What’s the story with Omer Bhatti and Michael Jackson?

Omer Bhatti. While I had heard his name in connection with Michael Jackson, I never really knew that much about him. Where was he from? How close was he to Jackson? How did they meet? How often, how many times and and for how long did he visit Neverland? I didn’t really know the answers to these questions, so I decided to do some research and find out what I could about Omer and his relationship with Jackson.

What I found really surprised me. I’ll rephrase that. It shocked me. Totally. Here was a man who had, according to his own statements, suffered greatly as a result of his close relationships with boys. He had been accused of child molestation, been forced into a humiliating strip search where his genitals were photographed, and eventually had to pay multi millions of dollars to two families so that they wouldn’t force him into a civil court where they could “tell lies” exposing his alleged sordid behavior with their sons. His health, reputation and fortune were compromised by, if you were to believe him, totally innocent relationships with young boys.

To any observer, it would make sense that a man with the street smarts of Jackson (remembering he had not only survived, but thrived, in the cut throat music business for thirty years), would take great pains to ensure his interactions with children from that point forward were fully accountable and transparent so as to avoid a repeat of the extreme pain that those previous relationships had caused. Like a child bitten by a dog, someone innocently involved with children would have ensured they wouldn’t get into a situation where they may be bitten again. Certainly, Jackson’s advisers and lawyers would have made clear that the consequences of entering into a relationship with any child at the same level as the ones he had previously would have been dire.

Even Jackson’s spiritual adviser, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, told Jackson he should not be friends with children.

After the 1993 allegations, Michael could no longer work with kids. I made that absolutely clear to him. But I also said to him, you’re not the children’s messiah. Their parents are. You’re not supposed to be building these hospitals and reading them bedtime stories. You’re supposed to be inspiring their parents to prioritize them. And Michael embraced that message.

– Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

But had Jackson embraced that message? That is what makes this story fascinating. Was Jackson’s relationship with Omer (and you will find out how intimate their relationship was when you read further) a result of arrogance, naïveté or compulsion?

Nothing creepy here.
Nothing creepy here.

 

Our story begins (if you don’t count Jackson’s previous obsessions with young boys) in October 1996. Jackson was in the midst of the HIStory World Tour and had already performed concerts in Eastern Europe, Spain and the Netherlands. He had now moved on to perform his first ever concert in Africa as a solo artist, in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia. He had divorced Lisa Marie Presley a few months earlier, and Deborah Rowe, his soon to be second wife, was pregnant with their first son Prince. Here was a man who was soon to have a lot of new responsibilities and, I would have thought, not much time for new relationships. He proved me wrong.

Michael Jackson with some young Tunisian friends.
Michael Jackson with some young Tunisian friends.

Omer Bhatti, the son of Humayoun, originally from Pakistan who was then 41, and Helga, a native of Norway who was then 42, (they later changed their names), was a short for his age 12 year old who loved everything Jackson – the music, the dancing, and especially the man.

The family traveled from their home in Oslo to Tunis to visit Omer’s uncle Hjalmar Vinje, who was living there at the time. However the main aim of Omer would have been to catch a glimpse of his idol, Michael Jackson.

Like many of Jackson’s other special friends, Omer had been imitating Jackson’s dance moves from an early age and was noticed by music act manager Tor Helgeton as a “tot” in his native Norway. Helgeton organized for Omer to appear at shopping centres and festivals around the country, and he even appeared on Norwegian television stations NRK and TV3 dancing like his idol. At the time he was visiting Tunis, Omer had been scheduled to appear at a shopping center in Arendal, a small town three and a half hours south west of his home in the southern suburbs of Oslo. According to Helgeton, Omer never showed up for the appearance. Was Omer a no show because the lure of the chance of seeing his idol was stronger than his desire to perform at an out of the way retail centre?

How Jackson and Omer’s paths crossed was fortuitous for both of them. Omer got to meet the person he had admired for so long, and Jackson got his very own young boy to live in his home – but more of that later.

As it happened, Omer was at the hotel on that day early in October hoping to catch a glimpse of Jackson – he was dressed as his idol and had diligently worked his way through the crowd so he could be at the front. When Jackson finally arrived at the hotel, the crowd waiting for him surged forward and there was a danger that Omer would be crushed. Jackson spotted he was in peril and instructed his bodyguards to scoop up the hapless young lad to save him from the mass of people wanting to get to Jackson.

However, Jackson didn’t stop at just saving Omer from the crowd, he was eager to get to know this youngster better, and invited the boy up to his hotel room, much as he had done with other young boys so many times before. They talked and played together for a full two hours, and later Omer told his sister Shaista that Jackson had been impressed with how similar Omer was compared to him.

