Whitney Houston’s tragic death two years ago this month on the eve of the Grammy Awards, turned into a major tabloid scandal when a photo of her lying in her casket was published. So far the mystery of who took it remains unsolved.
Some called the photo of Houston, decked out in her favorite purple dress and a reported $500,000 in jewelry, “beautiful.”
But The National Enquirer, which has a long sordid history of publishing photos of deceased celebrities, was widely condemned.
A Washington Post blogger declared that “a line had been crossed.” Other outlets called the move morbid and tasteless.
Houston’s mother Cissy and daughter Bobbi Kristina were outraged. “Their heart broken all over again,” a source said at the time.
But the tabloid has been down this road before. It infamously ran a similar photo of Elvis Presley in his coffin after he died of a drug overdose in 1977.
One thing is certain, it was almost impossible to avert your eyes. The tabloid reportedly paid as much as $500,000 for the image. But the question remains: Who took it?
Speculation ranged from a close family member or funeral home employee, to even her mentor, music mogul Clive Davis.
The funeral home’s owner told The Los Angeles Times today (Feb. 23) the photo was unauthorized and had nothing to do with the funeral home where the singer’s body was prepared.
Bobby Brown’s sister Tina was considered an early suspect because the same issue contains an in-depth interview with her, for which she was probably paid. A source told TheImproper at the time that Brown did not go to the private viewing.
Davis’s named surfaced only because he attended the service and had access to the room before family members gathered to pay their last respects.
But Raffles van Exel, a mystery “celebrity consultant,” who was part of Whitney’s Grammy entourage ultimately became the chief suspect.
He cast suspicion on himself after he told a Dutch publication he removed items from Houston’s room after her body was found. “The room had to be emptied. Someone had to do it,” van Exel said.
A month later, a Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, N.J., claimed he saw van Exel take the photo of Houston in her casket, according to Forbes.
Exel has never admitted nor denied taking the photo.