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'Hitman' charge against AC/DC legend is dropped

A murder-for-hire charge against AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd has been dropped.

New Zealand authorities were forced into an embarrassing about-face today, saying there was not enough evidence to proceed with the charge.

But the 60-year-old member of the popular Australian band still faces a serious charge of threatening to kill, which comes with a maximum prison term of seven years.

He also faces charges of possessing methamphetamine and marijuana.

Police had initially accused Rudd of trying to arrange for a hitman to carry out two killings, and had charged him with attempting to procure murder, which comes with a maximum 10-year sentence.

But when prosecutors took over the case, they quickly dropped the charge.

"The file was obtained today and reviewed," Tauranga Crown solicitor Greg Hollister-Jones said, adding he had "made the decision that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the charge".

Rudd's lawyer Paul Mabey said the damage to his client had been incalculable and he was considering remedies.

"Mr Rudd has suffered unnecessary and extremely damaging publicity as a result of widespread and sensational reporting of a very serious allegation, which on any basis was never justified," Mr Mabey said.

Mabey said Rudd would defend the other charges against him.


Bill Hodge, a law professor at the University of Auckland, said the events suggested police had overreached.

"Usually you'd expect police to lay a basic charge, a holding charge," he said. "Then, maybe when they've got more witnesses and evidence, they could go for a more complicated charge. I don't understand the rush."

Hodge said Rudd could have a good case for seeking financial damages if the case against him fell apart altogether, but he may have little recourse if convicted on the threatening to kill charge.

Police declined interview requests.

Fans noted Rudd's dishevelled appearance and gaunt face in media images of his court appearance. Many Down Under have listened for decades to the straightforward hard rock of AC/DC.

Rudd was released on bail last night pending a second court appearance. He has yet to enter a plea.

AC/DC released a statement saying band members had "only become aware of Phil's arrest as the news was breaking".

"We have no further comment. Phil's absence will not affect the release of our new album Rock or Bust - due to be released on December 2 - and upcoming tour next year."