The grooming of Omer had begun. With his usual constant companions Frank and Eddie Cascio getting older (and almost certainly going through puberty), and depressed that he had precious few new boys in his pipeline, Jackson needed to take action. Omer coming into Jackson’s life must have been a godsend.

JACKSON: And every time I felt like I’m at the end of my rope, some kind of way, a kid would show up somewhere. That’s the truth. Just when I can’t take it anymore. And I really want to die. I really do. When I wanted to die, boom, it hits me. And I get on my knees, and I thank God whenever it happens. I do, Shmuley. And so, I believe in it. I really do.

– Jackson interview with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

 

Of course, Omer wasn’t the only boy that Jackson had his bodyguards pluck off the street during the HIStory tour. While in Perth, as he was perusing movies in a video store, Jackson spied eight year old Ash Denton rollerblading on Scarborough Beach Road, and liking what he saw, asked his bodyguards to invite him into the store. What followed after that meeting can only be described as steps in the grooming process with Ash and his parents.

Jackson was obviously taken by Omer, and as he did with Ash in Australia, invited him on to the stage at his concert to perform together with him along with other children. Jackson singled Omer out to stand by him and held his hand during the performance, afterwards inviting Omer and his family for dinner.omer-mj-on-stage

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Did Jackson proceed cautiously, as someone who had supposedly suffered terribly from accusations of impropriety with a young boy just three years earlier would? No. He proceeded with reckless abandon, inviting Omer, along with his mother and uncle, to continue on the HIStory tour with him. Despite having known Omer for only an extremely short time, in true Jackson fashion he couldn’t let a compliant young boy who had entered into his orbit, with pliable parents, out of his sight just yet.

Things were moving fast. It was only the next day that Jackson started dressing Omer as his ‘mini me”, just as he had enjoyed doing with his other special friends. Jackson chose the distinctive CTE shirt he had used on other special friends before.

Omer wearing Jackson's  CTE boy shirt
Omer wearing Jackson’s CTE boy shirt
More Jackson friends wearing the same CTE shirt. From left Brett Barnes, x 2, Jordan Chandler x 2 and Frank Cascio in a yellow version.
More Jackson friends wearing the same style CTE shirt. From left Brett Barnes, x 2, Jordan Chandler in a red (left) and brown (right) version, and Frank Cascio in a yellow version.

How curious that Jackson just so happened have this shirt with him in Tunisia in Omer’s size. Did Jackson carry a supply of these shirts everywhere he went just in case he might come across a boy he liked?

Contrary to news reports, Omer did not join Jackson for the remainder of the HIStory tour. After the Seoul and Taiwan concerts, the Bhattis returned to Norway, and Jackson continued on to Singapore, the next stop on his tour. They joined up again in Tokyo in December, where Jackson enjoyed Omer’s company for a little more time before they parted again.

Omer and Jackson at the Tokyo premiere of the short film Ghosts
Omer and Jackson at the Tokyo premiere of the short film Ghosts

However their parting was brief. Jackson, ignoring the mess of trouble his obsession with Jordan Chandler had caused him, invited Omer, along with his family, to come to Neverland to live with him. They readily agreed. Omer returned to Norway to complete year seven at school, and his parents got busy organizing the sale of their Holmlia home. In the fall of 1997, with Omer having completed school and the sale of the house completed, the family moved to the United States.

Jackson organized jobs at Neverland for Omer’s parents. Whilst there is no proof available, it’s quite reasonable to assume that Jackson, as he did with the Robson family, helped the Bhattis to acquire green cards allowing them to stay in the United States (unless Jackson employed them illegally, which is another possibility). Omer’s mother, a dental hygienist, worked for Jackson as his son Prince’s first nanny (along with Grace Rwaramba), while Omer’s father, a taxi driver in his home city of Oslo, was put to work in the garage, tending to Jackson’s fleet of vehicles and occasionally acting as chauffeur.

Obviously the Bhatti parents had no special qualifications in regards to the jobs they took on for Jackson, and Jackson would have had far better candidates for those jobs who resided in the United States without the inconvenience of acquiring green cards (or running the risk of having illegal aliens working for Jackson’s company), so it’s safe to assume that Jackson hired two near strangers from Norway for one reason and one reason reason only – to have their son close. This once again shows the extraordinary lengths Jackson went to to enjoy sleepovers with young boys.

Omer’s sister Shaista, Prince and Omer

The Bhattis, keen to celebrate their new life in the United States, decided to change their names to something far more anglicized, becoming the Winter family. Dad Humayoun Shahzad Bhatti became Riz, Mom Helga Helen Winje became Pia, Omer’s 18 year old sister Shaista became Lisa and Omer himself, in honor of his new mentor and benefactor, took the name Michael Joseph Winter.

