Rumors swirl about what happened to lead to the INXS frontman's death

By Tom Sinclair
Updated December 05, 1997 at 05:00 AM EST

Michael Hutchence’s suicide shocks the world

INXS frontman Michael Hutchence was an unlikely candidate for a rock & roll suicide. The 37-year-old singer, whose nude body was found Nov. 22 hanging by a leather belt from a door in his Sydney, Australia, hotel room, was the antithesis of the tormented rocker. ”This doesn’t make sense to anyone who knew him,” says the band’s publicist Lauren Murphy. That didn’t stop worldwide tabloid rumors about autoerotic asphyxiation. Police denounced such theories, but a coroner’s report released Nov. 24 didn’t conclusively rule the death a suicide.

Hutchence’s death came days before INXS’ 20th-anniversary tour. Although the Australian sextet never matched the success of 1987’s multiplatinum Kick, Hutchence kept a high profile with his relationship with model Helena Christensen and a short-lived acting career. Recently, he seemed happier than ever with the band. ”INXS had their wayward years, but all that growing-up stuff is behind us,” he told EW in April. ”We’re a gang again.”

The one obvious trouble in his life was a feud with Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof. It began in 1994, when Hutchence became involved with Geldof’s ex-wife, Paula Yates; the couple planned to marry in January. Hutchence was reportedly furious over Geldof’s efforts to gain sole custody of Yates and Geldof’s three children. Hutchence also claimed that after he and Yates were busted for opium possession in London a year ago — the charges were later dropped — Geldof tried to get custody of Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, Hutchence and Yates’ 16-month-old daughter.

According to reports, one of Hutchence’s last calls was to Geldof, asking permission for the kids to come to Australia for Christmas. Yates apparently believes the angry exchange contributed to Hutchence’s death. ”That bastard killed Michael,” she reportedly screamed on a plane after the death. ”They call him Saint Bob, but that’s a joke. It makes me sick.”

Despite such frustrations, Hutchence always put up a confident front. ”We cut our teeth in a very tough scene, and it made us resilient,” he said in April. Sadly, that spirit seemed to fail Hutchence in the end.