x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Michael Jackson's death shrouded in mystery

As fans all over the world mourn the sudden death of a true pop icon, police are looking for a doctor who reportedly injected the singer with painkillers shortly before he died.

A woman holds a copy of the album 'Thriller'  at the Apollo Theater in New York.
A woman holds a copy of the album 'Thriller' at the Apollo Theater in New York.

LOS ANGELES // The death of Michael Jackson took a dramatic twist last night when it emerged that police were looking for a doctor who was reported to have given the singer an injection of painkiller less than an hour before he died. The doctor involved, named on celebrity website TMZ as Dr Conrad Robert Murray, is said to have gone missing. A spokesman for Los Angeles Police confirmed they were searching for a doctor who had been at the singer's LA house where he collapsed. Jackson's family revealed he had been having daily injections of Demerol, a drug similar to morphine. If drugs were responsible for his death, it would be an even more tragic end to a troubled life. Brian Oxman, the Jacksons' family lawyer, told CNN: "This was something which I feared and something which I warned about. This is a case of abuse of medication, unless there is another cause that I don't know about. "This family has been trying for months and months and months to take care of Michael Jackson. The people surrounding him have ben enabling him." Mr Oxman also told CNN Jackson was serious about his big comeback tour scheduled to begin in London next month and had been trying to rehearse but "his use of medication had gotten in the way". After years of endless gossip about Jackson's eccentricities - his face masks and his pet chimpanzee, his never-ending legal battles, his multiple plastic surgeries and his fondness for young boys - Americans yesterday adopted an altogether more sober demeanour to mourn the sudden passing of a much loved pop icon. As news spread that the King of Pop was dead at the age of 50, fans across his adoptive hometown of Los Angeles gathered on street corners to sing his songs, or blared them from their windows into the streets. One group sang the charity song We Are The World while clustered around his pavement star on Hollywood Boulevard. Hundreds of people crammed into Westwood Village, the neighbourhood closest to the University of California Medical Center where he was pronounced dead on Thursday afternoon, and pressed up against police barriers and public buildings in the hope of learning something new or catching a glimpse of a Jackson family member. In the absence of a completed autopsy - scheduled to take place late yesterday - they had precious little to hang on to other than the sketchy reports of Jackson being found unconscious at home and rushed to hospital on one final ambulance ride. Tearful well-wishers laid flowers outside the black iron gates of the rented Bel Air mansion where he spent the final months of his life, and at the house on the other side of the Santa Monica Mountains where the rest of the Jackson clan made their home. Across the country news of his death became a major media event, breaking records on the Twitter messaging service and knocking some servers out altogether. AOL's instant messaging service described the phenomenon as "a seminal moment in internet history". Fans gathered outside Jackson's childhood home in Gary, Indiana, and at the fabled Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York's traditionally African-American neighbourhood. Television stations played Jackson's music, praised his achievements and offered up guest after guest who said what a terrific, if also sad, human being he was. Even plaintiffs with outstanding lawsuits against him, including the film director Jon Landis - responsible for making the landmark 1983 Thriller video, whose proceeds are now in dispute - had only good things to say. "Michael was an extraordinary talent and a truly great international star," Landis said. "He had a troubled and complicated life and, despite his gifts, remains a tragic figure." Others wished all the scandal and misery could simply fade away. The pop star Madonna said in a statement: "I can't stop crying over the sad news ... I have always admired Michael Jackson. The world has lost one of its greats but his music will live on forever. My heart goes out to his three children and other members of his family." Sir Paul McCartney, the former Beatle, said on his website: "I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael. He was a massively talented boy man with a gentle soul. His music will be remembered forever and my memories of our time together will be happy ones." Uri Geller, the mystic famous for his spoonbending powers, said he was shocked at the death of his close friend, who was the best man at his 2001 wedding. He also praised Jackson for his "character, personality and charisma", but revealed that the troubled star was "lonely". Quincy Jones, the award-winning music producer who collaborated with Jackson on three of his best-selling albums, Thriller, Off the Wall and Bad, told MSNBC: ''I've lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him." It rapidly became clear, however, that Jackson's death was a lot like many events in the final years of his life - utterly unpredictable, shocking and prone to create a gigantic mess involving many more people. The most immediate problem is an extravagant 50-concert tour that had been intended to begin in London this summer. Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), the tour's main promoter, will now have to wave goodbye to more than US$20 million (Dh73m) already invested in the shows, and find ways to reimburse fans who have paid a total of $85m for tickets. The tour was already regarded as a high-risk venture, because of Jackson's record of cancelling dates and his habit of sparking expensive legal battles - in this case, a breach-of-contract claim pitting one concert promoter against another. Several reports in recent weeks had suggested he was struggling to meet the physical demands of a long show tour, looking unwell and painfully thin at rehearsal. Now AEG will have to scramble to find replacement acts or risk keeping London's O2 Arena, which it also operates, dark at a peak time of year. The cancellations are likely to have a profound effect, also, on Jackson's estate. He had been counting on the tour, and a series of related concerts, stage and musical ventures, to alleviate the more than $400m of debt he had incurred over the past two decades. Now that debt will be passed on to his successors - presumably, his three young children - who will be at the mercy of an army of creditors who, two years ago, already forced Jackson to vacate his fantasy Neverland estate in central California. The estate will also have to deal with the many litigants who have tussled with Jackson, including Landis, his former spokeswoman, Raymone Bain, and the Sultan of Brunei. The litigants, in turn, will have to fight that much harder to obtain satisfaction. One plaintiff's lawyer, who did not wish to be identified, said: "This makes my life a lot more complicated." The fate of the two older children, meanwhile, is unresolved. They may go back to their mother, Debbie Rowe, the former nurse, who had been lined up to be a star witness for the prosecution at Jackson's 2005 trial on child molestation charges but ended up speaking out in his support - presumably, it was widely speculated at the time, to make sure she did not lose her lifeline to Michael Joseph Jackson Jr, 12, and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, 11. In other developments yesterday, Mr Oxman said the three children could be looked after by the late singer's mother, Katherine Jackson. The fate of the third child, seven-year-old Prince Michael Jackson II, also known as Blanket, is less clear, since the identity of his mother has never been made public. Jackson had said only that he was the product of artificial insemination of a surrogate. Jackson's achievements have also been overshadowed by the weirdness that, increasingly, appeared to have taken over his life. He bleached his skin and altered his face so often that he barely resembled his childhood self at all. He became prone to hypochondria, appearing in public in a wheelchair or with a walking stick, and invariably donned a surgical mask to cover his mouth. The accusations of molestation that dogged him for 15 years culminated in the 2005 trial in which he was eventually acquitted. His life since the end of the trial took him to Bahrain and then back to the US, first Las Vegas and then Los Angeles. At every turn, he fought off creditors, got himself into lawsuits and earned less than flattering news coverage for the way he was raising his children. At the end of last year, having struck a deal over Neverland with his creditors, he moved back to Los Angeles and rented out a vast faux-French château at a cost of $100,000 a month. He then became embroiled in several more lawsuits and began planning the grand comeback that was never to be. * The National