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By Courtney Garcia, TODAY.com contributor
The case surrounding Whitney Houston’s death has taken another bizarre turn. Now a celebrity entertainment consultant, Raffles van Exel, says he was at the Beverly Hilton Hotel when Houston died there Feb. 11, and that he removed things from the room.
His name has also been mentioned in connection with the photo of Houston in her casket that was published by the National Enquirer in February.
The website Celebuzz has translated an interview van Exel gave to Dutch publication The Telegraph. “The room had to be emptied,” the translation quotes van Exel as saying. “Someone had to do it.”
He provided few other details, and would not reveal what he specifically removed from the room.
TODAY.com reached out to van Exel through his production company and will report on any comment provided.
While no illegal substances were found in the singer’s room at the time of her death, the L.A. County Coroner’s office announced on March 22 that Houston’s autopsy report indicated cocaine use had contributed to her death, and that not only did she take the drug “immediately prior to her collapse,” but the amount traced in her system suggested “chronic usage.”
This isn’t the first time van Exel’s name has been mentioned in connection with Houston’s passing. On March 14, Forbes published a report that an employee at the Whigham Funeral Home saw van Exel take the photo of Houston in her casket that later appeared in the National Enquirer.
Houston’s funeral was held at the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, N.J., on Feb. 18.
Forbes contacted van Exel for comment, and while he responded asking what they wanted, he then didn’t respond to questions.
In an earlier article, Forbes reported that van Exel may have also been responsible for earlier photos published on TMZ.com, including shots taken inside the bathroom where Houston died, and a photograph of a figure under a white sheet on a gurney that was later reported to be Houston’s teenage daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown. Brown, now 19, briefly was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Hospital after her mother’s death where she reportedly was treated for anxiety.
Forbes’ article also says that van Exel traveled with Houston’s family on the private plane they took from Los Angeles to the New Jersey funeral services.
On van Exel’s LinkedIn page, he describes himself as “a highly respected entertainment consultant/producer having guided some of the world’s most acclaimed executives and celebrities.” He lists Houston, Michael Jackson, Patti LaBelle and Ray Charles as clients.
This isn’t the first time van Exel’s name has been connected with celebrity mysteries. In 2007, ABC News reported he collaborated with O.J. Simpson’s daughter, Arnelle, on the idea for Simpson’s book, “If I Did It,” an unpublished hypothetical account of how the former football player may have killed his ex-wife.
And in 2011, van Exel joined La Toya Jackson in an attempt to halt NBC from airing a documentary about Michael Jackson’s relationship with his former doctor, Conrad Murray, who has since been convicted of involuntary manslaughter for his role in Michael’s death.
The L.A. Times reports that the Los Angeles coroner’s office has listed the singer’s cause of death as an accident, and plans to close their report once the full autopsy report has been released in two weeks.