Former Barnstaple bodyguard pays tribute to friend Michael Jackson

PUBLISHED: 17:56 26 June 2009 | UPDATED: 11:16 10 June 2010

BARNSTAPLE martial arts expert Matt Fiddes has paid tribute to pop legend Michael Jackson, who died in hospital last night (Thursday).



Mr Fiddes, 30, met the singer in 1998 and worked as a bodyguard for the star while he was in the UK for around five yea

BARNSTAPLE martial arts expert Matt Fiddes has paid tribute to pop legend Michael Jackson, who died in hospital last night (Thursday).

Mr Fiddes, 30, met the singer in 1998 and worked as a bodyguard for the star while he was in the UK for around five years. He has remained a close friend of the Jackson family.

On a statement written on social networking website Facebook earlier this morning, Mr Fiddes said he was "still in shock" and "lost for words".

"Michael was a great person and was the most misunderstood man in the world," he said.

Speaking to the North Devon Gazette today, he said that a mutual friend had telephoned him at home to tell him the sad news.

He said: "I didn't believe it at first, not until I saw the footage of Michael's body being taken out an ambulance on Sky News. I haven't been able to go to bed, I stayed up all night."

Mr Fiddes said that he couldn't understand how Michael, who was 50, had died of a heart attack because he ate healthily, didn't drink or smoke and took regular exercise.

"I last saw him about six weeks ago in London He was looking great and was over the moon about performing in concert again.

"He was so happy that he'd sold the first 10 dates that he was crying; I can't understand what's happened between now and then.

"I last spoke to him about a week ago and he was still really positive and excited about the shows; there was absolutely no reason at all to be concerned. This has all come as a complete shock."

Mr Fiddes, who was set to be a guest at the opening show on July 13, said that contrary to media reports, the star had been showing up for rehearsals.

"He was definitely there when he needed to be," he said. "Rehearsals were taking place in an aircraft hanger and Michael didn't need to show up all the time - he knew the routines, after all, he wrote them himself.

"He'd also been given a full medical. They really put him through the mill but he passed."

Mr Fiddes recalled how Michael had been a "loyal family friend" during the time he knew him.

"When my mum was receiving treatment for breast cancer, he telephoned her every day to see how she was.

"He visited North Devon three times and we took him to places like Lynton and Lynmouth, Clovelly, and even Barnstaple High Street.

"It's a sad affair. I'll always remember the happy times that I spent with him, the surprise visits we made in London to places like HMV and Harrods.

"I hope that his memory lives on through his music."

Mr Fiddes said that he would be flying over to LA for the funeral which he guessed would be "very unique".

"Knowing the family, I expect it will be a very private ceremony," he added.

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