It’s the shocking secret that Terri Irwin has kept hidden – until now.
In a bombshell interview with Steve’s dad Bob Irwin, the 77-year-old conservationist has shed new light on the showdown with Terri that tore their close-knit family apart, taking the explosive feud to a shocking new high.
Speaking exclusively to New Idea, Bob reveals that he hasn’t been back to Australia Zoo – the world-famous animal park he created with his late son – for more than a decade since the vicious family fallout.
He breaks down and becomes physically emotional when discussing grandchildren Bindi, 18, and 13-year-old Robert, who have had no contact with their grandfather in recent years.
‘I don’t talk about them,’ Bob says, visibly upset. ‘I haven’t been to the zoo in more than 10 years.’
While Terri, 52, has stayed tight-lipped on the argument with Bob that tore a hole through the Irwin family, it’s finally been revealed that money was the driving factor behind the bitter bust-up.
‘Bob had already given Steve and Terri 50 per cent of the park when they married, but he wanted it to remain conservation first, tourist attraction second,’ an insider tells New Idea.
‘Steve agreed with his old man. They built that park together and were always on the same page. But when Steve passed, Terri started focusing more on the commercial side of things, including pushing her kids further into the spotlight.
‘She wanted a grand theme park like you see in America, where she’s from. Bob couldn’t stand seeing it becoming so tacky.’
The shock family fallout has taken its toll on Bob, with the grandfather’s health rapidly declining after he suffered a severe heart attack in 2010.
He’s also been forced to prepare to officially retire from animal conservation, turning animals away from his 240-hectare property, Camp Chilli, where he lives with his wife Judy.
‘We don’t encourage people to come here,’ he admits. ‘If there’s animals that need to go into a halfway house we’ll sometimes take them – harden them up a little bit prior to release.
‘But we don’t even do a lot of that anymore. I’m getting too old. We have koalas, kangaroos, bandicoots, echidnas. No crocs though, more’s the pity.’
For the full story, see this week’s New Idea – out now.