AC/DC drummer accused of trying to hire hitman for murders
The drummer for the rock band AC/DC has appeared in a New Zealand court accused of trying to hire a hitman to murder two people.
Phil Rudd (60), looking dishevelled, dressed in jeans and a grey jersey, stood in the dock of Tauranga District Court yesterday and entered no plea to a charge of attempting to procure murder.
He was also charged with threatening to kill, and possession of methamphetamine and marijuana, before being released on bail.
If found guilty, the charges carry potentially serious penalties including imprisonment, and any conviction would also severely curtail Rudd's future ability to tour overseas.
As a condition of bail, the judge in the North Island city of Tauranga where Rudd lives ordered him to have no contact with the man he allegedly tried to hire to carry out the two killings.
Judge Louis Bidois also imposed an order preventing news media identifying the alleged intended victims or the alleged intended hitman.
A request by Rudd's defence lawyer, Tony Rickard-Simms, to deny media permission to film in court was refused by the judge. After the brief hearing, Rudd was whisked away in a silver Mercedes convertible, driven by a blonde woman. He refused to speak to reporters outside the court.
Rudd is due to make a second appearance in court on November 27. He had been in custody since 7am yesterday, when his large upmarket house in the city's suburb of Otumoetai was raided by police. A local news website said the raid followed information from a member of the public.
By nightfall, windows at Rudd's house appeared to have been plastered over with posters to prevent anyone looking in. The house was also guarded by two security men, who locals said had been in evidence for the past few weeks.
Ex-manager Michael Browning told a reporter that the charge was "a bit of a shock, but there you go."
The Australian-born musician moved to New Zealand in 1983, after being kicked out of AC/DC as a result of a dispute with band member Malcolm Young.
In May 1994, he was invited to rejoin and in 2003 he and the group were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
But according to Richard Wilkins, entertainment editor for Australia's Channel 9 television station, signs of dissent within the band recently began to emerge.
"The rumours have been swirling around AC/DC for some time," he said, with suggestions Rudd was "on the outer" with other band members.
Since making his home in the port city and coastal resort of Tauranga, in 2011 Rudd bought a swish marina-front restaurant and called it Phil's Place.
Roger Bradley, a neighbour of Rudd's, told Television New Zealand's One News programme he was shocked to hear of the charges.
"Mr Rudd is a colourful character and we know him in the area," he said. "He is a prominent figure around here."
The band's albums include the classic 'Highway to Hell', 'Back in Black' and 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap'.
Their latest album, 'Rock or Bust', is scheduled for release on December 2.
It will be the first AC/DC album in the band's history without founder member and guitarist Malcolm Young (61), who is battling dementia.
In recent years, AC/DC became known as one of the few acts that refused to allow its music to be released digitally on iTunes. It finally relented in late 2012.
Rudd released a solo album called 'Head Job' in September.