Michael Hutchence’s lover Paula Yates refused to believe his death was suicide.
Michael Hutchence’s lover Paula Yates refused to believe his death was suicide.

‘He choked me’: Hutchence lover’s shocking revelation

MICHAEL Hutchence's lover furiously told police in a public cafe there was no way he could have taken his own life - and their strange and wild sex life proved it - a senior investigator has detailed at length for the first time.

Michael Hutchence and partner Paula Yates in Sydney. File picture
Michael Hutchence and partner Paula Yates in Sydney. File picture

In a bombshell interview which creates new intrigue around the rock star's 1997 death, former detective Mark Smith has explained in graphic detail how an enraged Paula Yates yelled details of her dead lover's kinky sexual practices at him, after refusing to believe the police case he killed himself.

The heated conversation between Yates and Det Smith in a cafe days after the INXS frontman's naked body was found at the exclusive Double Bay Ritz-Carlton can be revealed for the first time in True Crime Australia's new series Police Tape.

"She just did not want to believe he had committed suicide," the now retired detective said, as he unveiled the story of their bizarre encounter.

In loud graphic detail about their sex life, Yates adamantly explained it had to be a form of autoerotism that caused his death.

Mark Smith has opened the case file on the Hutchence death as part of the Police Tape podcast series detailing the stories behind some of Australia's most shocking crimes - the contract hits, the gangland wars, the outlaw biker feuds - with never before told tales from former police officers revealing the lengths they have had to go to keep the public safe.

Radio personality, actor and presenter Merrick Watts hosts the series, the first co-production between News Corp Australia and Nova Entertainment, that hears no-holds-barred accounts of both infamous and previously unknown cases from former officers in vivid detail.

Smith, then a senior detective at Rose Bay command, was dispatched to take over from junior officers when it was realised the death in Room 524 back in 1997 was that of rock star Hutchence.

He spoke to Yates three times but it was their conversation at DB's cafe in Australia's most expensive suburb, harbourside Double Bay, that stunned all.

 

Mark Smith pictured during his days on the force. Picture: Supplied
Mark Smith pictured during his days on the force. Picture: Supplied

 

"It was a pretty nice cafe, older women and men all there eating their lunches,'' Mr Smith tells Police Tape of the scene.

After some pleasantries he explained to Yates that in his opinion Hutchence had simply taken his own life and that's what he would be telling the coroner. They were words the grieving partner did not want to hear.

"She may have even had a few drinks, I'm not sure, but she said she wanted to talk to the coroner and tell him it was some weird sex thing that Michael would have been doing,'' he says. No-one in the restaurant would have been prepared for what came next as Yates loudly recounted their sex fetishes.

Smith also details what he had earlier found in the Hutchence room. An inquest into the death was never held, with the coroner ruling it a suicide, but that has never stopped the conspiracy theories and what Smith has described as armchair sleuths.

 

 

ROOM 524

 

Hutchence was found dead behind the door of room 524. File picture
Hutchence was found dead behind the door of room 524. File picture

 

When Detective Inspector Mark Smith walked into the Ritz-Carlton Hotel one afternoon in 1997, he reminded himself it was just another death to be investigated.

"There was that 'wow' moment, but then we moved on pretty quickly," Smith said, recalling the events of November 22 in Sydney's harbourside Double Bay.

"I don't mean to sound crass, but when you've seen so many dead bodies over the years it's just another life, I don't like to say it, but it's true."

But it wasn't just another death.

It was Michael Hutchence, singer, songwriter, frontman for one of Australia's most successful international bands with a string of No. 1 hits and platinum records, who dated some of the most glamorous women in the world and was considered by legions as the ultimate charismatic, seductive rock god.

Then Smith entered room 524 and saw the slumped, naked body behind the door, and the first thing that struck him was how slight the music legend was.

"He was pretty skinny, to be honest there just wasn't a great deal of him,'' the retired detective inspector recalled.

 

Fans left tributes outside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel as news of the death spread. File picture
Fans left tributes outside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel as news of the death spread. File picture

 

THE SCENE

Smith was the lead detective at Rose Bay police station when the order came through that junior detectives attending at the hotel had found the body of the 37-year-old frontman. More senior officers were immediately dispatched to now lead the case that was about to make global headlines.

 

Police address the media at Rose Bay Police Station following Hutchence’s death. File picture
Police address the media at Rose Bay Police Station following Hutchence’s death. File picture

 

Inside the room it was what you would have imagined a rock star's suite would look like.

"It was a bit of a mess with vodka and champagne bottles and things like that lying around," Smith recalled.

"The bath was full, we don't know whether he had a bath or not or what his intentions were. As I said there was a bit of a mess, like if you would have had a couple of friends around during the course of the night for a bit of a party, but there (was) not much.''

