Michael Jackson’s body is set to make a final journey to Neverland Ranch, fueling speculation that the sprawling fantasy retreat could become a permanent memorial to the tragic pop icon.
A 30-car motorcade reportedly plans to escort the body this week to the King of Pop’s 1,050-hectare (2,600-acre) estate, a monument to Jackson’s obsession with childhood that once included a fairground and a private zoo.
CNN and the celebrity news website TMZ深圳桑拿,, quoting police sources, said the Jackson family planned a public viewing on Friday – which could draw a crush of fans to the isolated ranch north of Los Angeles.
Jackson’s death at the age of 50 last week has sparked a worldwide outpouring of tributes which continued on Tuesday with crowds gathering at New York’s famous Apollo Theater for a celebration of the star’s life.
Friday’s public viewing could be an indication that the Jackson family has permanent plans for Neverland.
Santa Barbara County officials said Tuesday they had received no formal notification of a memorial but said departments were “preparing to accommodate a large event” if a request for a Neverland funeral was made.
Calls for Neverland gravesite
Some fans say the star should be buried at the ranch and want it to be transformed into a shrine similar to Elvis Presley’s Graceland.
Neverland was named after the fantasy island of Peter Pan, Jackson’s inspiration who refused to grow up.
But the estate fell into disrepair after becoming the alleged crime scene in Jackson’s 2005 trial on child molestation charges. Jackson vacated the property following his acquittal and never lived there again.
The estate was reportedly on the verge of foreclosure before Jackson’s death as his extravagant lifestyle and mounting personal and legal problems took their toll on his finances.
The long-term fate of Neverland has been one of the myriad legal issues arising from Jackson’s sudden death.
A judge on Monday gave Jackson’s 79-year-old mother, Katherine, temporary control over his estate including Neverland and the rights to songs of the Beatles. She was also named temporary guardian of his three children.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Jackson drafted a will in 2002 that divided his estate between his mother, his three children and one or more charities.
Father cut out of will
Conspicuously absent was his father, Joe Jackson, who groomed his nine children into musical sensations but had an uneasy relationship with his son.
Michael Jackson said the family patriarch, a steelworker, would beat him when he missed a note and humiliate him, leading to the pop star’s fragility and obsession with childhood.
Joe Jackson said that he and his wife were ready to be supportive parents to the pop star’s three children.
“This is where they belong,” Joe Jackson, also 79, told reporters after the decision. “We’re going to take care of them and give them the education they’re supposed to have.”
Jackson’s former wife of three years, Debbie Rowe, is the mother of the two eldest children — Prince Michael, 12, and Paris, 11. The third, seven-year-old Prince Michael II, was born in 2002 to a surrogate whose identity has never been made public.
Final resting place undecided
It remains unclear where the star would ultimately be buried. The family has hesitated at funeral plans after authorizing a second autopsy to determine how he died.
The Los Angeles Times reported that police detectives are seeking to identify and interview “multiple doctors” who treated Jackson in the years before his death.
Attention has so far focused on the role of Jackson’s doctor Conrad Murray, who was with the star just before his death last Thursday.
Lawyers for Murray and law enforcement sources have said he is not suspected of wrongdoing and has co-operated with the investigation.
Investigation into cause of death
On Monday, coroner’s office investigators removed several plastic bags of medication from Jackson’s rented mansion in Holmby Hills, described as “additional medical evidence.”
Meanwhile the organizers of a series of Jackson’s planned comeback concerts in London revealed Tuesday that video footage of his rehearsals existed and could be released to the public.
The president of promoters AEG Live, Randy Phillips, told Sky News television that video of the pop legend’s performances would disprove rumors that he was incredibly frail before his death.
“We may at some point release some footage of him in rehearsal that would totally refute that,” he said.