Channel 5 to air new series Autopsy: The Last Hours Of…


Channel 5 announced today new series “Autopsy: The Last Hours Of …” which will air in Quarter 1 2014.


Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Anna Nicole Smith – three global celebrities who died suddenly, unexpectedly and tragically. In the wake of their passing, claims, counter claims, wild rumours and salacious theories were everywhere. But the real truth about how they died doesn’t lie in trashy biographies or internet rumours – it lies in their autopsies. These cold hard medical documents establish exactly what killed them and how and why it happened.


In this series of three one-hour films, world-renowned forensic pathologist, Dr. Richard Shepherd will navigate us through the bodies of each of these three celebrities. Dr Shepherd was forensic pathological expert for the Inquiry and Inquest into the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales and Mr Dodi Al Fayed. Amongst his other work was providing the Attorney General with a review of the forensic pathological aspects of the death of Dr David Kelly and he was the forensic pathological expert for the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.


Dr. Shepherd says: “The fascinating thing about an autopsy is that if you know how to read it correctly, it doesn't just tell you how a person died, it can tell you even more about how they lived. And furthermore, autopsies are non-judgmental; they are simply a scientific acquisition of facts, so in the case of a person that is well known, that objectivity can allow you to see them with fresh eyes, up close and personal and as if for the first time. The fact that they are a celebrity makes no difference at all.”


The evidence revealed by the autopsy is enhanced by interviews with those who loved and laboured with the stars each film reveals the key life decisions and events that set each of them on an inevitable path towards death. A worker at Michael Jackson’s dermatologist claims that the King of Pop was injected with massive doses of opiates several times a week in the months before he died. The ex-boyfriend of Anna Nicole Smith tells how the breast augmentation that made her famous nearly destroyed her. Whitney Houston’s chauffeur recalls how the singer’s extreme drug habits almost set his car on fire.


This unique approach will investigate the life and times of each of these globally recognised icons and offer new insights into their untimely deaths.


Guy Davies, Commissioning Editor Factual, Channel 5, said: “When each of these icons died it was global news, but the public version of their lives and deaths were largely built on rumour and conjecture. Our programmes use the hard medical facts of the actual autopsy findings - examined and interpreted by a world respected pathologist – and first-hand accounts by those who really knew them – to intelligently piece together these shocking stories, and reveal the reality behind their final, desperate hours.”


Ed Taylor, Executive Producer, Potato, added: “The lives and deaths of these three global icons are surrounded in mystery and speculation. Each of these three films reveals extraordinary facts about their lives and how their lifestyles ultimately contributed to their untimely deaths.”


Autopsy: The Last Hours Of . . . is produced for Channel 5 by Potato, part of ITV Studios


Executive Producers are Ed Taylor and Michael Kelpie


Series Producer is Duncan Bulling


Series Director is James Tovell


Further information: Nick Caley Channel 5 Press Office 0207 098 2802

Pictures available on request 

Episodic Breakdown


Episode One: Michael Jackson


Michael Jackson, “The King of Pop” was the biggest selling recording artist of all time, but when he suddenly died at just 50 years old, he left $400 million in debts, and more questions than answers.


The evidence revealed by his autopsy shows a man who suffered. Plagued by complications from his many plastic surgeries, suffering from two rare skin conditions, riddled with arthritis and with his lungs severely damaged, he had an enlarged prostate, and was still suffering the effects of a horrific accident that left him bald.


But the most startling evidence takes us inside the bewildering number of drugs that were coursing through his veins - many at toxic levels – bearing witness to a host of addictions that had spiralled out of control, and the desperate battle against insomnia that would cost him his life.


Episode Two: Whitney Houston


Whitney Houston was a singer, actress, icon and diva with a once in a generation voice that propelled her into the pop stratosphere, but no amount of talent could protect her from the demons that dragged her to her death in a Hollywood hotel bathroom at the age of just 48.


The evidence revealed by her autopsy tells an astonishing story of excess, revealing in detail the damage done by years of abuse - from liver and heart disease caused by alcohol and smoking, to the perforated septum ravaged by repeatedly snorting cocaine - and uncovers the cocktail of drugs that contributed to her death, from prescription medications, to marijuana and free base cocaine.


But most importantly the evidence gives us a unique portal into the final minutes of her life alone in a bathroom, finally revealing the truth of what killed her and how she died and every detail of the desperate battle to save her life.


Episode Three: Anna Nicole Smith


Anna Nicole Smith was the embodiment of the American dream. Her breast implant-fuelled journey from small town stripper to Playboy pin up, Guess Jeans supermodel and Hollywood movie star captured the public imagination, but it was her marriage to a billionaire 67 years her senior that brought her global notoriety and started her on a downward path that led to her death in a Florida hotel room at the age of just 39.


The evidence revealed by her autopsy tells a heart-breaking story of hard living and hard luck. Her swollen liver, damaged lungs and injection-riddled buttocks all bear testimony to the addictions and behaviours that blighted her life. Coursing around her veins were prescription meds and the sedative that killed her idol, Marilyn Monroe.


But the most extraordinary revelations that the autopsy provides are the unusual cause of the mystery infection that contributed to her death, and the previously undiagnosed condition that could go a long way to explaining many of the tragic events of her life.

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