Martin Bashir’s documentary about Michael Jackson contributed to his death because he would never have done the interview without being promised a glowing portrayal similar to the Princess Diana programme, the pop star’s former lawyer said.
Tom Mesereau, who successfully defended the musician at his 2005 child molestation trial, claims Jackson told him the journalist had played on his “close relationship” with the princess, “flattered” the “misunderstood” musician and promised to portray him positively like the famous Diana interview.
In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, the 70-year-old American lawyer claims he has “always been troubled” by how Mr Bashir, 57, allegedly secured the trust of the notoriously shy singer.
However, Mr Mesereau believes conversations he had with Jackson 15 years ago suggest Mr Bashir may have used underhand tactics to trick the star.
Speaking from his office in Los Angeles, Mr Mesereau said: “I have always been troubled by how Mr Bashir managed to get into Michael Jackson’s graces and gain his trust because Michael was very distrustful of the media and their motives.
“I’ve always wondered why, of all the people he could have trusted to do a professional interview, he chose Mr Bashir.
“Michael told me he was led to believe this would be a very positive interview, a positive show and he trusted Mr Bashir to follow through [with this] but he was greatly disappointed.”
Tom Mesereau successfully defended the musician at his 2005 child molestation trial
Credit: Reed Saxton/AP
The British journalist spent eight months with the singer before making the ITV documentary Living with Michael Jackson in which the entertainer admitted sharing his bed with children.
The controversial 2003 programme was a public relations disaster for Jackson and culminated in him facing child molestation charges in 2005.
Although he was cleared of any wrongdoing and then died aged 50 in 2009, more people have since claimed they were abused by the Thriller singer.
“What Michael told me was that Martin Bashir had gained his trust, and he was most impressed with his professed relationship with Princess Diana,” Mr Mesereau continued.
“He told me he revered Princess Diana and loved her unconventional approach to helping children and disadvantaged people around the world.
“He seemed to put her on a pedestal. Mr Bashir, according to Michael, professed to have a very close relationship with her, claiming he was the one she trusted the most.
“It appeared to be that relationship which levered Mr Bashir into a professional relationship with Michael. He thought if Princess Diana trusted him, Michael could too.”
Martin Bashir had previously secured a high-profile interview with Princess Diana
Credit: Tim Graham
He added Jackson told him Bashir had claimed he was “misunderstood around the world” but was really a “very generous” man who helped disadvantaged children and was a “good father”.
He said the star claimed Bashir had offered to help the singer “spearhead” an international children’s holiday, along with a meeting with Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, to help children with Aids.
Mr Mesereau’s comments come after the BBC launched an independent inquiry into claims its religious editor had forged documents to win Princess Diana’s trust for the famous interview.
Referring to Jackson’s court case, Mr Mesereau added: “I think the entire experience debilitated him horribly. I saw him deteriorate physically and emotionally during the trial. I’m not a physician, but I believe this horrific experience contributed to his untimely death.”
He added: “I have very little respect for Mr Bashir. In my opinion he set in motion a series of very tragic events that led to the demise of Michael Jackson. I hope never to see or speak with him again.”
Tim Davie, the BBC’s Director General, said: “The BBC is taking this very seriously and we want to get to the truth. We are in the process of commissioning a robust and independent investigation.”
Martin Bashir was unavailable for comment.