Agency makes $1m from Anna Nicole death pics

British-owned celebrity news agency Splash is expecting to make $1 million (£513,000) from its video and stills showing the last moments of former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith.

Ex-Brighton Argus photographer Phil Dennett was on the scene outside the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood as medics tried to save Smith's life. He shot the footage on video along with a Splash freelance, who asked not to be named.

After a private screening at the Splash Los Angeles headquarters for media buyers on Thursday afternoon last week, network TV show Entertainment Tonight paid $500,000 and ended up just showing 12 seconds.

Splash proprietor Kevin Smith said he believed the total tally for the footage, once international rights and UK national newspaper stills are taken into account, would be more than $1 million (£500,000).

Smith said: "Anna Nicole was so whacky and bizarre that she was always a big story for us, and we were following her anyway at the time. The hotel she was staying at was quite out of the way and we were just in the right place at the right time.

"The call came from a source at the hotel that ambulances had been called."

Although Splash had two photographers on the scene, all the footage they took was video, with stills extracted from the video cameras using image enhancement software.

Within minutes of the video being published on US television, it was being shown on websites. Smith said that Splash has already started legal action in the UK against one website which had shown the footage without seeking permission.

When asked about the moral considerations of profiting from Anna Nicole Smith's last moments, Smith said: "It is the photographer that always seems to take the flak on things like this — but no one seems to question the people who are paying the money for the pictures and the millions of people who want to buy the newspapers and watch the video. The footage was very tastefully shot from a discreet distance."

Former Daily Express news editor David Leigh was this week visiting Anna Nicole Smith's mother in the Bahamas, working on a follow-up story.

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