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Last Updated: Friday, 3 October, 2003, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
Search on for 'suicide band'
Police are searching the Tampa Bay area
Police in Florida are searching for a rock band who are planning to host a live suicide as part of a performance.

Hell On Earth, a "death metal" band fronted by Billy Tourtelot, originally planned to help a terminally ill man commit suicide during a gig on Saturday in the city of St Petersburg.

But the owner of the venue got cold feet and cancelled the gig, fearing members of the audience may carry out copycat suicides and he may be legally liable.

Mr Tourtelot vowed to go on with the performance and show it live on the band's website.

He said the suicide was intended to raise awareness of the right to die. He said "a select few people" would attend the show at an undisclosed location in St Petersburg.

Mr Tourtelot has declined to name the person who wants to commit suicide.

May be an 'illusion'

On Thursday afternoon Judge John Lenderman granted St Petersburg City Council an emergency ordinance forbidding the band from going ahead with the performance, even if it was an "illusion".

We are not totally sure where the band is. We are trying to locate Mr Tourtelot
Al Galbraith
Assistant City Attorney, Al Galbraith, said they tried to serve the ordinance on Mr Tourtelot but he had gone to ground.

Mr Galbraith told BBC News Online the city hired bailiffs to serve the injunction on him but have not yet been able to locate him.

Second volunteer

He said he understood that a second volunteer, from Seattle, Washington, had jumped on the bandwagon and planned to come to Florida to commit suicide as well.

Mr Galbraith said: "We are not totally sure where the band is. We are trying to locate Mr Tourtelot.

"We had a lead this afternoon but either we missed him by 10 minutes or else it was the wrong person."

He said they were now hoping to get a tip-off about the band's whereabouts.

Asked what would happen if the band went ahead with the suicide, Mr Galbraith said: "We may be able to press charges.

"They would be in contempt of the judge's order and the judge has a lot of discretion in that situation. He could jail them or fine them."

Mr Galbraith said he understood the band's website was not working but he denied they had asked the ISP to take it down.

The band's stance was condemned as "horrifying" by a UK campaign group.

Julia Millington, of the ProLife Party, said: "It is absurd to equate death in such circumstances with the phrase 'dying with dignity'; it could hardly be less dignified.

"We cannot believe that fans would support this event, during which somebody will end his life. Has life become so cheap that people will actually watch someone die for entertainment?"

Al Galbraith, assistant city attorney
"It wasn't entirely clear under state law that there was anything to allow us to stop this"


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