Prominent Coast legal identity found dead

A HIGH-profile Gold Coast restaurant and legal identity has been found dead in his Main Beach apartment.

The Gold Coast Bulletin understands Michael Yarwood's family was contacted late yesterday after police confirmed his death. There are no suspicious circumstances.

Former Surfers Paradise Meter Maids general manager Michael Yarwood. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
Former Surfers Paradise Meter Maids general manager Michael Yarwood. Photographer: Liam Kidston.

Mr Yarwood was a former Somerset College school captain, a rising LNP star and lawyer. He had been considered at one stage a future conservative MP on the Glitter Strip.

He was jailed in 2011 for misappropriation of funds and forgery but released after nine months when he won an appeal against the sentence after detailing health issues.

His failed business relationship with Joseph "Will the Wrecker" Smith, a reclusive millionaire who operates the Reedy Creek business fronting the Pacific Motorway, had again put him in the media spotlight.

A family spokesman told The Bulletin: "The police have said there are no suspicious circumstances. There are none. There is no cause of death yet. We understand there may be a coronial inquiry."

A family member in contact with Mr Yarwood earlier this week said he had appeared "fine". "There were no signs of mental or emotional issues," the family member said. Mr Yarwood is survived by his wife and five children.

Gold Coast millionaire and junkyard recluse Will Smith arriving at Brisbane Supreme Courts. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
Gold Coast millionaire and junkyard recluse Will Smith arriving at Brisbane Supreme Courts. Photographer: Liam Kidston.

The former Meter Maids boss and struck-off lawyer was due to appear in the Southport Magistrates Court later this month at his trial after being accused of acting as a solicitor.

Mr Yarwood has faced bankruptcy after an explosive legal war with Mr Smith.

For several months the 47-year-old businessman has not appeared at several court hearings as he sought treatment for mental health issues.

In May he appeared beside his lawyer Michael Gatenby who agreed for charges to go ahead but sought a report detailing his client's mental capacity.

Outside court, Mr Yarwood at the time denied the allegations and said he would be "strenuously defending" himself.

Mr Yarwood admitted he was facing a struggle with mental illness.

"I've been battling depression for a good 16 years of my life and bipolar (disorder) is a wonderful thing when you're running high, but when you're running low it's just horrendous," he said.

In March, after a stunning court victory for Mr Smith, Mr Yarwood was given three weeks to pay more than $1.8 million or be bankrupted. He was also defending a damages claim of $400,000 for defamation and two charges from the Legal Services Commission.

Michael Yarwood.
Michael Yarwood.

A bankruptcy notice requested $1,854,866 to be paid to Mr Smith and Miami Motors Pty Ltd.

Mr Yarwood had to pay the debt or make arrangements to the creditor's satisfaction on settling it within 21 days after service of the notice.

Mr Smith had promised more court action after winning a Supreme Court battle in Brisbane in which Judge Glenn Martin ordered Mr Yarwood pay $1.65 million, interest of $204,866 and court costs that could total up to $500,000.

Southport barrister Chris Garlick, who holds enduring power of attorney for Mr Smith, said Mr Smith understood Mr Yarwood had created a restaurant empire that included businesses on Chevron Island and at Isle of Capri.

"We are in possession of documents that prove Yarwood has direct interests," Mr Garlick said.

Michael Yarwood on an election pamphlet in 2001.
Michael Yarwood on an election pamphlet in 2001.

Mr Yarwood intended to lodge an appeal and was continuing with his legal defence, preparing documents earlier this week and holding meetings.

The court row began when Mr Yarwood claimed about $1.95 million was owed to him after Mr Smith allegedly terminated his management and administrative services agreement in May last year.

Mr Yarwood provided "general assistance and management needs" regarding Mr Smith's motor vehicle trading business, and was involved in talks to sell much of the wrecker's Reedy Creek site to the State Government for the rail corridor in a $9 million deal.

He lost the first court battle in December and Mr Smith, 81, was successful after launching a counter legal attack in which he sought $1.65 million, which the Department of Transport and Main Roads had paid as part of the money for his land.

But Mr Yarwood who maintained he was in hospital unable to attend hearings, said he would appeal the decision.

He said he was denied "procedural fairness and natural justice" because the matter went to a summary decision when he was ill and unable to attend court.


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