.
“Deeply, deeply saddened to hear that my friend Willie Thorne has passed away,” Lineker wrote on Twitter. “One of life’s great characters. A marvellous snooker player and a lovely man, who’s potted his final black much too soon. RIP Willie.”