Following the Michael Jackson sexual abuse case of 2005, the King of Pop retreated to his hide-out in County Westmeath where he lived with an Irish family and was sheltered by locals
In the light of the recent document "Leaving Neverland", which covers the abuse of two furthers child victims of Michael Jackson, the King of Pop's, sexual abuse of children, it's quite shocking to look back on this Irish documentary, from 2013.
An RTE radio documentary 'Michael Jackson's Irish Driver' revealed how the entire village of Moate, Co. Westmeath helped to hide the world's famous pop superstar for six months following a court case that garnered international press.
Michael Jackson had been charged with molesting Gavin Arvizo in 2003. He was found not-guilty in 2005. Jackson had first been in court on sexual abuse of children charges in 1993 when he was accused of abusing Jordan Chandler. That court case was settled out of court for $22 million.
The year after Jackson was found not guilty of abuse in the Arvizo case, 2006, he escaped to the Midlands of Ireland where he was put up by Grouse Lodge owner Paddy Dunning and had a personal chauffeur, Dubliner Ray O’Hara.
“I was told two days beforehand and thought ‘no way’, there’s no one more famous, I couldn’t take it in," O'Hara says in the documentary "Michael Jackson's Irish Driver."
“When it came to the first day you wouldn’t believe how nervous I was. I was shaking. “He put out his hand to say hello and then after we shook, he was the same as you and me.”
Keep Michael Jackson a secret in the Midlands
No matter where the King of Pop went in the village, his whereabouts were kept secret by the townspeople. And even when it was finally revealed he was in Moate, locals purposely gave reporters wrong directions to keep him safe.
Said Paul Lawless, owner of Egan’s pub: “What we did was we had a pre-opening and Ray pulled up with the van and he came straight in.
“I showed him what we had and he had a glass of wine. “I never asked for an autograph. My thing is they’re the same as you. People don’t hound you or don’t go after the artist. They give them their own space, it’s unusual.”
Michael Jackson living with a Westmeath family
Although Jackson arrived after the child molestation charges, Paddy Dunning said he had no problem with him staying with his family.
“He came down on a bus with his family, the kids, and a nanny.
“His kids were playing with my kids within hours. It was all happy families.
“He had received death threats but I think he found solace and comfort, he was living with an ordinary family.
“The whole pedophile thing but I don’t think he was one of those predators.
“I wouldn’t let him down to my house if I had any inclination that was the case.
“When I met him I got the impression this guy has been made into a monster – that’s my opinion.”
Jackson also went to a kids’ center called Jumping Jacks in Tullamore, County Offaly. The locals there didn’t believe it was really the pop star.
“I was a bit surprised to think he would come here to pay, delighted to have him, of course," said owner Brenda Carroll.
“The first night they came, it closed so they had it to themselves but when they came bowling others were there.
“They let him bowl him away and no one looked at him, they left him be.”
The shoes Jackson played in have pride of place in the center.
Carroll said: “Straight away we brought them into the office, we put them into the glass case. They’ve been there ever since.”
Listen to the original RTE Radio One documentary here.
* Originally published in 2013.