THE day he was shot dead in New York, John Lennon found time to phone his Aunt Mimi in Sandbanks to discuss his plans to visit her.

The ex-Beatle had been strictly brought up by his Aunt Mimi and he repaid her kindness by buying her the bungalow in Panorama Road.

Details of his close relationship with Mimi – whose real name was Mary Smith – are highlighted in the new biography called John Lennon: The Life by journalist Philip Norman.

Mimi was a down-to-earth woman who was a rock in Lennon’s life. Even after moving to America they kept in touch every week.

Years before, after the Beatles had brought him wealth, she was the person on whom he wanted to spend his money, Norman says. And she responded with “stern lectures on the virtues of frugality”.

But by then Mimi was pushing 60 and feeling the strain of the constant attention of Beatles fans outside her Liverpool home. If she went out and left the back door open, there wouldn’t be a single spoon or cup left on her return.

She had always fancied living beside the sea and in a letter to a 13-year-old correspondent in 1965 she spoke of their search for a home for her and said they might look at Bournemouth.

“Mimi did subsequently look at Bournemouth, accompanied by John, Cynthia and Julian (his then wife and their son) in the all-black Rolls,” writes Norman. But they could find nothing that suited her exacting tastes.

Then, just before they returned home, an estate agent steered them towards a bungalow called Harbour Edge in Sandbanks.

It was just on the market, priced at £25,000.

In his biography Norman quotes Mimi, saying: “There were still people living there, so I didn’t want to go in, but John did. I was shocked because he had his old jeans on with holes in, and a silly cap on. He looked a mess but he went in, bold as brass.”

John liked it straightaway. “He said to me: ‘If you don’t have it, Mimi, I will’.” John bought it for Mimi and it proved the ideal choice.

Over the coming years, he would phone Mimi once a week and write to her once a month.

“When he rang, he would always say: ‘It’s himself’,” Norman reports Mimi saying.

“And he would always sign himself like that, too.” His letters, too, had drawings and 2bits of silliness” scrawled on them.

And, despite the ocean between them, they could still have rows.

Norman refers to one where they argued about the painting of her bungalow, ending with Mimi shouting, “Damn you, Lennon!” and slamming the phone down.

And John rang back straight away, anxious in case she was still cross with him.

They were separated for several years after John moved to the USA with Yoko Ono.

Biographer Philip Norman says Lennon was forever urging Mimi to visit him in New York, without success. “I told him straightaway. I’m not going to a land where there’s guns, John.”

That proved to be tragically prophetic.

On December 8 1980, at the age of 40, he had been working on a new Yoko song and made that last call to his beloved Aunt Mimi planning a visit.

Then he left and, as he entered his luxury apartment block, was shot dead by Mark Chapman, a deranged fan.

And Mimi? She died in November 1991. Her home, Harbour’s Edge was demolished two years later.

  • John Lennon: The Life by Philip Norman, HarperCollins £25.