Jan Moir, the Daily Mail columnist who suggested that gay Boyzone star Stephen Gately’s death was “unnatural” and “sleazy”, has blamed an “orchestrated campaign” for the backlash against her.

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) told PinkNews.co.uk it had received around 1,000 complaints over the article by 5pm on Friday. A spokesman said this was probably approaching a record number. However, the body’s remit does not include offensiveness and it is likely that action can be taken only if Gately’s family complain.

In addition, big brands such as Marks & Spencer have asked for their advertisements to be removed from the offending page.

A spokesman from the company said: “Marks & Spencer does not tolerate any form of discrimination.

“We have asked the Daily Mail to move our advertisement away from the article. This is a matter for the Daily Mail.”

Nestle also said it did not share the views expressed in the article and had asked for its advertisement to be removed.

Moir’s comments provoked a wave of anger on the internet as the news of her comment piece spread around Twitter and Facebook today.

She apparently suggested that Boyzone singer Stephen Gately died because he was gay and said his “sleazy” death struck “another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships”.

In a statement released this afternoon, Moir refused to apologise and denied her article had been homophobic.

She wrote: “The point of my column – which I wonder how many of the people complaining have fully read – was to suggest that, in my honest opinion, his death raises many unanswered questions. That was all. Yes, anyone can die at anytime of anything. However, it seems unlikely to me that what took place in the hours immediately preceding Gately’s death – out all evening at a nightclub, taking illegal substances, bringing a stranger back to the flat, getting intimate with that stranger – did not have a bearing on his death. At the very least, it could have exacerbated an underlying medical condition.

“In writing that ‘it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships’ I was suggesting that civil partnerships – the introduction of which I am on the record in supporting – have proved just to be as problematic as marriages. In what is clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign I think it is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones.”

In this morning’s article, Moir wrote: “Healthy and fit 33-year-old men do not just climb into their pyjamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up again.

“And I think if we are going to be honest, we would have to admit that the circumstances surrounding his death are more than a little sleazy.”

She also drew comparisons between Gately and Kevin McGee, the former civil partner of Matt Lucas, despite Gately dying of natural causes and McGee committing suicide after months of depression and addiction.

Gately was found dead in a Majorca apartment last weekend. Post mortem examination results show he died from pulmonary oedema, or a build-up of fluid in the lungs.

A number of PinkNews.co.uk readers emailed in to complain about her comments. One told us: “Poor Stephen, he was a young man that died too early. Do we really need this sort of veiled hate? What about his family? I hope to God that they do not read this.”

Another described it as “utterly dreadful” and called on gay and lesbians to complain.

Many readers of the Daily Mail’s online version have expressed their disgust at the article with some calling for her to be sacked. Only a minority of those leaving comments on the story agreed with her sentiments.

On Twitter, Moir’s name is the top news subject. Prolific Tweeter Stephen Fry wrote: “I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper no one of any decency would be seen dead with has written something loathsome and inhumane.”

Meanwhile, Times journalist Caitlin Moran wrote in a tongue-in-cheek message: “Jan Moir better pray she never needs another hair cut or interior design job again.”

After Twitter readers began contacting advertisers on the article’s page, the Daily Mail removed all adverts.

A PCC spokesman told PinkNews.co.uk that it was not yet clear what action, if any, would be taken over the article.

He said: “We’re trying to work out what the complaints are. Offensiveness is not within the remit of the PCC – we deal with accuracy and intrusion.”

He added that the PCC was trying to contact Gately’s family as it would be able to address a complaint submitted by them.

To read Moir’s full statement, see below.

Some people, particularly in the gay community, have been upset by my article about the sad death of Boyzone member Stephen Gately. This was never my intention. Stephen, as I pointed out in the article was a charming and sweet man who entertained millions.

However, the point of my column – which I wonder how many of the people complaining have fully read – was to suggest that, in my honest opinion, his death raises many unanswered questions. That was all. Yes, anyone can die at anytime of anything. However, it seems unlikely to me that what took place in the hours immediately preceding Gately’s death – out all evening at a nightclub, taking illegal substances, bringing a stranger back to the flat, getting intimate with that stranger – did not have a bearing on his death. At the very least, it could have exacerbated an underlying medical condition.

The entire matter of his sudden death seemed to have been handled with undue haste when lessons could have been learned. On this subject, one very important point. When I wrote that ‘he would want to set an example to any impressionable young men who may want to emulate what they might see as his glamorous routine’, I was referring to the drugs and the casual invitation extended to a stranger. Not to the fact of his homosexuality. In writing that ‘it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships’ I was suggesting that civil partnerships – the introduction of which I am on the record in supporting – have proved just to be as problematic as marriages.

In what is clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign I think it is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones.