LEGENDARY Crowded House drummer Paul Hester was found dead yesterday in a public park.
Hester, 46, the father of two young girls, failed to return from walking his dogs on Saturday night.
Police later found his body in Elsternwick park near his Melbourne home. They said there were no suspicious circumstances and friends said they had been unaware of Hester having been depressed.
Last night, former Crowded House members, singer Neil Finn and bassist Nick Seymour, said they were reeling from the tragedy.
"I am devastated," Finn said. "I have lost one of my best mates."
Finn, on tour with his brother Tim, is due to start four dates at the Royal Albert Hall in London, but may postpone the performances to fly to Melbourne today.
Split Enz and Crowded House members were contacted by Peter Green, from Neil Finn's office, yesterday. "I can't imagine a sadder day than today," Mr Green, Hester's long-time friend, said last night.
"I feel for Paul's little girls. We are still, all of us, asking why?"
Mr Green said Hester, a perennial joker on stage and off, had been in good spirits in recent times. "Paul had some dark moments. Some good days and some bad days, like all of us," Mr Green said.
Hester had returned from Dublin two weeks ago, where he enjoyed an upbeat visit with former Crowdies bassist, Nick Seymour.
"It was all good," Seymour said from Dublin last night. "The last words Paul told me were: 'I love you, mate. See you in town [Melbourne] in a month'."
As news of Hester's death swept Sydney's Cockatoo Island Festival last night, You Am I singer Tim Rogers dedicated a song to the drummer during his set.
Hester quit Crowded House in 1994, but had reinvented himself into a drummer-for-hire, cafe owner and charismatic frontman of MusicMax Sessions on Foxtel. Hester also played drums in Split Enz from 1983 to 1984.
He lived in Elwood - a fashionable bayside suburb of Melbourne - with his girlfriend, Mardi Sommerfeld, and their two daughters, aged 10 and 8.
Last night, music industry leaders were in mourning for a drummer, who, in Crowded House, cracked the US market with the 1987 hit, Don't Dream It's Over.
"We have lost a mate," Mr Green said. "We have lost the heart and soul of Crowded House.
"I know how much Paul loved his kids, I know how much he loved life. None of this makes sense. Anyone who saw Hessie at his finest knew he grabbed life by the balls.
"People who worked with Paul are in tatters. Neil Finn wants to come home, but we have urged him to stay in London and do the shows for Paul."
Hester performed with the Finns during their national tour late last year.
"When Paul played those shows, it was like it should be," Mr Green said.
Hester was born and raised in Melbourne. His father, Mulga Mike Hester, was a legendary bushman and his mother, Ann, a jazz drummer.
Hester joined Split Enz in 1983, then, with Neil Finn formed Crowded House. In 2003, Hester and Seymour joined forces in the band, Tarmac Adam.
Man I was the biggest ever crowded House fan and there in my top 3 bands of all time I'm so sad righ tnow