28 Jun 2009

Michael Jackson's body released to family

10:15 am on 28 June 2009

The body of Michael Jackson has been released to his family, after a post-mortem failed to immediately determine what killed the pop star.

Members of Jackson's family were said to be gathering at his parents home in suburban Los Angeles to make final arrangements for the "King of Pop," whose sudden death on Thursday dominated worldwide headlines.

Coroner's officials have said that with no outward signs of trauma to Jackson's body or evidence of foul play, they would have to wait for the results of toxicology tests and other studies to establish a cause of death.

Speculation has centered on Jackson's use of prescription drugs and reports that he was injected with the narcotic painkiller Demerol shortly before collapsing at his rented mansion in a Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office says the family removed the singer's body at 9pm local time, eluding hordes of camera crews and photographers.

Fate of children unclear

The fate of Michael Jackson's three children remains unclear as reports raise the possibility of a custody battle involving the biological mother of the late star's eldest offspring.

The three children - Prince Michael, 12, Paris, 11, and Prince Michael II, 7, are reported to be in the care of Jackson's mother Katherine at the family estate in Los Angeles.

Jackson's former wife of three years, Debbie Rowe, is the mother of the two eldest children, while the third was born in 2002 to a surrogate whose identity has never been made public.

There are conflicting reports over whether Ms Rowe, who separated from Jackson in October 1999, has already signed away her parental rights.

The TMZ.com website cited a lawyer familiar with the case as saying that Ms Rowe had never had her parental rights legally terminated, which could clear the way for her to gain custody and win a multi-million-dollar settlement.

However Jackson family lawyer Brian Oxman is quoted as saying that the children would likely be looked after by Katherine Jackson.

Another Jackson confidante, new age guru Deepak Chopra, told CNN he was concerned the three siblings could be split up by a custody battle.

No evidence of foul play

There was no evidence of foul play in Michael Jackson's death, Los Angeles coroners said after conducting a post mortem.

A cause of death will not be determined for four to six weeks, as results of tests are awaited, including toxicology tests to check whether Jackson had drugs, alcohol or prescription medications in his system.

Police have searched the singer's home and planned to interview his personal physician, who was with the 50-year-old entertainer at the time of his death.

Police have towed a car belonging to Jackson's doctor from the singer's home and impounded it, media reports say.

The BBC quotes police spokeswoman Karen Rayner as saying the doctor was not under criminal investigation but the car "may contain medications or other evidence that may assist the coroner in determining the cause of death".

Lawyer Brian Oxman told CBS's The Early Show he had been concerned about the prescription drugs Jackson took due to injuries suffered while performing.

"I do not want to point fingers at anyone because I want to hear what the toxicology report says and the coroner says but the plain fact of the matter is that Michael Jackson had prescription drugs at his disposal at all times," he said.

Tape of emergency call released

The emergency call from a member of Michael Jackson's entourage has been released in Los Angeles, providing an insight into the pop star's tragic final moments as he lay unconscious.

On a tape of a 911 call released by the Los Angeles Fire Department on Friday, an unidentified male caller tells a switchboard operator that Jackson was not breathing and repeated attempts to revive him via CPR had been unsuccessful.

The caller also tells the operator that Jackson's personal doctor was at the scene and trying to revive him.