Frank Magazine, August 12, 1997

Questions about obssessed fan won't go away...

The death of Sarah's stalker

Will the trials of burgeoning superstardom ever end for Sarah McLachlan? The Vancouver-based chanteusse is currently embroiled in a nasty lawsuit over songwriting royalties filed by former bandmates, while her record label is busy putting the screws to a freelance journalist writing an unauthorized biography of the star (Frank 250).

And now, just as McLachlan's career takes off with the release of her fourth album, Surfacing, there are renewed questions regarding the death of her most ardent fan.

Uwe Vandrei, a freelance computer programmer from Ottawa, was found dead in the woods near Manotick, Ontario, on November 3, 1994 -- an apparent suicide by gunshot.

The 34-year-old Vandrei had spent the previous three years writing hundred of obsessive letters to McLachlan, concluding with a law suit that claimed she had stolen text from his letters for use in a song about obsessive love.

Vandrei's statement of claim demanded $250,000 in punitive damages from McLachlan and her label Nettwerk Records. He also wanted public credit for co-authorship of the song Possession, the break-out hit of McLachlan's best-selling album Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, as well as a face-to-face meeting with the singer to discuss the origin of the song.

With the history of spooky letter-writing and McLachlan's restraining order against him on the books, the local OPP donut-eaters didn't hesitate to dismiss Vandrei's demise as a suicide.

According to the coroner, on September 28, Vandrei had driven into the woods, climbed into the back of his pick-up truck, and blasted himself with a shotgun. The decomposing body was discovered by campers five days later.

Now there is speculation whether Vandrei may have visited McLachlan's recording studio in the Laurentians, an hour away from where his body was discovered. There is a strange suggestion that Vandrei may have visited the Morin Heights studio where McLachlan often recorded. Her producer Pierre Marchand, lives nearby, and the area is also home to McLachlan's secret cabin retreat.

If Vandrei had successfully proved in court that Possession was lifted from his letters and amounted to a breach of copyright, Nettwerk would have been forced to pay out big cake in royalties and punitive awards. With Fumbling Towards Ecstasy selling 2.6 million copies, damages could have charted into the hundreds of thousands.

Nettwerk and its two-fisted supremo Terry McBride have long been known to exert obssessive control over the label's artists. Typical of McBride was his interference in McLachlan's 1995 interview with Chatelaine magazine.

During a discussion with the reporter, Sarah implied that she may occasionally enjoy a box lunch of sushi.

When McBride learned that this howler would appear in the story, he got on the blower to Chattlebrain and insisted that Sara's remarks were strictly off-the-record. A menacing lawyer-s letter from Nettwerk followed and Chattlebrain was forced to spike the story. They eventually ran a softer McLachlan piece almost a year later. (McLachlan has since married the drummer in her band, sensitive soulmate Ash Frood.)

Although Vandrei's suit had been dismissed by Nettwerk management as frivolous harassment, Ottawa legalist Ken Bickley apparently believed there was some substance to the copyright claim even after his client died. Sources close to the family say Bickley presured Vandrei's parents to continue the legal action on behalf of the estate, but they refused. Bickely won't discuss the case due to client-counsel privilege.

Vandrei's father Gerhard, a European immigrant, says he's willing to accept the suicide explanation and doesn't want to make waves. If it wasn't a suicide, he says he'd rather not know about it.

"I don't know what kind of business he was mixed up in. I don't want to get involved." Uwe's sister Connie is also reticent to discuss the death. "I'm not interested in finding out why my brother died," she told Frank.

Family members say Uwe was convinced before he died that he was being followed. There were also rumours that files on his computer were wiped clean after he died.

Conspiracy theorists on the Vandrei beat suggest that the private sucide is totally incongruent with the psycho-narcissistic pathology of obsessive fans. When stalkers cash in their own chips, the usually do so in a most public way to gain the attention of the objects of their desire -- not hidden deep in the woods.

The physical details of Vandrei's death are locked away in a coroner's report until his next-of-kin requests its release. With Vandrei's parents unwilling to explore their son's death further, the "suicide" will remain cased-closed.

You can safely assume that any misspellings and factual errors are the fault of the writer. -jcd
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