The bricklayer from King’s Lynn, Norfolk was said to have guffawed so hard at the BBC sketch show that his heart gave out. Decades on, doctors have established that he really did die laughing.
Cardiologists believe Mr Mitchell suffered from a rare heart rhythm disorder, Long QT syndrome, which can induce cardiac arrest when triggered by exertion or adrenaline. They came to the conclusion after his granddaughter, Lisa Corke, was diagnosed with the syndrome.
Mrs Corke, 23, suffered a cardiac arrest at her home last month and was saved by her husband administering life-saving CPR before the ambulance arrived.
Once admitted to hospital, tests showed that Long QT syndrome was hereditary on her father’s side.
Mrs Corke said: “My granddad died one of the most famous strange deaths. I think at the time they probably thought he suffered a heart attack caused by the laughter but doctors realised he died from a cardiac arrest caused by LQT syndrome after examining me.
“His death has been talked about for years and made all the papers at the time. I never knew him but it’s strange to think we both had this life-threatening condition.”
The curious case of Mr Mitchell made headlines after he settled down to watch The Goodies on March 24, 1975.
The ‘Kung Fu Capers’ episode featured Bill Oddie as a blackbelt in ‘Ecky Thump’ – a little-known Lancastrian martial art which involved pelting opponents with black pudding. Tim Brooke-Taylor played a Scotsman who defended himself with a set of bagpipes.
According to his wife Nessie, Mr Mitchell, 50, was in stitches throughout the episode then “gave a tremendous belly laugh, slumped on the sofa and died”. She later sent a letter to the Goodies thanking them for making her husband’s final moments so happy.