LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Bizarre in life, Michael Jackson’s complex personal affairs are taking even stranger twists in death, with reports on Tuesday questioning the parentage of his children and what caused his untimely demise.
After five days of television replays of Jackson’s most famous hits and glowing emotional tributes to his musical genius, attention has turned to the murkier side of the “Thriller” singer.
Celebrity website TMZ.com, which broke the news of Jackson’s death, reported the entertainer was not the biological father of his three children and that his ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, was not their genetic mother.
Citing multiple but unnamed sources, TMZ said all three children were conceived “in vitro” but that neither Jackson’s sperm nor Rowe’s eggs were used.
Rowe was quoted as saying in 2004 that Jackson was not the biological father of Michael Jr, 12, and Paris, 11, but she had been assumed to be their mother. The third child, Prince Michael II, was born in 2002 and the identity of his surrogate mother has never been known.
Rowe’s lawyers did not return calls for comment.
Celebrity magazine Us said the biological father of Michael Jr and Paris was Jackson’s dermatologist, for whom Rowe once worked.
None of the claims could be verified by the parade of managers, lawyers and spokespeople who said they spoke on behalf of Jackson or his family during his career and who have resurfaced since his death on June 25 at the age of 50.
The question of parentage is important because the children stand to inherit a share of what is believed to be the pop star’s multimillion-dollar estate. Whoever has guardianship over the three children will control the money.
Jackson’s mother Katherine won temporary guardianship of the children and control of his estate on Monday until a July 6 hearing.
Despite his long career, Jackson was largely reclusive off stage. He relied on an ever-changing series of aides to fend off curiosity about his two brief marriages, controversial relationships with young boys and changing physical appearance -- all of which led the British media to dub him “Wacko Jacko” some 15 years ago.
“This is a story that’s going to last and develop and get bigger in the next year,” TMZ managing editor Harvey Levin said on Tuesday. “You’re going to see quite the show here.”
Lacking a focal spokesperson, reports on Tuesday of Jackson’s funeral arrangements trickled out piecemeal, with conflicting sources speaking of a public viewing at Jackson’s Neverland Valley Ranch in central California on Friday or Saturday, or possibly both.
A cause of death has not yet been determined. Results of toxicology tests are not expected for about 4-6 weeks but speculation is rife that Jackson’s death will be attributed to his prescription drug use.
Media reports have focused on his alleged addiction to painkillers, anti-depressants and anxiety drugs. Police have reportedly removed medical evidence and quantities of medicines from the singer’s rented home in Los Angeles.
In one of the more extraordinary claims on Tuesday, Jackson family lawyer Brian Oxman told Life & Style Weekly that the singer “feared somebody wanted to kill him.”
“He was even concerned people would kill him to somehow try to take control of the Beatles back catalog,” Oxman told the magazine, referring to Jackson’s lucrative joint venture.
The existence -- or not -- of a Jackson will was also steeped in mystery.
His family suggested in court papers on Monday that he had died intestate. But other reports said a will written in 2002 had been found that left the bulk of his estate to his children and his mother Katherine.
His father Joe, who Michael accused of beating him and his siblings when they were young, was apparently cut out of that will. Joe Jackson has been the public face of the family this week but enraged many fans by twice using the media spotlight to promote his own music industry projects.
Editing by John O'Callaghan