Depressed and "desperate" over an ongoing child-custody battle with his lover's ex-husband, his judgment impaired by a dangerous mixture of cocaine, alcohol and the anti-depressent Prozac, and left alone in his luxury hotel room, INXS singer Michael Hutchence took his life in the early morning hours of Nov. 22.
Those were the findings announced by state Coroner Derrick Hand on Friday morning in New South Wales, Australia. Hand confirmed that his investigation into the death of INXS' charismatic lead singer concluded that the 37-year-old star died as a result of suicide by hanging.
"I am satisfied that the deceased intended and did take his own life," Hand said in an official statement, in which he concluded that there would be no need for further investigation or hearings into the death. "May I offer to the family of Michael Hutchence my sincere condolences on their sad loss."
Hand's two-month-long investigation concluded that Hutchence -- whose body was found on that November morning in 1997 slumped naked behind the door of his Ritz-Carlton hotel room in Double Bay, Australia -- had "apparently hanged himself with his own belt and the buckle broke away and his body was found kneeling on the floor and facing the door."
"There is a presumption against suicide," Hand added, apparently referring to reports that the singer had died from a bizarre sexual ritual known as auto-erotic asphyxiation, in which one reaches orgasm by strangulation. "Having considered the extensive brief, I am satisfied that the standard required to conclude that this death was a suicide has been reached."
The presence of alcohol, cocaine, the prescription anti-depressant Prozac -- which the singer had been prescribed since 1995 -- and several other unnamed prescription drugs were detected in Hutchence's blood, according to the report. No indication was given as to the quantity of each substance in Hutchence's system at the time of death. Hutchence's body was found at 11:50 a.m., although an exact time of death was not given in the report.
"Truly great artists always seem to have a darker side," said INXS publicist Shawn Deacon in response to the report. "And Michael felt things very deeply." Hutchence's longtime personal manager Martha Troup added that the singer seemed to feel that his ongoing child-custody battle with his lover's ex-husband, Sir Bob Geldof, "restrained [Hutchence] from going anywhere. It just got to him."
Deacon of Big Media Party, Ltd., INXS' Australian publicity firm, said she was not surprised by the findings, but that she didn't think Hutchence intended to commit suicide. "I think it was just a bad combination for a two-minute period of alcohol, drugs and depression," Deacon said. "If he had it to do again, I'm sure he wouldn't."
Scott Willis, a spokesperson for the media unit of the New South Wales Police, confirmed Thursday that the police investigation into the matter was officially closed.
After months of innuendo, false media reports and hearsay, Hand took the unusual step of holding a public reading for the findings at the New South Wales Coroners Court building in front of approximately 30 members of the press.
In reaching his conclusion, Hand presented the following evidence:
1) Hutchence called a former girlfriend, Michelle Bennett, two times on the morning of Nov. 22. On the first call, Hutchence sounded "drunk," and during the second, at 9:54 a.m., he sounded "very upset." Bennett was concerned enough to immediately visit Hutchence's hotel room, but was unable to get him to answer his door.
2) Hutchence left a message at 9:38 a.m. on Troup's voice mail, in which he stated, "Martha, Michael here, I fucking had enough." Troup tried to reach Hutchence in his room but could not. INXS tour manager John Martin received a note from Hutchence that he was not going to rehearsals, a reference to the final rehearsal before INXS' 20th anniversary, "Lose Your Head" tour of Australia.
3) Actress Kym Wilson and companion Andrew Rayment drank with Hutchence from 11 p.m. on Nov. 21 until 5 a.m. the morning of Hutchence's death. Wilson reported that Hutchence appeared to want the couple to stay with him and offer support in case the results of the child-custody hearing involving Geldof and Hutchence's lover, the actress/model Paula Yates, were unfavorable.
4) Yates received a call from Hutchence at 5:38 a.m. in which the singer said he was going to beg former Boomtown Rats leader Geldof to allow the three children Geldof fathered with Yates to visit Australia for the Christmas vacation. Yates then informed Hutchence that a custody hearing would not be adjourned until Dec. 17 and that the children would not be visiting. Yates described Hutchence as "desperate" sounding during the conversation.
5) Geldof received two phone calls from Hutchence the morning (Australian time) of Nov. 22 in which Geldof referred to Hutchence's demeanor as "hectoring and abusive and threatening." Geldof said that Hutchence "begged" him to let the children visit.
Anthony Burton, attorney for Yates, told the London Times that the
actress would not be issuing a statement in response to the report.
What transpired the night of Hutchence's death matters little to Troup, the manager said. "I haven't stopped being sad. I'm just terribly unhappy, and I think I speak for myself and the band when I say that, bottom line, they could have told me anything and I still miss him more."
Asked if Hutchence had ever mentioned suicide to her or if the singer seemed capable of taking his own life, Troup said emphatically, "Never. Never, ever, ever and I can't begin to tell you the things he did tell me about." Adding that she never thought Hutchence was capable of taking his own life, Troup said the singer's intense love for the daughter he fathered with Yates, 18-month-old Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, gave him every reason to live.
While publicist Deacon described Hutchence's cocaine use as "recreational, he did it for fun," Troup said Hutchence "didn't ever like it that much." Both denied that the singer had a substance-abuse problem at the time of his death. They said the situation with Geldof had upset Hutchence in the past and even preyed on Hutchence's mind.
"He would take it back in a minute," Troup said of Hutchence's fatal decision. "I know at times over the years when something like this happened he would say, 'How could they do that? That's not something cool.' He was a lover of life." [Thurs., Feb. 5, 1998, 9 p.m. PST]