FORMER British rugby league player Ricky Bibey may have died during a sex game gone wrong at a hotel in Italy, cops believe.
A woman with him suffered horrific injuries and was reportedly seen covered in blood running into the hotel hallway.
The 40-year-old athlete was found dead in the £350-a-night Hotel Continentale in Florence on Saturday.
He had arrived in Tuscany with a woman from Manchester a day earlier.
And now a source close to the investigation told The Times that Bibey possibly died of a heart attack during a “sex game”.
The unnamed woman, a 44-year-old was reportedly found semi-naked in the hotel hallway.
The woman who was suffering from external wounds including to her neck was rushed to Florence’s Careggi hospital where she underwent surgery for a haemorrhage.
The source said: “She was suffering from serious injuries and there are different theories about what happened, with an erotic game not ruled out.
The source added: “What needs to be established is whether she was consenting or not, whether this was a game or aggression on his part — that is what she can tell us.”
The woman is now in stable condition and is expected to speak to the police today after authorities decided to delay her questioning.
The source added: “It’s to do with her physical state as well as the trauma she is experiencing. She was only told on Sunday that Bibey had died”.
A post-mortem examination is set to be carried out by Thursday to determine the cause of Bibey’s death.
The source said: “It was likely a heart attack but the post-mortem will confirm that,” adding that investigators had contacted British police for background information that could help with their investigation.
Police had previously said their main theory was that Ricky suffered some kind of seizure during a sex game which went wrong but didn’t rule out domestic abuse as inquiries continued.
Italian publication Il Gazzettino reports that the couple arrived at the hotel on Friday, July 15 before heading out in the evening, returning to the swish four-star hotel in “high spirits” at around 2am.
Hotel staff were alerted by shouting and screaming in the room just before 8am Saturday local time, according to Corriere Della Sera.
Ricky’s body was discovered lifeless on the hotel room floor.
Il Gazzettino further reports that there are no signs of injury or trauma on Bibey’s body, but that a full autopsy will be carried out.
Officers confirmed an object had been taken from the room for forensic examination.
Coroner Martina Focardi ruled out the involvement of any third parties, as well as the presence of any drug residues inside the hotel room, as quoted in Leggo.
A source close to the investigation said: “Mr Bibey had no obvious sign of an injury that could have caused his death and no third person was involved.
“Samples were taken to establish whether drugs, Viagra or other substances were present.”
A great lad. Absolutely devastating news
Ricky, who was born in Leigh near Wigan, Greater Manchester, made his professional rugby league debut in 2001 for Wigan Warriors, also making appearances for Leigh Centurions, St Helens and Wakefield Trinity.
He won the Challenge Cup twice and also played on three occasions for England in international competitions, before being forced to retire early in May 2012 due to an achilles tendon injury.
The prop Ricky, who lived in an £800,000 home in Prestwich, Greater Manchester, had been running a window cleaning business and property venture since retiring.
Hotel Continentale is just 30 yards from the famous Ponte Vecchio close to the heart of the historic Renaissance city.
Travel guides describe the plush riverside hostelry as “playfully chic” boasting its own rooftop bar and spa aimed at “honeymooners and those looking for a romantic weekend”.
Leigh Centurions paid tribute to the player on Twitter, saying the “popular” player had died “while on holiday in Italy”.
St Helens posted: “We are saddened to hear of the passing of former Saint Ricky Bibey. Ricky played 21 times for us and was part of the 2004 Challenge Cup winning squad that defeated Wigan. All our thoughts are with Ricky’s friends and family at this terrible time.”
Fellow former rugby league star Leon Pryce tweeted: “Sincere condolences to Ricky’s family. We played against each other since the age of about 14… A great lad. Absolutely devastating news.”