A Visit To London and Nice
Reports from London about Paula's health were shocking. She had apparently checked into a rehab clinic for grief counceling. I could not sleep after seeing some sad photographs of Tiger Lily with what I thought looked like a black eye. It was very hard to know how things were from such a distance, and with no iformation, formal or informal. I had also read a disturbing article in the London Sunday Times written by Tim Rayment chronicling the events leading up to and beyond the alledged drug bust at Paula's house. The one thing that jumped out of the pages was a statement from Andrew Young, who had been described as Paula's ‘Sydney-based barrister' about Tiger's health. Ross decided that I must go to London to see if anything could be done from there. We do feel Tiger has a right to know us and we would like her to grow up knowing we tried, we cared and that her family loves her.
I hated leaving Ross behind and was full of apprehension on the flight but it was good to know that Tina would be meeting me there in a day or so. We would give each other strength. When she arrived, we phoned Paula's lawyer, hoping to organise a visit with Tiger. Belinda Brewin phoned me saying that she was looking after Tiger and that Paula would allow me a visit, but not Tina. We arranged a time for her to bring Tiger to my hotel the next day. I did not know what to expect, as we had not met Belinda Brewin personally, although we'd spoken when she was in Australia for the christening.
We arranged a private meeting room with the manager. We had no idea what to expect. I was apprehensive but hoped it wouldn't show. All I wanted was for my grand daughter to feel normal as she'd had enough traumas in her young life already. We went back to the suite to await their arrival. About a half hour later a message was pushed under the door: 'Belinda won't be able to come today, but probably tomorrow'. A day or two later, Belinda called to say she would be at the hotel at 10:30am. Tina was not to be present. She arrived at 12:15 and when I walked into the private room she immediately asked where Tina was. I answered, “Up in her room." Belinda paused and said I could send for Tina, adding, “I don't give a f..k if Tina sees Tiger, it's that effing Paula!” I called Tina who had been very despondent over Paula's edict.
When Tina walked in, like me she was clearly shocked by Tiger Lily's appearance. Her eyes were sunken and she bore the last vestiges of a black eye. Belinda said that she had recently tripped and fallen over on a visit to Sri Lanka. I cuddled her and could smell cigarette smoke in her hair, which was matted and uncombed. Though it was summer in London it was a cold, rainy day and I felt that Tiger was not dressed for the chill. She was in a summer dress and sandals, over it she wore a grubby denim jacket.
I had brought a doll with me from Australia, which she had played with in the past. Michael used to wind it up for her. It lies on a pillow and 'breathes' as it moves to a lullaby. I took it out of the bag, put it on the table and wound it up. The music began to play and she suddenly stood up on her chair, a slight frown on her little forehead. Then, for the first time I saw her wonderful smile. She moved in a kind of dance as if she remembered it. It was so sweet.
After a while she became tired and grumpy. She did not speak, except for 'Mama', referring to Belinda. She began rubbing and pulling at her neck. She was wearing strings of beads and we found that one strand was very tight. Belinda loosened it. Tina wanted to take a photograph of Tiger with me, and Belinda objected at first. I thought Tina was going to lose her cool. It was difficult, after all, who was this woman to be laying down the rules for my grand daughter. Belinda then said we had to promise not to sell the photographs. The thought hadn't even occurred to me, we were family. Most people have many photographs of their grandchildren.
Belinda said Paula was at home and she was doing fine. She said that she(Belinda) was planning a holiday for a month in Spain with her children and she would hire a new nanny and housekeeper for Paula and Tiger in her absence. I could see that Tiger was tiring so I decided to end the visit but said I would like another one soon. She agreed, suggesting a meeting in a park close to her house the following day. We walked Belinda and Tiger downstairs and they drove away in Michael's Jeep Cherokee. We called Paula's attorney the next day and were told he was in a meeting. Belinda was also in a meeting when we rang her mobile. Tina called Bob and said she understood Paula was out of the Priory and doing well. The Priory is an exclusive private clinic in south London popular with media stars who need rehab, de-tox, or simply rest. Bob said, "Not anymore. There were more shenanigans. She's back in." He made arrangements to see us for lunch later that week. We learned that Peaches had found her mother unconscious and assumed she was dead, fortunately passers by called the paramedics. Belinda now returned our call and I asked how Paula was today. Just fine, everything was just fine. Not a word about the drama, which had taken place that morning. We made another plan to see Tiger the following day.
