Rhett Butler has blocked access to the coronial files on his brother Michael’s death. File pictures
Rhett Butler has blocked access to the coronial files on his brother Michael’s death. File pictures

Brother seals file on Hutchence death secrets

MICHAEL Hutchence's brother sensationally stepped in to ensure the full details of the rock star's death were kept secret despite himself suggesting it could have been murder.

 

Rhett Hutchence has shut down full access to the coroner’s report on his brother Michael’s death. File picture
Rhett Hutchence has shut down full access to the coroner’s report on his brother Michael’s death. File picture

Rhett Hutchence's intervention, revealed for the first time today, means the official files on the INXS frontman's final hours will remain sealed despite the ongoing fascination and speculation over the tragic case.

In the same year that he barred access to the coronial papers, Rhett openly questioned how his older brother died, suggesting findings of suicide, murder or sexual misadventure were all "plausible" and there was no "solid answer".

The coroner and cop who investigated say they were never in any doubt it was suicide, but Rhett's actions two years ago as next-of kin following the death of his father Kel Hutchence and mother Patricia Glossop mean no more details will be released.

Retired NSW State Coroner Derrick Hand, who investigated the singer's lonely death in suite 524 at Sydney's Ritz-Carlton on November 22, 1997, said he was never in any doubt that the evidence showed Hutchence had killed himself.

Former NSW Coroner Derrick Hand could not understand why Hutchence’s partner Paula Yates rejected his suicide finding. File picture
Former NSW Coroner Derrick Hand could not understand why Hutchence’s partner Paula Yates rejected his suicide finding. File picture


He said the possibility that he may have died accidentally of asphyxiation during an act of auto-eroticism was only ever speculation.

Mr Hand said he had thought it "bizarre" that Hutchence's partner Paula Yates would rather their child Tiger Lily, then just 16 months' old, grew up believing her father had died "during a strange sex act that went too far" than that he had committed suicide.

He revealed that he had been told those rumours were prompted by an Australian-based English journalist reporting for the tabloids back home who had been reading a Patricia Cornwell murder mystery at the time featuring an act of auto-eroticism and thought it was a "sexy" angle.

The speculation was given oxygen by Paula Yates who was happy to talk about the couple's hedonistic sex life.

When he received the results of Hutchence's blood tests which showed the presence of alcohol, cocaine, Prozac and other prescription drugs, Mr Hand said he believed that "on the test of a high balance of probabilities, it was suicide".

"I made a point of discounting the rumours that his death was connected to an act of auto-eroticism," Mr Hand told True Crime Australia. "There was no forensic or other evidence to substantiate this suggestion."

On the contrary, there was a series of events which indicated the 37-year-old had been in a "severely depressed state" with the custody battle between Ms Yates and her ex-Boomtown Rats husband Bob Geldof weighing heavily on his mind, he said.

Former detective Mark 'Scarface' Smith investigated Hutchence’s death. Picture: Darren Leigh Roberts
Former detective Mark 'Scarface' Smith investigated Hutchence’s death. Picture: Darren Leigh Roberts


The detective who prepared the report for Mr Hand, Inspector Mark Smith, said his conclusions were based on facts gathered by detectives and crime scene investigators.

The former officer said one of his biggest challenges for him was to get away from the rumours and "armchair sleuths".

"You have to ignore that as cops," he said.

"You work on facts, you don't work on suppositions, you don't work on rumours, you don't work on innuendos. You work on what you've got in front of you, work with the crime scene people, they tell you certain things in regard to how they thought the whole thing's unravelled, speak to witnesses and they'll tell you certain things.

"You might hear things but you know, really you're saying such and such, but I've got the facts here. This is what happened. There's a lot of armchair sleuths out there, a lot of conspiracy theorists. We got it right, it was a suicide and nothing else."

A spokesman for the Coroner's Court said yesterday that in 2014, then-State Coroner Michael Barnes refused media access to the file. Mr Barnes said the reason was: "Having regard to the sensitivity of the material sought and the privacy interests of the surviving relatives and associates, I do not consider it appropriate to release the documents requested."

In 2017 following a second application to view the file, the coroner's office contacted Rhett Hutchence who "objected to the release of any documents from the coronial file, with the exception of the reasons for dispensing and toxicology results".

In that year, on what would have been Hutchence 57th birthday, Bali-based Rhett took to social media to reveal he was still searching for "a solid answer" over whether it was suicide, murder or sexual misadventure.

"I have found all three things could be plausible but still don't have a solid answer," he posted.

And exactly what happened to Hutchence's reported $30 million estate was still a mystery to the family, he said.

“No suicide has been dissected as much as Michael Hutchence in Australia,” says investigator Mark Smith. Picture: Getty
“No suicide has been dissected as much as Michael Hutchence in Australia,” says investigator Mark Smith. Picture: Getty


Mr Hand said he had spoken with Michael's late parents and they had been satisfied with the conclusion that their son had committed suicide.

Giving a rare insight into the work of a coroner behind the scenes, Mr Hand said he had been told Ms Yates wanted to speak to him as she flew into Sydney on November 25, three days after Hutchence's death. As with all grieving relatives, he was willing to talk to her.

She arrived at Glebe's Institute of Forensic Medicine early, having been driven directly from the airport into the underground car park, and was taken to the viewing room where her lover's body was laid so she could say her goodbyes, but left without speaking to any of the staff.

Yates and Tiger Lily attend Hutchence’s funeral in Sydney. File picture
Yates and Tiger Lily attend Hutchence’s funeral in Sydney. File picture


"The fervour that was surrounding the case at the time was unbelievable," Smith said.

"So I can't imagine how it is over in England when any of the royals turn up and the paparazzi are there. This was just phenomenal the amount of media attention that was coming from around the world wanting just to get some sort of snippet of information about the death of Michael Hutchence.

"It was a huge story and very immediate. There was an enormous amount of pressure on us to get it right, we had a lot of things to keep in mind and make sure that the investigation was done thoroughly because, as I said, no suicide has been dissected as much as Michael Hutchence in Australia, so if we missed something it would have been on our heads."