“He looked at me puzzled. I said, ‘Let me do this. I want to do this. You’ve been so good to me. Please let me do this: You need to be a dad.’ I nagged him into it, if you will,” she said.
A son, Michael Joseph ‘Prince’ Jackson, was born in February of 1997, four months after Rowe and Jackson had wed in a Sydney hotel during the star’s Australian tour.
Rowe would not see her son again for six weeks after the birth — he was taken to Jackson’s Neverland ranch to be cared for by a team of nannies, while she recovered at a friend’s house.
Just 14 months later, a second child, Paris, was born. Jackson would later tell interviewer Martin Bashir he “snatched” his newborn daughter away from the hospital — and her mother: “I snatched her and just went home with all the placenta and everything all over her.”
Rowe’s involvement with her young family was minimal, even before she divorced Jackson in 1999.
“My kids don’t call me mum because I don’t want them to. They’re Michael’s children. It’s not that they’re not my children, but I had them because I wanted him to be a father. I believe there are people who should be parents, and he’s one of them. I could do something for him and this is what I could do,” she said in 2003.
A SHELTERED LIFE
For much of their childhood, the Jackson children remained sheltered from the world, their faces obscured by ghostly sheets whenever they stepped out in public with their father.
Rowe said in 2003 she still had some level of involvement in the children’s lives, explaining that it had in fact been her idea to keep the children’s identities hidden.
“I obviously have some influence, as their faces are still covered. That was my request, not his. He’s very proud of his children — I’m the one who’s terrified. I’m the one who’s seen the notes that someone’s gonna take his children,” Rowe said.
“I’m sure one day he’ll ask the children ‘Do you want to wear the scarf?’ I will have immediate heart failure. But he’s not going to make his children do something they don’t want to do; he’s not that kind of parent.”
The children’s day-to-day lives were largely confined to the Neverland ranch — on the surface, a veritable paradise for children, but also the site of much of the alleged sexual abuse young boys say they suffered at Jackson’s hand.
“We couldn’t just go on the rides whenever we wanted to. Like, we had school every single day, and we had to be good. And if we were good, every other weekend or so, we could choose whether we were gonna go to the movie theatre or see the animals or whatever. But if you were on bad behaviour, then you wouldn’t get to go do all those things,” she said.
THE MOMENT THAT SHOCKED THE WORLD
In February 2002, a third baby joined the Jackson family, born via an unnamed surrogate. Bizarrely, he was given a name almost identical to that of his older brother: Prince Michael Jackson II.
His father would refer to him as ‘Blanket.’ Nine months after his birth, horrifying footage of baby Blanket was splashed across the world: His father dangling his infant precariously over the balcony of a hotel in Berlin, high above a crowd of fans on the street below.
17 years on, the footage is still truly shocking:
Documentary filmmaker Martin Bashir was with Jackson in Berlin, footage from the incident ending up in his controversial 2003 doco Living With Michael Jackson. In one troubling scene, a frantic Jackson defends himself against the backlash while trying to feed his crying baby.
“That’s totally ignorant. I would never do that to my child or any child. Try to kill them? Come on. We were waving for thousands of fans down below and they were chanting that they want to see my child. I was kind enough to let them see. I was doing something out of innocence.”
Bashir, however, remained unconvinced: “Jackson’s behaviour was beginning to alarm me,” he said.
As the public uproar grew, Jackson issued a statement calling the incident a “terrible mistake.” “I offer no excuses for what happened,” the statement read. “I got caught up in the excitement of the moment. I would never intentionally endanger the lives of my children.”
During an interview for that documentary, Jackson told Bashir that both of his older children were “natural conceptions” — that he and wife Debbie Rowe had sex.
However, Rowe later contradicted Jackson’s claim.
Speaking to a British newspaper in 2009, Rowe said: “I went to the ‘office’, which is what we called the medical clinic. They impregnated me. It’s just like I impregnate my mares for breeding. It was very technical.
“Just like I stick the sperm up my horse, this is what they did to me. I was his thoroughbred.”
If Rowe was definitely the mother of the two eldest Jackson children, the question remains: Is Michael Jackson their biological father?
In Living With Michael Jackson, the star explained that baby Blanket’s surrogate mother was a woman unknown to him, who he also did not know. He said that in asking for a surrogate, he did not care how old or what race she was — just that she be intelligent, healthy and have good eyesight. Jackson said he had used his own sperm for the insemination.
“He is my father. He will always be my father. He never wasn’t, and he never will not be. People that knew him really well say they see him in me, that it’s almost scary,” she told the magazine.
“I consider myself black,” she continued, conceding that “Most people that don’t know me call me white.”
In the same interview, Paris’ big brother seemed less certain of his parentage.
“Every time someone asks me that, I ask, ‘What’s the point? What difference does it make?’ Specifically to someone who’s not involved in my life. How does that affect your life? It doesn’t change mine,” he told Rolling Stone.
BACK IN THE HEADLINES
Prince, now 22, Paris, 20 and Blanket, 17, are all understood to be struggling with the current wave of public scrutiny their late father is facing after the release of explosive documentary Leaving Neverland.
Teenage Blanket is understood to have been hit hardest: Hidden away by the Jackson estate, the 17-year-old is looked after by his 88-year-old grandmother Katherine and co-guardian TJ Jackson, Michael’s 40-year-old nephew.
Blanket, who now goes by “Biji”, has stopped talking since the bombshell allegations of Leaving Neverland started to dominate the headlines.
“Biji is the most talkative kid at school and he isn’t talking any more. We’re all worried about him,” another of Michael’s nephews, Taj, told a UK TV network last week.