It wasn’t long, however, before people were asking questions. Why had Jackson moved a young boy in to Neverland Ranch, when only four years previously he had paid out over twenty million dollars after allegations of molestation with another young boy he had been involved with, Jordan Chandler? Jackson knew how it looked. He had to come up with something to divert suspicion away from a situation that would raise red flags with acquaintances, family, friends and business associates, who still had a keen antenna for Jackson and the appropriateness of his friendships with young boys. His solution was to put about the rumor that Omer was his “secret son”, a result of a one night stand between himself and Omer’s mother. This rumor served two purposes – one, it would satisfy the curiosity of those who wondered at the propriety of a 40 year old man who had a 13 year old boy staying in his house; and two, it would help bolster his almost nebulous heterosexual credentials.

And this was no throwaway, joking line from Jackson about Omer being his son. This was something that was taken quite seriously by many people, including Jackson’s immediate family.

After Jackson’s death, his father Joe said about Omer  “I knew Michael had another son – yes, I did. He looks like a Jackson, he acts like a Jackson and he can dance like a Jackson. This boy’s a fantastic dancer – as a matter of fact, he teaches dance.”. Jackson’s brother Jermaine stated, “If Omer’s his son, he’s his son.We won’t deny it. We are going to give him the same love and care that we give Prince and Paris and Blanket. I can’t clearly say if he is Michael’s but I saw this kid around him.”

Roger Friedman had previously written in September 2004 “Last month, when I made queries about Bhatti and his status at Neverland and with Jackson, several insiders insisted Jackson had told them recently that Omer was his biological son. Among those who confirmed they had heard the story of Omer being Jackson’s son are former Jackson employees Marc Schaffel and Stuart Backerman.” (Marc Schaffel being the gay pornographer that Jackson hired, fired, then rehired again – see Brietbart story on the sordid saga here; and Stuart Backerman being Jackson’s PR man).

The deception went even further. Anybody spending time around Jackson and Omer would have also heard Omer repeatedly referring to Jackson as ‘Dad’, as he does numerous times in this video taken in 1997.

Interestingly, those who (inexplicably) want to defend Jackson sharing his bed with children after his boy troubles in 1993 and 1994 use the excuse “Michael Jackson saw nothing wrong with it so he kept on doing it”. This suggests a naïveté, or innocence, in Jackson which is not supported by the level of deceit and cover up that Jackson showed in trying to pass off Omer as something other than the bedmate he truly was. We also have the evidence from Rabbi Shmuley who had warned Jackson after the Chandler scandal about keeping his behavior around children above board.

Omer came to be known as “Little Michael” by employees and visitors at Neverland, in part due to his change of name and in part to continue the fiction that he was Jackson’s son. That Omer shared Jackson’s bed was confirmed by Omer’s friend Ricky Harlow, who stated in a newspaper interview, “Omer would sleep over at Michael’s. They would hang out and watch movies and all that kind of stuff. His parents and his sister stayed in a cottage in a different part of the ranch.”

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Ricky added: “Omer sleeping in Michael’s bed would not have been a big deal. It would have been innocent.”

It should be noted that Ricky wasn’t in the room with Omer and Jackson.

Omer was deeply enmeshed in life at Neverland, spending inordinate amounts of time with Jackson and his children.

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In 1998 Omer enjoyed Christmas with the Jackson family.

As you can see, Omer wasn’t a casual visitor. Harlow says “There was a real bond between Omer and Michael. Michael was very protective of him and wanted to mentor him.”

It’s believed Omer’s parents returned to Norway in 2001 when Omer was 17, however Omer continued to stay with Jackson at Neverland off and on until November 2003, when he was 19. Along with two Norwegian friends who were visiting him, Omer was present at Neverland when the police raided in November 2003, in connection with the Arviso accusations.

Naturally police were keen to interview Omer about what was found during the search, and whether he knew anything about those items. During the grand jury hearings one of the detectives was asked about Omer’s demeanor while being questioned.

Investigator Jeffrey Ellis testified that when he “broached the subject of pornography,” Bhatti became nervous and “seemed to have trouble forming a sentence. It was almost like a stutter.”

Ellis added that when he asked Bhatti a series of questions about the consumption of wine and alcohol and references to “Jesus Juice,” he saw “that same type of uneasiness in him that I noticed when I started talking to him about pornography.”

