AC/DC drummer charged with murder plot in New Zealand

AC/DC drummer charged with murder plot in New Zealand

WELLINGTON - Agence France-Presse
AC/DC drummer charged with murder plot in New Zealand

This June 17, 2003 file photo shows British rock band AC/DC, from left, Brian Johnson, Malcolm Young, Phil Rudd, Angus Young, and Cliff Williams performing on stage during a concert in Munich, southern Germany. AP Photo

The drummer with legendary rock band AC/DC, Phil Rudd, was accused Nov. 6 of trying to hire a hitman to kill two men after police raided his luxury New Zealand home.

Police swooped on the veteran rocker's waterfront house at Tauranga in the North Island in the early hours and charged him with "attempting to procure murder" and threatening to kill.

They also charged the 60-year-old with possessing methamphetamine and cannabis after allegedly finding the drugs in his property, Tauranga District Court was told.

Court officials confirmed Rudd, a long-time member of one of the world's highest grossing bands, was granted bail and ordered to reappear on November 27.

He looked tired and tousled as he appeared in court shoeless and wearing a baggy grey jumper, with his lawyer unsuccessfully arguing that media should not be allowed to take images of him because they just wanted to capture his client "at his worst."

He was not required to enter a plea during his brief appearance but court documents reveal he is accused of trying to organise a hitman to kill two men in late September, although judge Louis Bidois suppressed the identities of those involved.

Rudd, who has played on hits including "Dirty Deeds Done Dirty Cheap" and "Highway to Hell", refused to comment after leaving court and was driven away in a silver Mercedes Benz.

Under New Zealand law, attempting "to procure any person to murder any other person" is punishable by up to 10 years in jail, while threatening to kill can attract a seven-year sentence.                        

Stunned fans reacted on social media, airing concerns about the future of the band, which is still reeling from the retirement of founding member Malcolm Young in September after he entered a Sydney care facility suffering from dementia.

"This is so shocking i hope its not true but i will be praying for u guys and i hope yalls pull through this and bring him back," Joseph Anderson wrote on the band's official Facebook page, which has more than 30 million likes.

Tina Durst Van Gundy posted: "No matter... still one of my all time favourite bands... hang in there guys."       

Australian-born Rudd joined the band in 1975 and left in 1983 after arguing with founding member Malcolm Young.

He moved to New Zealand at the time, settling in the coastal community of Tauranga, about 150 kilometers southeast of Auckland.

He remained in the area even after patching up his differences with the band in 1994, using it as his base as he followed a punishing global touring schedule with the notoriously hard-living heavy metal pioneers.

Rudd was part of the AC/DC line-up inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 and won a Grammy for best hard rock performance with the band for "War Machine" in 2010.

Later that year he was convicted of cannabis possession after police raided his boat, receiving a fine of NZ$250 ($190).

AC/DC are one of the best selling music acts of all time, amassing sales estimated at 200 million albums worldwide featuring songs that remain staples on classic rock radio, including "Back in Black", "Jailbreak" and "High Voltage."

Rudd, who released a solo album "Head Job" in August, said earlier this year that Malcolm Young's illness would not spell the end for the band.

"It'll never happen. Angus (Young) will never retire and as long as Angus never retires I won't retire either," he said then.

The band have since announced a new album, "Rock or Bust," will shortly be released and they were due to undertake a world tour in 2015.