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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 November, 2003, 05:50 GMT
Michael Jackson's ranch searched
Michael Jackson
Jackson: Controversial star
Police have conducted a search of pop star Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch.

Officers used a warrant to enter the 45-year-old singer's home in the Santa Ynez Valley, in California.

The pop star's lawyer, Brian Oxman, said the search was connected to sexual abuse allegations brought by a 12-year-old boy.

But Michael Jackson's publicist later said the singer - who was not at home - had no idea what the search was about, and promised full co-operation.

'Two-month inquiry'

Authorities in Santa Barbara did not give reasons for the search, saying only it was part of a criminal investigation.

"At 8.30 am (1630GMT) Santa Barbara sheriff's department and district attorney's office investigators executed a search warrant at the Neverland Ranch in connection with a criminal matter," said sheriff's commander Jeff Meyer.

Michael will, as always, co-operate fully with authorities in any investigation even as it is conducted, yet again, while he is not home
Stuart Backerman
Jackson publicist
But Mr Oxman said it involved an allegation of sexual molestation.

"The search warrant indicates there is an accusation by a 12-year-old boy who says that he was molested and the police are seizing information which they think in relevant to that accusation," he said.

He added that the warrant indicated that the investigation had been going on for two months.

However, Stuart Backerman, the pop singer's Los Angeles publicist later issued a statement denying any knowledge of the allegations.

"We cannot comment on law enforcement's investigation because we do not yet know what it is about. Michael will, as always, co-operate fully with authorities in any investigation even as it is conducted, yet again, while he is not home," Mr Backerman said.

He accused a "rogue's gallery of hucksters and inside sources" who dominated the airwaves on Tuesday speculating on the investigation.

Neverland ranch
Neverland includes a funfair with a Ferris wheel
"These characters always seem to surface with a dreadful allegation just as another project, an album, a video, is being released," he said.

The police raid came on the same day that a greatest hits collection featuring Jackson's new single, One More Chance, was released.

In recent years, Jackson has been involved in a string of controversies.

Nine years ago, a 14-year-old reached an out-of-court settlement in a lawsuit over sexual abuse allegations. No criminal charges were ever brought.

In November last year, he stunned fans in Berlin by dangling his baby from a hotel window.

Michael Jackson had international hits with the albums Thriller (1982), Bad (1987) and Dangerous (1991), but his career has subsequently waned.

The BBC's Robert Nisbet
"He's promised to help the investigation any way he can"

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