After Jackson vowed never to return to Neverland and started his wanderings in Dubai, Ireland and around the United States, Omer couldn’t stay with Jackson any longer. Interestingly, in common with many of his other “special friends”, Jackson had encouraged Omer to become a film maker.

I was supposed to start at film school in Hollywood after high school, but then came the raid on Neverland while we were there.

– Omer Bhatti

 

While they remained friends and stayed in contact, Omer returned to his native Oslo to build his career as O-Bee, rapper and dancer.

Omer had spent a total of 6 years living intimately with Jackson, sharing the life and bed of a man he had a tight bond to. Nobody, really, outside of Jackson’s inner circle knew how close they were, and most outside that circle who did know of Omer chose to accept the “secret son” ruse, for to believe the alternative was too shocking for words.

When Jackson died in June 2009, Omer was distraught. As soon as he found out the sad news, he flew directly to Los Angeles to be with the Jackson children, and remained with them for two and a half months at Hayvenhurst.

“I am infinitely grateful for everything you taught me, and all the knowledge you shared. You made me who I am today, and I promise to make you proud. Our time together is a treasure in my heart, forever and always. I love you. Can not wait for us to meet again”

– Omer’s dedication at Jackson’s funeral

 

The “secret son” lie continued to be believed by Jackson’s immediate family – so much so that at Jackson’s funeral, sister Rebbie invited Omer to sit in the front row alongside immediate members of the family during the service, a position no other friend or close associate took. Jackson’s lies took root and bloomed, with media reports across the world afterwards proclaiming Omer as Jackson’s fourth child.

Omer did nothing to dispel those rumors until later, when the pressure for more details became too much. Confiding in a close friend who subsequently passed the tidbit on to the media, Omer said “Michael is not my father. He and I were just very, very close. He was my best friend.”

“Michael always used to say I was like a son to him,” he told the friend. “But my true parents are here in Norway. The reason I was asked to sit with his family at the memorial service is because I was Michael’s closest friend – not because I am his son.”

He also alluded to how intimate their relationship had been, saying, “Michael was such a special person to me and I cannot believe he is gone, I am in total shock. I have lost weight because I cannot eat anything. All I can think about is Michael and how he died.”

Omer once again honored his friend by officially changing his name from Omer Jamal Bhatti to Omer Michael Bhatti in 2010.

To any objective observer, Jackson’s intense relationship with a young boy, a boy who came into Jackson’s life after being pursued and wooed, and who lived under the same roof for years, raises many red flags – especially in light of the accusations against Jackson before and after.

Jackson fans, of course, won’t be listening to the facts but trying to weave Omer into their Jackson “lost childhood” narrative. In any case, for Jackson fans this information will still be here once the scales have been lifted from your eyes.

“How can you persuade us, if we won’t listen?”

– Polemarchus (Plato’s Republic)

 

It’s also interesting to note that Jackson obviously lied to the man he wanted to learn a better moral path from, as Jackson hadn’t embraced the Rabbi’s message, he had continued on his path of compulsion with young boys.

I found it interesting that while researching this story I was keeping my eyes peeled for any denials from Omer over being molested by Jackson, yet didn’t come across even one in the wealth of resources at my disposal. Omer usually cites “privacy” when asked questions about his relationship with Jackson. If anyone comes across any denials from Omer, please leave them in the comments.

Edit 16 June 2015

elle-coverOne of our favorite commenters, Andreas from Norway, let us know what Omer said in answer to a question about the molestation allegations when he did an interview with Elle in Norway (translation).

“I don’t wish to say too much about it, but I will say Michael in many ways was very innocent. But you can’t expect everybody to have the same view on everything. […] To him certain things was natural and completely innocent, things that not necessarily all people would view the same way.”
elle-quote

– Omer Bhatti

Not exactly a denial, in fact it could be considered that Omer was saying that Jackson thought molestation was natural and innocent. We will wait for more information.

 

Sources

1. Omer (13) flyttet inn hos Jacko (Dagbladet 11/16/1997 – retrieved 06/12/2015) Original Translation

2. Britiske aviser bløffer om Omer Bhatti (Dagbladet/Kjendis 07/23/2009 – retrieved 06/12/2015) Original Translation

3. Does Jacko Have a Secret Child? (Fox News, 09/28/2004 – retrieved 06/12/2015) Link

4. ‘Michael Jackson was not my father,’ says man at centre of lovechild rumours (Mirror, 07/26/2009 – retrieved 06/12/2015) Link

5. Sex Education (The Smoking Gun, 27/02/2005 – retrieved 06/12/2015) Link

6. Dr Drew Show, 10/05/2011 – retrieved 06/13/2015  Transcript

7. Company Information (retrieved 06/15/2015) Link