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Heath’s uncle speaks
about his nephew’s


Heath Ledger's family is reeling after learning of the actor's death in New York today.

Heath Ledger's uncle Neil Bell, who is in his early 60s, was his personal assistant, confidante and mentor. Neil and Heath shared a very close relationship, almost like a father and son.

Heath reps says, "We are all deeply saddened and shocked by this accident. This is an extremely difficult time for his loved ones and we are asking the media to please respect the family's privacy and avoid speculation until the facts are known."

Family friend and private investigator Paul Barresi, who spoke to the uncle today, tells In Touch that Neil was shocked and saddened by the news. "The last thing that Heath would want to do is throw it all away. He was very happy living in New York, " Bell told Barresi. The tragedy was made worse for the Ledger family in Australia because Heath was so far away. "His mother and father heard of his death on the news. We are all devastated. The whole family is devastated over his death, and more so over having to learn of his death from the media."

According to Barresi, Heath's family recognized his ambitions early on, and often spoke of his desire to become an actor. "Ever since Heath was a little boy, all he ever dreamt of was becoming an actor. Heath knew at a very young age that acting was his destiny and purpose," Bell recalled.