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05th Sep 2022

Mystery of Steve Irwin’s death tape that caught final words on camera

Tobi Akingbade

This month marks the 16th anniversary of Steve Irwin’s tragic death.

The Crocodile Hunter ‘s death, 4 September 2006, saw an outpouring of grief from fans across the globe after being stabbed in the heart by a stingray while filming footage.

The famous Australian zookeeper and television personality had one rule while handling crocodiles, snakes and sharks, and that was for the cameras to keep on rolling.

This meant that his final moments, on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, were also captured  film – but there is mystery as to where the footage lies to this day.

His IMDb biographer Tommy Donovan previously said: “He tells his camera crew to always be filming, if he needs help he will ask for it. Even if he is eaten by a shark or croc, the main thing he wants is that it be filmed. If he died he would be sad if no one got it on tape.”

The 44-year-old was not supposed to be out at sea that day as filming for his programme Ocean’s Deadliest was called off due to terrible weather conditions.

However, while sitting in his hotel room with cameraman Justin Lyons and director John Stainton, Irwin found himself bored and took out a small boat on Batt Reef, off the coast of Port Douglas, in search of footage that could be used for his daughter’s show instead – Bindi the Jungle Girl.

John said at the time: “Suddenly he said he [Steve] was off to seek out some normally harmless stingrays.

“It should have been an innocent encounter for a TV show aimed at children.”

Irwin spotted a 220lb ray lying on the ocean floor and with Justin, climbed into the chest-deep water and as  the Crocodile Hunter passed over the creature, it raised its razor-sharp tail, stabbing him “hundreds of strikes in a few seconds”

Justin continued to film, not realising the seriousness of the attack until he saw Irwin surrounded by a pool of blood.

As the cameras rolled, he heaved Steve back onto their inflatable boat and sped back towards the main vessel, Croc One, as the star writhed in agony from the venom.

Both feared he’d suffered a punctured lung and the crew applied pressure to the massive wound on Steve’s chest.

“He was having trouble breathing. Even if we’d been able to get him into an emergency ward at that moment we probably wouldn’t have been able to save him because the damage to his heart was massive,” Justin said.

The crew rushed back to shore, with cameras still rolling due to the panic. Possibly very aware of the severity of the injuries Steve turned to Justin and calmly said, “I’m dying” – which would have been his final words.

The cameras continued to roll as Justin gave Steve mouth-to-mouth for an entire hour until paramedics arrived on the scene and declared him dead.

The tape was was handed over to Queensland Police to help with their investigations, but rumours began circulating that it would be shown to the public but Discovery Communications insisted the footage would remain concealed.

However, the rumours of its availability left many convinced enough to search for the devastating footage online.

The authorities, in 2007,  said they had destroyed all copies except one, which they handed to Steve’s heartbroken widow, Terri.

Terri confirmed her husband’s desire to have his death filmed, but said it was too much to handled and destroyed the only copy without ever watching it.

Terri told You magazine in 2018: “After Steve died, 100 million viewers watched a video of his death that was released on YouTube.

“That film was a complete fabrication exploiting people’s sadness. I have never watched the real footage. Why would I? I know how my husband died and I was relieved that the children weren’t on the boat as they usually would be; it would have been horrendous if they had witnessed it.”

Terri, has however said there is still one extra copy sitting in a police vault somewhere with cameraman Justin agreeing that is where the last copy should stay.

“Never (should it be seen), out of respect for everyone and his family, I would say no,” he added.

“I don’t know what’s happened to it and I hope it would never see the light of day.”

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Steve Irwin