Drugs, bikies, debt and a court fight. The fall of Melbourne’s King of clubs
A NIGHTCLUB king found dead in his rural holiday house had been battling ice addiction and had recently spent time in rehabilitation. The Herald Sun has learned Darren “Razzle” Thornburgh, 54, a father of two, sought professional help for long-term substance abuse about two weeks ago. He had also been “blindsided” by the recent closure of his high-profile Prahran nightclub, Boutique, as a result of an apparent tenancy dispute. Mr Thornburgh, who’d previously been at odds with the Comanchero bikie gang, is understood to have been facing serious financial difficulties in the last few months. He had also faced court in March on charges relating to his personal life. He is believed to have shot himself dead at his rural holiday home at Barmah, about 250km north of Melbourne. The body, in blue and white pyjamas, was found on a mattress on the veranda on Monday afternoon. The Herald Sun has been told he had battled a cocaine addiction for years and was a prolific user of ice, and that his life had been “going downhill quite fast” following a split from his wife.
As recently as last week, Mr Thornburgh was rearranging his financial affairs. Official paperwork showed he had tinkered with his elaborate corporate structure.
Devastated staff at the Barmah Hotel, owned by Mr Thornburgh and which is opposite his holiday home, watched in disbelief as detectives investigated. Police said the death was not suspicious.
Mr Thornburgh’s ex-wife, Denise Foster, yesterday hit out on social media: “Could all you disco idiots out there have some respect and integrity for his children? Where the f##k we’re (sic) you all?”
Friends of Mr Thornburgh recalled his partying lifestyle.
“I’m surprised he didn’t have a heart attack with his drug use,’’ one said. “He would party from Wednesday until Monday and sleep Monday and Tuesday.
“That was his life and that went on for years. I feel really sorry for his daughters and his ex-wife, because he put them through a hell of a lot.”
The friend said Mr Thornburgh used Barmah as “a way for him to get away to detox”.
“It was his paradise. He would go up there, have a small relax and feel good about himself, and then come back and start partying.”
Mr Thornburgh had grown fearful of his safety after his Port Melbourne family home and his Greville St club were shot up in October last year. It’s understood he went into hiding at a beachside caravan park after the attacks, suspected to have been carried out by bikies chasing debts.
In March, he pleaded guilty in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court to charges over a personal matter. He was put on a bond without conviction.
The busboy-turned-tycoon’s life took a further bad turn weeks ago when it is understood Boutique’s tenancy unexpectedly ceased.
“He had been thrown out — I don’t think he saw it com- ing,’’ the friend said. “He had lost his business.
“It’s that ‘rock star’ story. He lived this incredible life, then the drugs got him and everything just turned bad.
“He did a lot of incredible things in his life. He was known as the nightclub king, and I think he forever will be.”
Mr Thornburgh had overcome business difficulties before, following a 2011 bankruptcy battle.
A former close acquaintance said “no one could run a nightclub better” but Mr Thornburgh’s sometimes “paranoid” and aggressive tendencies in recent years had caused many of those in his circle to begin to drift away.
Inspector Joy Arbuthnot said local police had discovered Mr Thornburgh’s body during a “routine inspection”.
The weapon used was found at the scene, and police were still investigating.
Darren “Razzle” Thornburgh pictured with Nicky and Paris Hilton in 2003 (left). Police at his Barmah home where he was found dead (below).
DARREN THORNBURGH WITH WIFE DENISE