Jackson died in 2009 amid a storm of allegations that he sexually abused children at his 2,700-acre Neverland Ranch, which included a zoo, a train, an amusement park and a 50-seat theatre. The site in Los Olivos, California, which the singer bought in 1988 – named after the home of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up – was raided by police as part of a criminal investigation in 2003.
The King of Pop moved out of Neverland two years later after he was acquitted of child molestation charges and vowed that he would never live on the ranch again, saying he no longer felt safe there.
On the sprawling estate, Jackson kept more than 50 animals, including giraffes, elephants and tigers as part of his private zoo.
In a new documentary, Ross Kemp attempts to track down Jackson’s animals, many of which were sold on after his death and were mistreated, both under Jackson’s care and after.
In ‘Searching for Michael Jackson’s Zoo with Ross Kemp’ on ITV, the presenter’s hunt leads him to the Arizona desert, Utah and Florida.
During his search, Mr Kemp speaks to amusement park specialist Rob Swinson, who was drafted in by Jackson in the Nineties to help him extend Neverland.
Mr Swinson, who Jackson dubbed the ‘Maker of Dreams’, breaks down in tears as he is asked about his memories of Neverland by Mr Kemp.
Standing outside Neverland, the theme park consultant starts crying as he is asked about his experiences.
He says: “That is the entrance to a very sacred, magical place. Michael made it that way.”
Fighting back more tears, the former Neverland insider adds: “You just have to be patient with me, let me get myself together.
“There are so many memories here for me.
“Michael and I started howling at the moon together in unison.
“He looked at me and he said, ‘I just love bringing out the child that is in each other’.”
Mr Swinson tells Mr Kemp that Jackson “loved his animals”, however other insiders who appear in the programme tell a different story.
The documentary uncovers harrowing details of mistreatment of the singer’s exotic pets.
The King of Pop’s parrot was eaten by a boa constrictor, while a llama at Neverland was mauled by a dog and a giraffe was killed when a barn door broke its neck.
Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall gives her own account of the horrors Jackson’s pets were subject to.
The expert, who visited Neverland and met Jackson, said: “The conditions were terrible.
“There were two dressed-up chimps kept separately, who came out to be photographed.
“There was a poor little bear in a circular cage crying – it shouldn’t have left its mother. The whole situation was horrendous.”
‘Searching for Michael Jackson’s Zoo with Ross Kemp’ is available to stream on ITV.