Despite the party scene there were no drugs found in the hotel room, only some drug paraphernalia such as foil. An autopsy would later show drugs in Hutchence's system including cocaine, Prozac and other prescriptions drugs and alcohol.

There was not much else in the room. Hutchence's scrawls on a piece of paper were deemed to be final lyrics he had been working on, so there was no note, but the evidence was still pointing to a suicide.

 

The lyrics that were found in Hutchence’s room were later revealed in the documentary Michael Hutchence: The Last Rockstar. Picture: Courtesy of Channel 7
The lyrics that were found in Hutchence’s room were later revealed in the documentary Michael Hutchence: The Last Rockstar. Picture: Courtesy of Channel 7

 

Smith said there was little at the hotel to further their probe.

"Well nothing really on site apart from the crime scene people coming and giving their opinion as to how the death had occurred and that they believed it was suicide the way the door had to be opened … a number of different issues there.

"The site didn't look suspicious from what I saw, pretty standard. Once we had seen the scene, it was secured and crime scene people came in and began their measurements and photographs and that stuff."

Crime scene investigators and detectives worked around Hutchence's naked body, slumped behind the hotel room's front door, for about four to five hours cataloguing, taking images of the scene and dusting for prints.

Smith noticed a couple of severe burn marks on the singer's fingers that suggested he'd perhaps fallen asleep holding a cigarette that had burnt down a couple of weeks earlier.

THE CASE

 

Actress Kym Wilson was one of the last people to see Hutchence alive. File picture
Actress Kym Wilson was one of the last people to see Hutchence alive. File picture

 

Smith quickly established Hutchence had had two friends over the previous evening and into the early hours. Soapy star Kym Wilson and her boyfriend Andrew Rayment had been with Hutchence in the room from 11pm and left about 5am.

He had been upset over a custody hearing over his partner Paula Yates' children with Bob Geldof which was preventing her joining him in Australia with his only child Tiger Lily, then aged 16 months, and they were there to offer support. Hutchence had had dinner with his father Kell Hutchence prior to the room party and the rock star also expressed custody concerns to him.

But it would be what happened later that helped piece together Hutchence's state of mind at the time of his death.

Phone records would show Hutchence had made and received a series of phone calls. His personal manager Martha Troup rang from New York and in London fellow rock star Bob Geldof received two calls from Hutchence, the first about 5.30am (Sydney time).

 

Bob Geldof leaves his home in the days after Hutchence’s death. File picture
Bob Geldof leaves his home in the days after Hutchence’s death. File picture

 

The second call in particular was abusive and hectoring. Hutchence begged Geldof to let Yates travel to Australia with the children for Christmas after the custody hearing was delayed to December. The raised voices were overheard by Gail Coward, a guest in the room next door to Hutchence.

"A neighbour has heard him screaming into the phone and threatening and yelling obscenities and all that …," Smith recalled.

He then made two further calls that crucially convinced Smith it was a suicide, one to Troup and the other to his ex-partner of seven years Michele Bennett.

"With all the facts going together, with the fact he was screaming at Bob Geldof, he rang his agent Martha and (left a voice message) 'Martha, Michael here, I've f---ing had enough', all these things, his ringing Michele Bennett in tears and very upset, that he's been talking to Kym Wilson during the course of the night about the issues going on with Bob Geldof and all that. It all points to one thing … it points to the fact he was depressed. He had a lot of things in his system, Prozac, cocaine, alcohol and other prescribed drugs, and it was a perfect storm, all these things coming together."

THE THEORIES

 

Mark Smith has no doubts Hutchence committed suicide. Picture: Darren Leigh Roberts
Mark Smith has no doubts Hutchence committed suicide. Picture: Darren Leigh Roberts

 

The last call and phone message at 9.50am by Hutchence was a concern to Troup who tried to ring Hutchence back, but couldn't get him, so rang INXS tour manager John Martin. He had already received a message from Hutchence that he would not be at the next day's rehearsal on Saturday.

"So he wasn't going to go to the rehearsal which was their last rehearsal pretty much before they went on tour again, so it was pretty important one," Smith said.

The key alternative theory on Hutchence's death is that it happened during autoerotism, that is death during a sex act. That was what Yates believed and argued until her death. Smith interviewed her three times, including at the Double Bay cafe where she explosively yelled out her theory. But there was no evidence to support it.

"It was a thorough investigation … but it was just another investigation, fine take your mind away from who it was, Michael Hutchence, and take your mind to who it wasn't, concentrate on the scene and the facts, which is what you do with any type of death," Smith said.

• For crisis support and suicide prevention - Lifeline Australia 13 11 14

 

 

 


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