Could He Really Have Been MURD ERED? His Family Are Convinced His Death Was Foul Play. and This Week LA Police Intensified Their Criminal Investigation. Here DAVID JONES,who Has Followed the Jackson Case from the Beginning, Asks

Article excerpt

NO ONE can doubt that Michael Jackson was surrounded by some decidedly dubious characters during the final days of his surreal and ultimately tragic life. But was any one of them sufficiently malevolent to have killed him, as has been suggested in the past few days? From the moment I boarded a Los Angeles-bound plane, just a few hours after the singer's shocking and untimely death was announced, this question has gnawed away at the back of my mind.

In those first few hours, of course, the very possibility seemed too preposterous to be voiced. After all, there were then no obvious reasons why anyone should want to harm Jackson, and there were myriad other factors that might have contributed to his death.

For one thing, Jackson was a fragile figure.

At 5ft 10in tall, he weighed just over 8 stone and was little more than skin and bone. He was also known to be chronically addicted to pain-killing drugs, and had suffered from a number of physical and mental ailments, including anxiety and clinical depression.

And for all the transparent insincerity of his fawning hangers-on, he was surely more valuable to them alive than dead. As his sister, La Toya, remarked acidly last week, he was a perpetual 'cash cow' to the grasping coterie who surrounded him.

He paid their generous salaries and inflated professional fees, and his sell-out 50-concert run at London's O2 Arena, which would have grossed more than [pounds sterling]100 million, promised even fatter rewards.

Casting the net more widely, I considered his possible enemies. He had certainly made some very bitter ones down the years -- not least among the young boys he was accused of molesting and their families.

Yet these travails seemed long behind him. By way of various out-of-court settlements, he had concluded the resulting legal wrangles and closed that benighted chapter of his life. And at 50, he appeared to be making a new start.

Ironically, in fact, at the time he died, Jackson was more popular than at any time since the late Eighties.

That much is clear from the extraordinary outpouring of grief that continues, unabated, not only in America but around the world, more than three weeks after paramedics were summoned to his rented mansion in exclusive Holmby Hills, Los Angeles.

For all this, however, my suspicion that Jackson was a victim of foul play refuses to go away. Indeed, it grows stronger the more I examine his death, and the more I learn about the people who had effectively taken control of his every waking -- and, perhaps more pertinently, sleeping -- moment.

We know now that Jackson's family harboured the same dark fears from the moment they gathered around his body, at the UCLA Medical Centre in Los Angeles.

They are so convinced that Jackson was killed that they have commissioned an independent autopsy and refuse to bury the body, leaving it in cold storage at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Los Angeles, in case further tests are required.

The wisdom of this became clear three days ago, when the Los Angeles Police Department was revealed to be staging a full-scale murder inquiry.

According to TMZ, the reliable Hollywood news website that has consistently led coverage of this story, the police have already had 'multiple conversations' with the District Attorney, who would decide whether or not to bring charges, and whom to prosecute.

For its part, the District Attorney's office has confirmed that the death is being treated as a criminal investigation by the LAPD.

So what evidence is there to suggest that Jackson was killed unlawfully, and if he was, who the possible suspects may be? In conducting their investigation, one of the LAPD's most crucial tasks will be to compile a list of all the people who played a part in the star's life, and the nature of their roles. It is a complex web. Following his humiliating trial on child molestation charges in 2005, Jackson's personal and business affairs underwent a huge upheaval. …