It was Linda McCartney's special place: a quiet, secluded getaway from the voracious tabloids and the clamor and tumult constantly nipping at her famous husband.

Their 150-acre ranch east of Tucson afforded Linda and Paul McCartney and their children a refuge from din of celebrity and bountiful wide open spaces to hike and ride horses. Mostly, though, it offered the privacy they held especially dear as her life was nearing an end.A family spokesman, Geoff Baker, all but confirmed Thursday that the 56-year-old wife of the former Beatle died at the ranch and not in Santa Barbara, Calif., as reporters had been led to believe.

Baker said he misled reporters to protect Paul McCartney and the couple's four children.

"If I had said where she died, it would have been overrun straight away and they needed time, because of their grief," he said.

"Morally, I have done nothing wrong and legally, I have done nothing wrong," Baker said. "I am just trying to keep this family together."

McCartney, who has returned to Britain, himself pleaded for an end to the speculation Thursday, saying "ordinary people would want our request for simple privacy to be respected."

It was McCartney's quest for private time to grieve that led him to allow a "tiny untruth" to flourish about where she succumbed to cancer, said a close friend in London.

Carla Lane said that Linda McCartney wanted to spend her final days in the couple's tin-roofed, sand-colored stucco home near Tucson.

"When the illness became more serious, she went there because she loved it above all places, and that's why she went and that's where she died," Lane said.

Linda McCartney was a longtime crusader for vegetarianism and an acclaimed photographer. The couple announced in 1995 that she had breast cancer. She died Friday.

The confusion over where she died came to light after the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department said it would investigate why no death certificate was filed. The department announced Thursday it would close its inquiry after being convinced that she didn't die in California.

Baker dismissed speculation her death was assisted suicide as "rub-bish."

The McCartneys bought the ranch in 1979, a decade after Linda Eastman married the last bachelor in The Beatles. The couple typically visited with their children in the spring and fall and were treated "basically like any other neighbor would be," said one resident, Jackie Blonder.

Residents, who long have had privacy-minded celebrities such as actors Lee Marvin and the late Robert Mitchum in their midst, look the other way and accord them just-folks status.

Some said they resent media prying into the McCartneys' lives.

"He certainly doesn't need to have the whole world standing over his shoulder," said Steve Rodgveller, who formerly owned a limousine service that catered to celebrities.

"The man lost his wife," he said. "He's just gone through the most terrible situation in his life. Let his family alone. His wife has passed away."