“I only found out through watching the film that Michael had known about [the trip to America] for a few months before going and it was a secret between Mum and him that I never knew about,” Rhett, 57, exclusively tells New Idea.
At the time, Rhett says what he then thought was a “surprise” trip left him feeling “abandoned” by his family.
The incident led him down a “pretty dark path” and he now wonders what may have happened had he known the truth earlier.
“I’m glad I wasn’t aware of that while Michael was alive,” Rhett admits.
Michael tragically took his own life in a Sydney hotel room on November 22, 1997. While they were united in their grief, these days the Hutchences are a fractured family.
“The Hutchence family, to me, is basically my children and Susie (his late father Kell’s wife),” Rhett says. “We’re all close.
“My sister, Tina, and I have never been that close. She left Michael and me for America back in 1972, and I don’t really have much contact with her anymore. I’m OK with that.
“I tend to have drama when I have Tina in my life and I’m happy being drama free.”
Then, of course, there is Tiger Lily, the daughter of Michael and Paula Yates. After Yates died of a heroin overdose in 2000, her former husband Bob Geldof legally adopted Tiger Lily, who was just 16 months old when Michael died.
Rhett would not be drawn on his niece, who now lives in Perth, but he says Michael and Paula’s relationship was “great” for Michael, because of “what came from that”, obviously meaning Tiger Lily. Recent reports have suggested Tiger Lily is allegedly owed millions of dollars from her father’s estate – money the 23-year-old is yet to receive.
Speaking in general terms about Michael’s lost millions, Rhett says it’s a “crying shame” the fortune can’t be found.
“I believe the truth will come out,” he says.
Two years ago, Rhett, who now lives in Bali, started a worldwide quest to figure out, for himself, the riddle of how Michael died. Either he took his own life, as the coroner ruled, his death was accidental, or he was killed, Rhett reasoned. His quest saw him hit several bricks walls with Michael’s friends and even INXS bandmates, who he describes as “elusive” and says won’t talk to him.
“[Michael’s friend] Kym Wilson, after more than 20 years, I think she could sit down and say, ‘OK, this happened’,” Rhett says.
He now believes Michael may have chosen to end his life. “I think Michael had just had enough, due to his state of being, which was alcohol-fuelled, he’d not had a lot of sleep, he’d had drugs, and he’d had a bad night with a lot of phone calls and bad news.”
Yet, a heartbroken Rhett still has trouble understanding why Michael didn’t listen to his own advice for his brother.
“Every time I had a bad experience, he would always say, ‘Rise above it’,” Rhett recalls.
After Michael passed, Rhett, who had tried quitting heroin, started using again. He’s been clean now, he says, for about six years and runs two shops in Bali with partner Vera Ribeiro.
One of Rhett’s fondest memories of Michael is of the singer “getting me into a headlock and giving me some fake punches and saying, ‘I love you, mate’.”
Soon, Rhett will return to Sydney to speak with North Sydney Council about erecting a statue in Michael’s honour.
Rhett says Michael would be proud his brother has finally “grown up”.
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