We made some more calls, one to Nanny Anita who gave us more information on Paula's condition. The facts were alarming, she was still breastfeeding Tiger Lily in the Priory where she was taken each night to stay with her mother. Considering Tiger Lily's appearance, we decided to arrange for a paediatrician to be present when Belinda arrived with her. This was against the advice of a lawyer, but even after changing the time twice, Belinda did not show up and our efforts proved futile. There were several layers of frustration. Belinda's nonchalance and not being able to see Tiger were one thing, but what made us feel most helpless was Tiger's condition.
The lawyer we saw listened very carefully and was sympathetic but warned that getting custody of Tiger, or even making other arrangements for her care, would not be easy even if her mother were found to be incompetent. He also was against getting a doctor to examine Tiger as we did not have any rights. Although Paula could not legally prevent Michael's family from seeing Tiger she and her attorney could continue to use tactics to wear us down. He told us that even if we resided in the U.K. we would have slim chance of getting custody, but the logistics of us being on separate continents made it even more difficult. Due to background and age Tina was the obvious candidate a blood relative who would have a chance of winning custody, but as she lived in California she would have to leave her own children and relocate to London. We despaired. We were told to consider Geldof's case: it took him three years and a huge amount of money before he was given his children, and he is their father.
The following day Belinda made an appointment for 12:30, changed it to 2:30, and then showed up at 3:30pm. Tina had been out shopping for Tiger Lily's birthday - she was turning two in five days. Again, Belinda announced ahead of time that Tina was not to see her niece, but I decided to ignore this, as we had been advised, by the lawyer that it was not up to these people to make this decision for Tiger. When Belinda arrived at the hotel I asked her to bring Tiger to my room and Tina was simply there. Tiger had been to a hairdresser for a shampoo and trim, Belinda told us. Tiger was more relaxed on this visit, chasing the soap bubbles we blew, singing and dancing. She was happy and friendly, but didn't seem to know us, which could have been upsetting, but we knew we simply had not had a chance to develop a rapport as we had not been afforded a continuing relationship with her.
Belinda's mobile phone rang constantly and she would take the calls outside the room. When she began asking questions about our litigation, and I explained that we really could not discuss it, she became generally aggressive before disarmingly changing tack and enquiring about Michael's solo album, asking when it would be out. We did not have control over Michael's solo album but it was clear that she thought we did. She suddenly jumped up and screamed, "Why are you bringing litigation against my friend Colin?" To Tina she snarled "Michael didn't love you." Tiger was in Tina's arms at the time and she jumped, a frown crossing her face. Belinda grabbed my grand daughter and ran to the door, proclaiming "And you'll never see her again, I'll make sure of that."
Another happy time spoiled. This must have been as confusing to the little one as it was to us. Belinda left without taking Tiger's gifts and although we left a message with Paula's attorney for them to be picked up at the reception desk they never were. Rather optimistically perhaps we tried to set up another meeting but Paula's attorney used one stalling tactic after another. He was out of town, in a meeting, in court, out to lunch, out on an emergency. We even went around to Paula's townhouse. After many unanswered ‘phone calls and faxes Belinda abruptly left London for Australia with Tiger Lily without informing us, the day before her second birthday. Paula's attorney sent a message to our hotel, which said, 'I have instructions from my client that I am not at liberty to give you any information on Tiger Lily.'
Belinda visited Australia often as her then fiance barrister Andrew Young resided there. I often saw her pictured in magazines walking along with Tiger or posing for the newspaper with her while she was on a visit. As you might suppose this caused me great pain knowing that Tiger was quite near, but being unable to see her. On each of these visits she made to Australia with Tiger Lily, parading her in front of the press, she and her lawyers managed to get around every application I made to see my grand daughter, even leaving the country when it looked like I would succeed.
With little to do but look at Michael's home, which we wanted to see in case it ever came on the market, we took our cameras and walked to 24 Smith Terrace. I recalled the day Michael had brought me there. I described to Tina where he had been standing and how he had told us about the style of the house when he had first purchased it. We took some photographs, and I noticed a metal plaque on the gate. It was the Australian flag. I tried to peel it off as a keepsake, but it would not budge. Each time we ventured out of the hotel we had the feeling that we were being followed. Two days after visiting Smith Terrace we found ourselves in Chelsea again and decided to walk by the house one more time. When we did, to our surprise, the little Australian plaque had been removed. Tina said it was creepy, like someone was watching our every move. I suspected Colin Diamond and Andrew Young.
