Former Socceroos star Stephen Laybutt posted a one-word message that had friends troubled the day before his death.
The 46-year-old is reported to have taken his own life after going missing earlier this month.
Authorities found Laybutt’s body in bushland on January 14. He had been visiting friends in Casuarina, in northern NSW.
More details have now emerged about his final days with one friend speaking out about the “chilling” final message he sent before friends filed a missing persons report on January 13 when they were unable to make contact with him.
The friend said Laybutt wrote “adios” on his Facebook page the morning he disappeared.
“Those messages were chilling,” he told The Daily Mail.
He said close friends knew about Laybutt’s battles with depression and mental health.
“There was an appreciation that he was struggling and some of us wonder if we could have had that extra conversation… everyone is living with that guilt,” he said.
“Personally, think he made up his mind a long time ago.”
He tragically struggled with keeping his sexuality private throughout his career, and eventually came out as gay publicly when he retired.
“Nobody knew. It takes a fair bit of effort to hide like that,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2021. “Just lying to yourself all the time. That breaks you, and you head down a path of self-destruction.”
At the time, he recalled how he had “spiralled out of control” afterwards because he thought everything would get easier once he was honest about who he was. Things drastically improved for the sports star when he met his partner, Michael Lutteral, in 2010.
The 46-year-old played 15 matches for the Socceroos between 2000 and 2004 while he also played for the Olyroos at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Laybutt made his domestic football debut in 1995 and went on to play at clubs in Australia and abroad, including in Japan, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Laybutt was known for his charitable endeavours, and made headlines in 2021 when he selflessly donated his kidney to a man on dialysis he had met while working at the rehabilitation unit at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney.
He contacted patient Ian Pavey via text message with the offer to save his life.
“Hey mate it’s Steve from St Vincent’s,” the message said according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I want to investigate if I could give you a kidney. Consider it please.”
Laybutt had been helping the 67-year-old recover from a knee operation and said he made the incredible offer because he “liked his attitude”.
“He was always positive. I thought, ‘I should help this guy’. People have asked me what the thought process was behind it. I just thought it was the right thing to do,” he said at the time.
Meanwhile, Football Australia CEO James Johnson said Laybutt’s dedication to the sport will be fondly remembered by everyone who knew him.
“Stephen’s journey from domestic leagues to the international stage exemplified dedication, skill, and the spirit of Australian football,” Mr Johnson said.
“His contributions to the Socceroos, especially during the OFC Nations Cup victories and the Sydney 2000 Olympics, have left a lasting legacy in our football community.
“We remember Stephen not just for his accomplishments on the field but also for his character and the positive influence he had on those around him.
“He will forever be remembered as part of the Socceroos family and will be deeply missed.
“Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”