Ten years ago, Whitney Houston died in a Beverly Hills hotel bathtub. To this day, the circumstances of her death have not been fully clarified. Forensic doctor Tsokos and actor Liefers make their way to the USA for RTL + and encounter inconsistencies there.
It’s February 11, 2012 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, California, just hours before the Grammy Awards. The famous exceptional singer Whitney Houston dies in room 434. To this day, there are numerous rumors about the circumstances of her death. Was it an accident, suicide or a homicide? Forensic pathologist Prof. Dr. Michael Tsokos and actor Jan Josef Liefers went in search of the facts. In the documentary “Death Riddles with Liefers and Tsokos – The Whitney Houston Case” (starting today, July 7th, at RTL+) they come to a shocking conclusion.
The days and hours before Whitney Houston’s death
As Michael Tsokos explains, Whitney Houston and her team checked into the Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 6 – five days before her death. The week before the Grammy Awards, there was apparently a lot of celebration, including the day before. A frightening incident occurred: Whitney Houston is said to have found and rescued her own daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown in the bathtub in her hotel room. Afterwards, the singer allegedly walked through the hotel with wet hair and warned people to beware of water, it’s dangerous.
On February 11, Houston’s assistant, Mary Jones, ran water in the bathtub in her hotel room, number 434. At about 2:45 p.m. she left the room, leaving the star alone, at 3:35 p.m. she returned to the room. Jones found Whitney Houston face down in the bathtub and immediately called 911. Five minutes after paramedics arrived, she was pronounced dead. The autopsy of her body took place the next day – the result: death by accident. But is that true or was it a crime?
Suicide, accident or homicide?
“In the 30 years that I’ve been doing forensic medicine, I’ve actually never come across a person found dead face down in a bathtub full of water,” says Michael Tsokos. Dead bodies are usually found lying on their backs in bathtubs. The forensic pathologist has a “stomach ache” about whether “the public is really aware of what actually happened back then”. The tragedy: Just three years after her mother, daughter Bobbi was found lifeless in a bathtub on her stomach. After an extended hospital stay, she died on July 26, 2015 at the age of 22.
Michael Tsokos is certain of one thing: that Whitney Houston drowned is “without a doubt” because “that is also what the autopsy results show”. But: what led to the drowning? “A woman her age with healthy organs doesn’t suddenly drown in the bathtub. That’s why the question is: is it a suicide, an accident or a homicide?” explains Tsokos.
Nobody wants to help on site
The coroner and Jan Josef Liefers travel to the scene of the event in Los Angeles to clarify this question. However, many obstacles are put in their way: neither the forensic doctors there nor the police want to speak to them, nor do anyone close to Whitney Houston. Only an ex-cop and today’s private detective meets with them. “She was killed,” he is certain. “The police never really started an investigation.” For example, no homicide squad was said to have been at the scene of the crime to take a closer look at the corpse.
“In the section log of the colleagues from Los Angeles, there is really more than one indication that it cannot have been an accident, or that it should actually have led to further investigations,” agrees Michael Tsokos.
The private investigator Paul Huebl measures a hotel room in the Beverly Hilton for her and films it. Because the film team is not allowed to shoot there. The Hilton Group has denied any assistance with the investigation. The dimensions of the bathtubs in the rooms are all the same. In addition, the bathtubs are small and narrow – on purpose so that nobody can drown in them.
Tsokos finds it incomprehensible that nobody wants to cooperate with them. “It all stinks,” he says. Liefers and he have no choice but to return to Berlin and continue their investigations in the forensic medicine department there.
Suicide ruled out?
According to toxicology reports, Whitney Houston was under the influence of cocaine, marijuana and various sleeping pills when she died. To better assess these facts, Tsokos seeks advice from forensic toxicologist Frank Mußhoff. The prone position in the bathtub has not yet come under him either. He further explains that the concentration of cocaine was high, but not that of the sleeping pills. The high dose of cocaine is also “not something that leads to an inability to act,” says Tsokos. Mußhoff “can’t imagine how you just fall over in the tub after cocaine and you’re gone, that doesn’t fit”.
Liefers adds that cocaine is a stimulant drug that doesn’t make you sleepy. The sleeping pills would have led to this – but because of the small dose, you can “neglect” them. The first conclusion of the documentary: Suicide is impossible.
Finger marks on Whitney Houston’s arm
The Liefers and Tsokos continue to investigate a body of the same height and weight as Whitney Houston. The singer had multiple bruises on the inside of her upper right arm. Tsokos draws them on with a pen – this makes it clear: These are obviously finger marks. “The injuries that were noted in the autopsy report and that we depicted on the corpse actually only allowed one conclusion: It couldn’t have been an accident, there must have been external violence involved,” explains the head of the Berlin forensic medicine.
Next, Liefers and Tsokos recreate the bathroom of the hotel room – with everything that was there and a bathtub with the same dimensions. A woman the same height as Whitney Houston serves as a model. They came to the conclusion that if the woman goes limp – as if she were unconscious – her head still doesn’t come under water. “You can’t slip underwater by accident,” concludes Tsokos. You can’t turn onto your stomach by yourself without doing anything. So did one person put Houston in this position? Tsokos recreates this possible scene. He then states: “The grip marks may have been caused when Whitney Houston was lying on her back in the bathtub, someone approached, grabbed her, forced her to the prone position and then drowned.”
Was it a homicide?
According to the investigations by Tsokos and Liefers, the sequence of circumstances of death as determined by the Beverly Hills Attorney’s Office cannot be correct. This assumed unconsciousness as a result of drug use, then turning in the tub and subsequently drowning.
“The fact that Whitney Houston was forcibly turned over in the bathtub and then pushed under water and drowned is now the most plausible and obvious explanation for me,” concludes Tsokos. For him it was clear “that we are dealing with (…) a homicide”.
Still, many questions remain unanswered: Why didn’t anyone from the official side want to talk to Tsokos and Liefers? Was a homicide covered up? Tsokos puts it in a nutshell: “If we assume – and I think we can – that the prosecutor knew Whitney Houston’s autopsy report, the question remains: why were all the inconsistencies, all the open questions not investigated? “