Page last updated at 01:11 GMT, Friday, 26 June 2009 02:11 UK

UK bodyguard's tribute to Jackson

By Peter Jackson
BBC News

Matt Fiddes with Michael Jackson
Martial arts expert Matt Fiddes met the star through his friend Uri Geller

As the world mourns the death of Michael Jackson, his former UK bodyguard shares his personal memories of his friend, the "King of Pop".

Matt Fiddes remembers dressing Michael Jackson in disguise to give him a taste of normal life, sneaking him out of hotels and, above all, his kindness.

The martial arts expert, who runs a franchise of schools across the UK, met the singer in 1998 through his close friend Uri Gellar, and soon became trusted in his inner circle.

He was to become his bodyguard - and personal friend - for the next five years whenever Michael visited.

'Baffling'

The 30-year-old, from Barnstaple in Devon, last saw him three months ago in London, and said although he had lost a bit of weight, was in great shape.

"It was a quick visit, he was very upbeat and looking forward to his shows and seeing his fans. He was very positive and looked a bit trimmer, but Michael is a thin guy anyway," he said.

He's the most misunderstood man in the world
Matt Fiddes

"He was just getting in shape for his shows and trimming up. It's hard to believe what's happened, he's incredibly fit, and although he's 50, it's like he's in his thirties.

"I'm in total and utter shock, it's like a dream. I cannot understand, Uri Geller has called me and he cannot understand.

"I've made efforts to contact the States but they're all being hounded at the moment... it's absolutely baffling. I've called one of his brothers."

He said he was looking forward to the opening night of the singer's tour next month, which he claimed "would have been the start of his huge comeback".

"He's the most misunderstood man in the world. Everyone thought he was this weird freak, but when you're with him he's as normal as everyone else," he said.

"I don't think he felt he was as famous as everyone else thought, he didn't know any different."

Mr Fiddes said his friend would go out of his way to help the sick, and recalls seeing him send boxes of pizzas to homeless people in London after visiting them in secret.

"The guy had a good heart and would do everything he can, but everyone looking in couldn't understand him," he said.

"We used to dress him up and sneak him out of his hotel room and do normal things in shops. People wouldn't know who he was - we wanted to give him a taste of the real life."



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