The Oscar nominated star of Brokeback Mountain Heath Ledger was found dead in his Manhattan apartment just hours ago, New York City police said.

“He was found unconscious at the apartment and pronounced dead,” a police spokesperson said.

Paul Browne, added that police “are investigating the possibility of an overdose.”

Mr Browne said that he was found dead by his housekeeper at 20:35 GMT (15:35 local time). He added: “There were pills within the vicinity of the bed.”

NYPD say that a masseuse arrived at his apartment and was let in by Ledger’s housekeeper.

When he didn’t answer his door, he was found unconscious. An ambulance crew arrived on the scene and the Brokeback Mountain star was in cardiac arrest. He was pronounced dead on the scene.

Ledger stared as a drug addict in the 2006 film Candy.

He split from his fiancée, actress Michelle Williams, with whom he has a daughter, Matlida Rose.

Her godfather is Ledger’s Brokeback Mountain co-star, Jake Gyllenhall.

Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain was perhaps one of the most critically acclaimed mainstream films with a gay theme.

Ledger and co-star Gyllenhall played two “straight” friends who embarked on a clandestine gay relationship.

Ledger’s previous roles include The Brothers Grimm, Ned Kelly and A Knight’s Tale.

He grew up in Perth, Australia and began acting in amateur productions at the age of 10. He moved to Sydney at the age of 16 to pursue a professional acting career.

He was due to star as the Joker in The Dark Night, the sequel to Batman Begins.