Michael Jackson: A friend's grief

BARNSTAPLE martial arts expert Matt Fiddes has spoken out about an on-going struggle with the inner circle of friend, pop legend Michael Jackson, who died of a cardiac arrest last week. Mr Fiddes, 30, met the singer in 1998 and worked as a bodyguard f

BARNSTAPLE martial arts expert Matt Fiddes has spoken out about an "on-going struggle" with the "inner circle" of friend, pop legend Michael Jackson, who died of a cardiac arrest last week.

Mr Fiddes, 30, met the singer in 1998 and worked as a bodyguard for the star while he was in the UK for around five years. He has remained a close friend of the Jackson family.

He said that in years leading up to the star's death, he and close family members had tried to detach the singer from an "ever-changing inner sanctum of advisors and doctors".

He said: "Over the last few years, both myself, the Jackson family and our mutual friends have battled like hell to keep Michael away from certain people but we've lost our battle.


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"There were a number of people we could not shift from his camp."

Just hours after Jackson's death, Mr Fiddes spoke to the Gazette to pay tribute to his friend.

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He said a mutual friend had phoned him at home on Thursday night to tell him the sad news.

"I didn't believe it at first... I haven't been able to go to bed, I stayed up all night," he said.

"I can't understand how Michael died of a heart attack because he ate healthily, didn't drink or smoke and took regular exercise.

"I last saw him about six weeks ago in London He was training with Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno to get in shape for the shows; he was looking great and was over the moon about performing in concert again.

"At first he was concerned about the number of dates he'd been booked to do. He told me he went to bed knowing he'd sold 10 dates and was so happy it brought tears to his eyes. He woke up the next morning to realise that another 40 had been sold that he knew nothing about - but was confident he'd be able to finish them."

Mr Fiddes, who was set to be a guest at the opening show on July 13, said that contrary to media reports, the star had been showing up for rehearsals.

"He was definitely there when he needed to be," he said. "Michael didn't need to show up all the time - he knew the routines, after all, he wrote them himself.

"He'd also been given a full medical. They really put him through the mill but he passed.

"I last spoke to Michael about a week ago; he spoke to me and my daughter Madison and seemed in really high spirits. He was still really positive and excited about the shows; there was absolutely no reason at all to be concerned. This has all come as a complete shock.

"I can't understand what's happened between now and then."

Mr Fiddes recalled how Michael had been a "loyal family friend" during the time he knew him.

"When my mum was receiving treatment for breast cancer, he telephoned her every day to see how she was.

"He visited North Devon three times and we took him to places like Lynton and Lynmouth, Clovelly, and even Barnstaple High Street."

"It's a sad affair. I'll always remember the happy times that I spent with him, the surprise visits we made in London to places like HMV and Harrods.

"I hope that his memory lives on through his music."

Mr Fiddes said that he would be flying over to LA for the funeral.

"Knowing the family, I expect it will be a very private ceremony with a public memorial service," he added.

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