Michelle Calvert
Date of Birth February 11, 1972
Date of Death April 12, 1996
Series Xena: Warrior Princess
Role(s) Callisto (stunt double)
No. of Episodes (XWP) 1

Michelle Calvert was a stunt performer on Xena: Warrior Princess who served as the horse riding double for Hudson Leick in "Callisto". She passed away in a boating incident in 1996, and the episode "Return of Callisto" was dedicated in her memory. Four-and-a-half years after Miss Calvert was found face down in a West Auckland river, her friends and family celebrated what they described as a small victory in their battle to find the truth when Auckland coroner Mate Frankovich concluded that Miss Calvert, aged 24, died on April 12, 1996, as a result of her brain being starved of oxygen after drowning in the Whau River near the Te Atatu Boating Club. He directed that the police file remain open, and refused an application by her former boyfriend, Richard John Faulkner, for name suppression.

☀Details of the case - including Miss Calvert's tempestuous relationship with the man who was with her when she drowned - were aired in public for the first time at a coroner's court hearing.

Police have conducted two investigations into the case, but have been unable to gather enough evidence for an arrest.

The court heard that just a few weeks before she died, Miss Calvert said to her friend Julie Randall: "He [Faulkner] will kill me, and the sad thing is that nobody will be able to prove it."

Miss Calvert's family approached Waitakere police in early 1997, asking them to reopen the investigation. Inspector Ron Cooper, area manager of Waitakere at the time, told the court yesterday that proper inquiries did not begin until later that year because of "work pressures."

Inquiries found that Miss Calvert started a relationship with Mr Faulkner in 1994, and it soon struck difficulties. She served a trespass order on Mr Faulkner after he allegedly verbally abused her, but she later drifted back to the relationship.

Mr Cooper said that around June of 1995, Miss Calvert began working on the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess as a double for the actress playing the part of Callisto.

She told friends she wanted to leave Mr Faulkner, but he allegedly told her: "If you ever leave me, I'll see you in the gutter, and I'll slit [your] dogs' throats."

Mr Cooper said Miss Calvert left Mr Faulkner for good in February of 1996. The following month, Miss Calvert told a friend that Mr Faulkner had burst into her home at Piha, forced her to the floor and put a gun to her head.

The friend pleaded with her to get help, and Miss Calvert said: "You don't understand what you're dealing with. He told me he'll kill me and he'll come after you, too."

Mr Cooper said that Miss Calvert went with Mr Faulkner to the Te Atatu Boating Club on April 10. They got into a small dinghy and rowed out to a boat called the Sea Princess.

Mr Faulkner later told police that as he was tying the dinghy to the boat, Miss Calvert fell into the water.

"I didn't see her fall, but I jumped in and tried to keep her up. She was struggling with me, fighting with me and I had to let her go," he told police.

He said they floated downstream to another boat and she disappeared under the water.

Mr Cooper said that after Miss Calvert died in hospital, two days later, an autopsy found she had two bruises on her scalp consistent with blunt force trauma.

Police did flotation tests in the same river at the same tide, with a woman of similar build. Tests showed the current was not strong, and Miss Calvert could not have disappeared from view as claimed.

Mr Cooper said police could not proceed with criminal charges because of a lack of eyewitnesses and problems with admissibility of evidence.

''It is the police view, however, that the death is suspicious and the file remains open."