Later that week we had a very long lunch with Bob. He spoke freely with us on a confidential basis. Though I did get the overall feeling that he needed to know that we did not blame him for Michael's suicide.
Cautiously we told him that we had changed hotels twice because we felt that we were being followed and he confirmed that this was highly probable. He walked us back to our hotel and hugged us both and parted with encouraging words.
We decided to visit Michael's villa in the South of France before returning to our respective homes. I rang Linda and Nestor to prepare them for our arrival. During the conversation she told me that Bono had been to the property and had scattered white rose petals on the lawn after saying a prayer for Michael with Father Guerrero. In his friend's memory, he then planted a tree on the grounds of the villa. We were so touched by this beautiful and loving gesture, from one friend to another. Bono told Linda that he missed Michael terribly.
Half an hour after this conversation Linda called back and advised that it would be best if we did not go to the villa, as there were still helicopters circling overhead and the press might follow us from the airport. I thought this over-dramatic and could not imagine that the press could still be so aggressive eight months after Michael's death, especially in rural France. I said we intended travelling to Nice no matter what. Nestor took the phone from Linda and I asked him why we were not allowed to go to the villa, as this was the message he was conveying. We all knew that beside a visit from Bono, Helena Christensen had also been to the house to collect clothing and spend time in the garden. Who knows who else has been. This was Michael's home that he had in his own words, 'purchased for the family'. We still had personal belongings there. Nestor said that he had been warned that none of the family was welcome. I inquired if he was still driving into Nice every Friday for his weekly cheque from Michael's account. He gave an evasive answer.
All this made me so depressed. I needed to go to the house, needed to touch, to smell, to feel Michael's aura. Not in a morbid way but as any mother who has lost a child so suddenly could understand. I needed to be in his surroundings, as did Tina. Most people do not have to 'beg' to visit a loved one's home after they die, this was so frustrating for us. I was beginning to feel betrayed even by these two people who had been so close to our family in the past. We did not know who to trust. Linda phoned later and suggested that if we still wanted to visit she and Father Guerrero would meet us and take us to stay at his home in Nice. Her plan was that we could stay there during the day and be driven to the villa undetected at night. She was afraid as she said that there was an employee of Mr Diamond's who lived nearby and regularly drove around checking the villa.
The idea of this almost shabby secrecy was unacceptable. The following day we flew into Nice, where our plan was to rent a car and drive directly to the villa. In our haste we had neglected to obtain the necessary visas and were detained at the airport. We were beside ourselves, sitting in a room seemingly full of immigration agents who were interrogating us. Finally they pronounced that we would be escorted to the next available flight back to London. I was in tears of frustration, the language barrier making it even more difficult to make them understand our position. Tina opened her passport and pointed to the Hutchence name in the hope that one of the younger men would understand what she was saying. She kept pointing to me and saying "the mother". Finally one of them became interested and began to speak in broken English to us. Finally he said, "Ah, this is the mother of the chanteur Michael of INXS". That way we negotiated a twenty-four-hour reprieve with stiff penalties if we missed checking in by 5pm the following day.
By the time we made our way to the rental counters all available vehicles had been taken for the Bastille Day holiday weekend and there was no answer when we rang the villa. We booked ourselves into a hotel in Nice and got some sleep. At 7am I telephoned Linda. Nestor said that she was not there but he would have her return my call. An hour later I called again and this time he said that the executors had told him not to allow us onto the grounds. As I was admonishing him for this Linda took the phone. Through her tears she said that it was much too dangerous for us to come to the villa. All of this cloak and dagger stuff was getting us down but knowing we only had a few more hours in the country, we decided to try anyway.
