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Nirvana by Michael Lavine
Sassy photo shoot, New York City, January 12, 1992© Michael Lavine

Judge rules photographs of Kurt Cobain death scene will not be released

Courtney Love and Frances Bean Cobain win case ensuring photos of the late Nirvana frontman’s suicide remain sealed

Photographs from the scene of Kurt Cobain’s suicide will never be released, a court has ruled in Seattle. The Blast reports that images from four rolls of film taken at the scene of the Nirvana frontman’s death in 1994 will almost certainly not be seen by the public.

Back in 2014, journalist Richard Lee originally filed suit against the city of Seattle and its police department seeking to have access to photos of Cobain’s body under Washington State’s Public Records Act. Lee, described as a “conspiracy theorist” in court documents, has independently researched Cobain’s death for years, propogating the theory that Cobain was in fact murdered. 

Superior Court Judge Theresa Doyle threw out the case in 2015, saying that Lee had improperly served the lawsuit to the city and failed to give officials enough time to address his public records request. She added that releasing the images would be “highly offensive to a reasonable person”.

Lee appealed the ruling last year, in which Courtney Love (Cobain’s widow) and his daughter Frances Bean both filed documents and testified to block Lee’s case. “Releasing these photographs would physically endanger me and my mother,” Frances Bean said in a declaration submitted in response to Lee’s original suit. “I once saw mock photos depicting my father’s body. That experience irreparably scarred me... Release and publication of the photographs would shock me and exacerbate the posttraumatic stress that I have suffered since childhood.”

While some photos developed from the film rolls of Cobain’s death were released in 2014, none depicted his body, and the most recent court ruling in favour of the singer’s family should ensure that it stays that way.

Soaked in Bleach, a documentary exploring the conspiracy theories around Cobain’s death, was released in 2014.