Heat (UK)

The mystery of BRITTANY MURPHY

- Clueless

In 2009, Clueless actress Brittany Murphy collapsed and died in the bathroom of her Hollywood Hills home. Then, just five months later, her husband Simon Monjack died there in the exact same way.

The house has been empty ever since these tragic events. Dubbed the “House of Death” by L A locals, it failed to sell for so long that it was taken off the market and renovated beyond all recognitio­n – before now being put up for sale again for a massive $18.4m.

It coincides with the release of a shocking new book – A Case For Murder: Brittany Murphy Files – which claims to contain evidence that Brittany was murdered. In an exclusive interview, author Bryn Curt James Hammond – who spent two years researchin­g the actress’ tragic death – tells heat police need to reopen the case and answer questions about why Brittany died so suddenly.

Despite the coroner confirming her death, at 32 years old, was due to “anaemia, pneumonia and prescripti­on drugs”, Bryn tells heat, “I believe 100 per cent Brittany was murdered. They found ten heavy metals in her bloodstrea­m… She was poisoned and it wasn’t self-inflicted.”

There have been questions around Brittany’s death for years now: Why did she and Simon die of exactly the same cause just months apart? Why did Brittany’s mother, Sharon Murphy, who lived with the couple, not get help for her daughter sooner? Why were high traces of metals – consistent with arsenic poisoning – found in a sample of Brittany’s hair?

But who would want to kill the actress? And more importantl­y, why? Well, there are several bizarre theories, all chronicled in Bryn’s book.

The shady spouse

Brittany wasn’t in a good place in 2007 when she met Simon. Despite previous career highs of playing Tai in Clueless, starring as Eminem’s girlfriend in 8 Mile, and Shellie in Sin City, her career had stalled after she gained a reputation for being a drug user and impossible to work with on set. Her high-profile romance with Ashton Kutcher had ended after six months in 2002, as had an engagement to industry executive Jeff Kwatinetz in 2004. That’s when British “art dealer and screenwrit­er” Simon stepped in.

Bryn says, “Simon was a total con artist and a fraud. He met Brittany at a restaurant and gave her all this bullshit about making this film called The White Hotel. Then he was arrested as his visa ran out – and they got married a week later.”

Simon had previously been sued by the bank Coutts for £400,000, had a warrant out for his arrest for two cases of credit card fraud and was being threatened with eviction from America. Bryn says, “I believe the reason they got married was he promised Brittany the lead role in the movie.”

The movie never happened, and some claim that the marriage was

never legal, with Simon seducing Brittany into a seriously unhealthy relationsh­ip, fuelled by over-the-counter medicine and prescripti­on drugs. A coroner said after her death, “We found almost 90 empty bottles of pills in their bathroom in Simon’s name and aliases.” A source adds, “Simon created a web of paranoia around Brittany and used it to separate her from anyone who might have challenged his dominance.” After Brittany’s death, Simon asked people for $1,000 to attend her memorial, tried to attend celebrity parties in her name and there were reports he was sharing a bed with her mother at the time of his own death (something Brittany’s mum Sharon dismissed as “misleading”). However, says Bryn, he knew he wasn’t in Brittany’s will, leaving him with little motive for murder. Brittany and Sharon always had a very close relationsh­ip, with Brittany constantly calling her mum her “soulmate and best friend” – some might say her only friend. Sharon was financiall­y dependent on Brittany, the two always lived together and Sharon “rarely left her side” even after Brittany married Simon. But after an independen­t toxicology report in 2013 suggested possible malicious play when high levels of metal were found by testing a sample of Brittany’s hair, wild allegation­s flew close to home.

Brittany’s biological father, Angelo Bertolotti, who ordered the 2013 report, says in the book, “Out of three people living together in the same house, only one survives and benefits financiall­y? There are questions that need to be answered.”

Bryn tells us, “Sharon changed her story three times. Originally, she thought that her daughter died of pneumonia, then she said she died of a broken heart [after being dropped from Happy Feet 2]. Then the final time she said she died because of toxic mould in the house [a theory that was later dismissed by the coroner].”

Angelo also claims Sharon needs to answer questions about why she benefitted so heavily from her daughter’s death, saying, “Let her explain why she had my daughter execute a will, leaving everything to her mother and specifical­ly excluding Simon.” Bryn also thinks Sharon should explain why she sold off all of Brittany’s belongings at auction.

Sharon – who has stayed silent since the deaths of her daughter and son-in-law – came out in 2013 to deny her exhusband’s claims. “Angelo’s claims are based on the most flimsy of evidence and are more of an insult than an insight into what really happened,” she said. As for the traces of metal found in the toxicology report, the original coroner explained, “It was due to Brittany colouring her hair. She wasn’t

poisoned, and we stand by the [original] cause of death.” One of the strangest theories is that Brittany and Simon’s deaths were orchestrat­ed by the US Government. An ex-border protection officer called Julia Davis turned whistleblo­wer when she claimed 23 foreigners from “terrorist countries” were allowed into America, and accused the government of breaching national security. She says Brittany and Simon were caught up in a plot to take her down, run by Homeland Security. Simon claimed they were “under surveillan­ce by helicopter­s and their phones were bugged” just before Brittany’s death, but this was likely to be drug-induced paranoia. As for the government “murdering” the couple, Bryn says, “It’s a conspiracy theory and I’ve debunked this in the book.” To add to the mystery, some of Brittany’s friends even believe she’s spoken to them from the other side. In January, actress Jaime Pressly was “contacted” by Brittany through celebrity medium Tyler Henry (who happened to be filming a new TV show). In it, Jaime looks shocked when Tyler says, “She’s blaming an outside influence and saying she was in a very manipulati­ve situation, where I actually feel an outside person was detrimenta­l in influencin­g a lot of her actions.”

Then, in February, the sound cut out as old friend Taryn Manning played Eminem’s Lose Yourself during a DJ set and dedicated it to Brittany. As the song vanished, Taryn said, “That was weird. Hi, Brittany.”

Brittany trying to contact people from the afterlife to solve the mystery of her death remains as unlikely as the rest of the speculatio­n. But Bryn has sent his book to the police chiefs and the coroners in the hope of reopening the case. As he plans a second book on the case due to new evidence, and is in talks for a The People Vs OJ Simpson-style miniseries, the mystery of Brittany’s death is likely to continue a while yet. n

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