true crime

'Only three things could've happened that day.' Inside the mysterious death of Michael Hutchence.


Content warning: This article deals with suicide and may be triggering for some readers. 

It’s been over 20 years since world lost Michael Hutchence, and for over 20 years, the questions surrounding his death have never ceased.

The body of the INXS rocker was found in a Sydney hotel room where he had reportedly taken his own life. But rumours and speculation surrounding other possible explanations were aplenty.

To this day, it remains one of Australia’s most talked about celebrity deaths. And when three years on from that 1997 night, his then-partner Paula Yates – who was the first to suggest his cause of death was not suicide – was found dead in her West London flat, it seemed the last connection to other possible explanations was gone.

A coroner found Hutchence was under the influence of alcohol and drugs when he took his life, but there was never a public inquest into the INXS frontman’s death. After the findings, before her own death, his former partner and the mother of his daughter Tiger Lily, Paula Yates, had claimed he likely died accidentally while choking himself for sexual pleasure.

michael hutchence and paula yates 1996
Michael Hutchence and Paula Yates. Image via Getty.

In an intimate multi-part interview – conducted with a tiny Tiger Lily in tow - Yates had also disclosed previous conversations she and Michael had about suicide, claiming he would never do such a thing.

"Michael thought suicide was the most awful thing in the whole world, the most cowardly act, the most… just a cop out for a man with a family to think about deliberately dying. He would have just thought that was awful," she said in the interview available to view on Youtube.

To police, she spoke of the fact that Hutchence had engaged in similar strangulation sex games which she believed could have led to his death.

Eerily, in 1995, Hutchence himself had in some ways prophesied his own death, while telling British music magazine Vox he wouldn't be "dropping off in a hotel bath"


"I don't wanna be a f***ing cliche," he had said.

"I don't need to be dropping off in a hotel bath. I've come close, though. I'm surprised I've survived, and so are a lot of my friends."

Image via Getty.

Adding to the swirling rumours, Hutchence's brother Rhett mirrored Yates' sentiment, suggesting Michael could have been killed by someone else.


In 2017, Rhett revealed his own theories on his brother's death in a social media post on what would've been Michael's 57th birthday.

"Only three things could have happened that day. Michael may have committed suicide, Michael may have passed due to lack of oxygen, due to sexual misadventure, or adventure, or Michael was killed," he wrote.

"In the last 19 years, looking, searching, talking to people, I have found all three things to be plausible, but still don't have a solid answer if you asked me."

This was the same year Rhett had blocked access to his brother's coronial file, The Daily Telegraph reported.

But despite the theories it could have been a death by sexual misadventure, or even murder, a policeman heavily involved in the case to this day insists he got it right.

In Police Tape, a new crime podcast co-produced by News Corp’s True Crime Australia and Nova Entertainment, hosted by Merrick Watts, former detective Inspector Mark ‘Scarface’ Smith provided insight into the call that led him to Sydney’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in November 1997, where the body of the singer had been found by a maid.

He describes - in graphic detail - what he found on entering Hutchence's suite, and what happened in the days that followed.

"There was bottles and things lying around, papers around, the bath was full... it looked like he'd had a few friends around and had a bit of a party," he said of the state of the room.


"It looked like (drug) paraphernalia, but otherwise, no drugs themselves."

Speaking of his conversation with Paula Yates in a Double Bay restaurant days after Hutchence's death, he said “she was different, let's put it that way."

"I told her he had taken his own life, and she didn't want to have a bar of that," Smith said.

"(She said) he was too devoted to me and too devoted to Tiger Lily, and then she raised her voice, not to a scream, but certainly very loud (she'd had a couple of cocktails) and she's called out - 'I want to speak to that coroner and I want to tell him that Michael used to choke me (during sex)', he was into that stuff."

michael hutchence and paula yates The Tube
Michael Hutchence and Paula Yates. Image via ITV Studios.

The "sexual misadventure" theory is widely believed to this day.

On the night of his death, Hutchence had dined with his father Kelland Hutchence and discussed a custody battle between Yates and her former husband Sir Bob Geldoff and their three daughters.

Hours before his body was found, he had argued with Sir Bob Geldoff over the phone about allowing Yates' children to visit Australia.

Tiger Lily Hutchence, now 18. Image via House of Khadi.

He also made calls to Paula Yates, his manager Matha Troup and his ex-girlfriend Michele Bennett, who he invited to the hotel room, but who had knocked on the door to no answer.

Speaking to police during the investigation into his death, his mother, Patricia Glassop, was of the opinion that he was in a depressed state, the Daily Mail reported. However, a London psychiatrist who was consulted by Hutchence the year of his death said there was no hint of suicidal thinking by Hutchence.

While there was no suicide note found - only song lyrics scrunched up in the bathroom bin - police concluded he had taken his own life.

An analysis report of Hutchence's blood indicated the presence of alcohol, cocaine, Prozac and prescription drugs, although none of these were linked to his cause of death.

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health, Mamamia urges you to contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit their website

You can also contact the Black Dog InstituteHeadspaceMensLineQ LifeSANE Australia, or Support After Suicide