What had happened to the devoted employees of Michael, the couple who previously would do anything to ensure his comfort and that of his family? These were the two most grateful people on earth when Michael guaranteed their working visas in France and extended money for their children to attend better schools in their native Philippines. It is terrible when people disappoint you. I suppose that is because, you can only be disappointed by people you care about. Linda worriedly agreed to meet us in our lobby and drive us to the villa. Alas, when she arrived in Michael's Peugot with Nestor they had changed their minds and would only agree to take us to the airport. As we stood outside by the car he unloaded a small box which contained family photographs, a vase I had bought in the gallery in Valbonne and left at the villa and some of my son's clothing. Two shirts, a pair of trousers, and two jackets. One of these was a favourite, worn, three-quarter length, ripped leather one. Tina and I touched and smelled the garments, hoping to get closer to Michael but there remained no trace of Michael on the fabrics at all. When Tina took a photograph of the car which clearly showed the number plate we knew connected it to Michael, Nestor attempted to stop her. He was very edgy, as if he was worried that someone would see us together.
On the way to the airport I noticed Michael's asthma inhaler, his tapes and a half packet of cigarettes in the door side pocket, just as it had been when he was still with us. At the airport Nestor and Linda showed us a new contract they had been issued with, dated eight days after Michael's suicide. They referred to this, as a 'secret contract'. Linda again cried and said she prayed every day for Michael's soul. I was angry with them them as I thought they were being disloyal to Michael. He had adored them and had given them every assistance he could, including financially, and had helped them obtain the necessary papers so they could stay and work in that country.
In calmer, or as Michael might have said, karma, moments later as our legal efforts progressed, I was often to bless Nestor and Linda for storing for us, and then sending on documents which have proved to be vital. I realise that they did so at some risk so I feel no more bitterness now.
Three months later, visiting Mother and Ross, we noticed that Michael's block of land in downtown Southport was up for sale. I stopped the car and walked in to the realtor's, making up a story as I went. Posing as Meg Wells, assistant to a wealthy Canadian, I inquired about the property and heard that the sellers wanted a quick sale, and yes, cash would be preferable. Joanne made an application to the Supreme court and had the sale stopped. And my little ruse was reported in the Australian newspapers in a more positive way than we might have anticipated earlier. Much too soon to say that the tabloid tide was actually turning, but Australian rags like their British counterparts do love to support an underdog and can be shamelessly fickle about changing sides. Maybe this time they liked the idea of giving fair dues to the battling and beleaguered women in Michael's family and it now suited them to take that position, if not exactly championing ours.
Of course I was speaking with Mandy, but it wasn't until I returned to Australia one month before the first anniversary of Michael's death that I spoke with Rhett. I met him in Byron Bay where I played with little Zoe before taking off by ourselves. We sat down in a local pub for lunch and he asked about Erin and Brent and as is Rhett's style, before I could finish answering him, he leaned into the table and said, “Why Tina? Why? Do you know why?” I just said, “Our brother was a very unhappy man, Rhett.”
Over the next ten months we stepped up our quest for Michael. The lawyers for the ten defendants systematically ignored or evaded Joanne's letters and court requests. The second defendant and executor, Andrew Paul, filed application for probate in Hong Kong. However, he could not proceed to obtain the grant in Hong Kong as our lawyer had lodged a caveat in the Probate Registry. In August 1998 Andrew Paul brought an application in the Supreme Court of Queensland. It was agreed that we would withdraw the caveat in Hong kong and enable him to proceed to obtain a grant of probate there, provided that he filed an unconditional appearance in the proceedings in Queensland which at that date he had not, and that he would obtain a reseal of the grant of probate in Queensland, which he did in January 1999. On 20 May, 1998 Colin Diamond had purported to renounce his executorship.
With the help of Martha and Bill Leibowitz, Colin Diamond set up a deal with V 2 records for Michael's unreleased solo album. They had not invited the family to listen to any of this music, had not informed us of their plans. They held on to Michael's last private, personal, piece of work, for all that time. Our response to this went over and beyond matters strictly legal; they may have been within their legal rights to proceed in that way, but we felt that our moral rights had been savaged. Whether they should have been an issue or not, considerations of courtesy and good manners obviously left the frame some time ago.
Our intention was not to hold up the release of Michael's solo album. We knew it had been important to him but we wanted to be sure of what happened to the royalties.
A week later, Robyn Diamond, who had come to her ex-husbands' defence in February 1998, spoke to journalist Paul Whittaker, detailing some of Colin Diamond's business practices. She said that she'd never been able to figure out where he got his money from, but that his fortunes changed dramatically when he met Michael. We felt a little vindicated by this interview.
END CHAPTER SIXTEEN