Details in accounts from two of Michael Jackson‘s bodyguards and a biographer appear to corroborate some of James Safechuck’s claims against the star.
Safechuck, who appeared in the recent documentary Leaving Neverland, alleged in a 2014 lawsuit that Jackson had abused him from 1988 until 1992. According to the now-41-year-old, part of that abuse took place in an upstairs room at the train station located at the ranch.
Those claims were recently criticised by biographer Mike Smallcombe, who said he had uncovered permits that show the station was only approved for construction in 1993. He added that the station didn’t open until the first part of 1994.
Now, accounts from two of Jackson’s former bodyguards have been uncovered, which seem to back up the dates in Safechuck’s story. Writing in the 2014 book Remembering The Time: Protecting Michael Jackson In His Final Days, Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard said: “In 1990, Michael Jackson opened the gates of his Neverland Valley Ranch to the public for the first time.
“Neverland’s visitors entered the ranch at its train station, boarding a steam engine that took them up to the main house.”
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Randall Sullivan also corroborated that account in his 2012 biography Untouchable: The Strange Life And Tragic Death Of Michael Jackson. “Reporters invited to tour Neverland at the 1990 public unveiling most often began by inspecting the towering statue of Mercury (the Roman God of profit, trade and commerce) in the drive of the mansion,” he wrote.
“Then climbed a hill out back that led to a near replica of the Main Street train station at Disneyland, with a floral clock that was more magnificent than the one Walt Disney had designed for his own park.”
Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed had previously admitted that there was a discrepancy in Safechuck’s claims, but denied it was that the abuse had taken place as he said it had. “Yeah there seems to be no doubt about the station date,” he tweeted after Smallcombe shared the train station’s construction permits. “The date they have wrong is the end of the abuse.”
In an additional statement to NME, the director said the documents did not clash with the claims made in the film as sexual abuse is still alleged to have occurred after the construction of the train station. “James Safechuck was present at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Valley Ranch both before and after the construction of the train station there,” he said.
“The two still photographs of the train station shown in the documentary were taken by Safechuck and provided to the film-maker by him. Safechuck’s testimony in the film is that he was abused by Jackson in multiple places over several years, into his teens.”
Lawyers for Jackson’s estate had called the discrepancy “one of several lies” made by Safechuck in Leaving Neverland. “Safechuck’s allegations that he was abused in a building before it was even built and two years after he said the ‘abuse’ stopped speaks for itself,” they said.
“Remember these are two individuals who filed lawsuits asking for millions of dollars after changing years of their under oath testimony and multiple denials that Michael ever did anything inappropriate to them. The lawsuits were dismissed but the accusers are appealing the dismissals. I believe for the accusers, the director and HBO this has always been about the money or ratings.”
Last month, Reed hit out at the Jackson estate for calling the singer’s accusers “liars”. “This argument falls apart when you apply even the merest dusting of common sense,” he said. “Was he lying then? Or is he lying now? You can’t have it both ways.”
The Jackson estate has denied all allegations against the late star. Jackson also denied all claims against him until his death in 2009.