In 2005, two key witnesses saved Michael Jackson from prison on his second trial for child molestation. One was Wade Robson, who in 2013 said he had lied to protect the man who sexually abused him from the age of seven to 14.

The other was Macaulay Culkin.

Culkin has been one of the pop icon's staunchest defenders, calling the allegations against Jackson "absolutely ridiculous" and describing him as "hilarious" and "sweet".

The child star recently called Jackson his "best friend growing up", and said their closeness despite the 22-year age gap "made sense" because of their similar life stories.


But the allegations in the confronting documentary Leaving Neverland cast the odd couple's relationship in a different light.

The pair first met when Jackson and Donald Trump went backstage to meet Culkin after he performed in The Nutcracker at New York's Lincoln Center, aged nine.

They cemented the friendship a year later, when the youngster shot to fame in Home Alone in 1990 and Jackson called and said they should get together to talk about their similar experiences.

They had much in common — Jackson had also found fame at the age of 10 in the Jackson 5, and both had problems with their fathers. Culkin has said father Kit was a "mean b**tard" and was "jealous" of him because "everything he tried to do in his life I excelled at before I was 10 years old". They have been estranged for 23 years.


Robson was five when he met Jackson after winning a competition to dance onstage with him when the star visited Australia in 1987.

The Bad singer invited the boy and his family to the United States two years later, and the abuse began, with the pair regularly sharing a bed at Jackson's Neverland ranch.

Now 36, Mr Robson describes in the documentary how devastated he was when Culkin, then 10, arrived on the scene a few years later, and was chosen to appear in the King of Pop's Black or White video in 1991, a part Mr Robson said he had been promised.

"That was the first time I came up against the new friend, Macaulay Culkin," he said. "Macaulay was where I was in my previous trips, right by Michael's side every moment."


That same year, the 33-year-old Thriller singer joined Culkin on a trip the boy was taking to Bermuda with a young friend's family. Jackson turned up at the Princess Hotel with a suitcase full of water bombs.

Michael Jackson and Wade Robson. Photo / Supplied
Michael Jackson and Wade Robson. Photo / Supplied

The child star shared a bed with Jackson on several occasions between the ages of 10 and 14, testifying in 2005 that they had slept in the same bed 10 times "at most".

Jackson was constantly surrounded by children, and had special relationships with a series of young boys. The childlike star was regularly pictured on adventurous trips with his favourites, usually one at a time, holding their hands as the press swarmed around him.

Mr Robson said he was also jealous when Jackson took Brett Barnes on his Dangerous tour, after the singer told him no children were allowed. Mr Barnes maintains there was never any abuse.

In 1993, Jordan "Jordie" Chandler, 13, accused Jackson of sexually abusing him a year earlier. British fan Terry George claimed that same year that Jackson had masturbated on the phone while talking to him when he was 13 and the Billie Jean singer was 21, in 1979.

Mr Robson, Culkin and James Safechuck all gave statements in support of Jackson, and the performer settled out of court with the Chandler family for $US22 million.

Mr Safechuck, a child actor who met Jackson aged 10 when they starred in a Pepsi advert, is the second accuser in Leaving Neverland.

Michael Jackson with 10 year old Jimmy Safechuck in 1988. Photo / Getty Images
Michael Jackson with 10 year old Jimmy Safechuck in 1988. Photo / Getty Images

He said he had also lied to protect Jackson in a 1993 statement, and had been abused by the singer between the ages of 10 and 14. Mr Safechuck claimed the sexual abuse began when Jackson introduced him to masturbation on a holiday to Paris with his family.

Childhood cancer survivor Gavin Arvizo, 13, made similar allegations in 2005. He and his younger brother claimed Jackson showed them pornography and gave them alcohol, which he called "Jesus juice".

This time, Mr Safechuck refused to speak out in Jackson's defence, but both Mr Robson and Culkin lent him their support. One juror said this week she and another member of the jury never believed the boys, but they went along with the verdict favoured by their fellow jurors.

Jackson was found not guilty on all charges.


Macaulay Culkin as a boy. Photo / Getty Images
Macaulay Culkin as a boy. Photo / Getty Images

Culkin and his younger brother Kieran regularly spent time at the remote California ranch when they were young, with the Richie Rich actor describing how they enjoyed video game competitions, water balloon fights and fell asleep on beds in Jackson's home cinema.

In his 2005 testimony, revisited by Vanity Fair, Culkin said there was an alarm on the singer's bedroom door. "There was like a walkway kind of thing, where if somebody was approaching the door, it would kind of like 'ding-dong, ding-dong,'" he said. "When anyone would approach the room, yeah, you'd hear this kind of — soft kind of alarm, like 'ding-dong' kind of thing."

But the child star said he always slept fully clothed and the singer had an "open door policy", adding: "I've never seen him do anything improper with anybody."

Mr Safechuck spoke about the alarm in the documentary, adding that the singer would sometimes put down a blanket in his closet so they could hide in there.

"I have slept in a bed with many children," Jackson told journalist Martin Bashir in 2003 documentary Living with Michael Jackson.

"I slept in a bed with all of them when Macaulay Culkin was little. Kieran Culkin would sleep on this side, Macaulay Culkin was on this side … We all would just jam in the bed. We would wake up at dawn and go in the hot air balloon."

Kieran has not often spoken about his relationship with Jackson. Their older brother Shane would sometimes join them and Jackson on night-time cinema visits or excursions to Toys "R" Us. Their brother Rory was too young, and their sisters usually didn't join in.

Mr Safechuck said he and Jackson often went on lavish shopping excursions in Los Angeles, and staged a mock wedding ceremony when he was 10. In Leaving Neverland, Mr Safechuck, now 40, shows jewellery he says Jackson gave to him in return for sexual favours, including a Rolex ring.

The singer bought Culkin a Rolex when he was 11, and they would talk on the phone for hours at a time. But the child actor said their friendship was "so normal and mundane", saying people questioned it "only because of the fact that he was the most famous person in the world".

Culkin said he already had money "so it wasn't that awe inspiring".

Several of Jackson's former staff members claimed to have seen inappropriate conduct between Jackson and Culkin, but the actor fiercely denied this in court.

"I couldn't believe that, first of all, these people were saying these things or, let alone that it was out there and people were thinking that kind of thing about me," he said.

Adrian McManus, Jackson's maid from 1990 to 1994, said she often found boys' underwear and tubs of vaseline in the singer's large, double-storey room, which was filled with childlike memorabilia and a jacuzzi.

"I started realising, thinking, wondering, when he was taking baths with the boys, and they were sleeping in his bed," she told 60 Minutes. "When I would go in the next day there were little boys' underwear either on the floor with Michael's or they were in the jacuzzi.

"And then I would find underwear also in his bed.

"There was a lot of vaseline in Michael's bedroom, it was actually all over the ranch."

A chef at Neverland testified that he had seen Jackson with his hand up Culkin's shorts.

Security guard Ralph Chacon said he saw Jackson peforming a sex act on a 10-year-old boy in the shower — but the singer's defence painted the guard as a bitter ex-employee.

Housekeeper Blanca Francia, who worked for Jackson from 1986 to 1991, said during the 2005 trial that she had seen Jackson showering with Mr Robson when he was seven.

Her son, Jason, was allegedly molested by Jackson three times ― twice at Neverland Ranch and once at the star's LA apartment. The Francias family reached an out-of-court settlement with Jackson worth a reported $US2 million, and Jason testified against the singer in 2005.


Macaulay Culkin has famously defended Jackson for years. Photo / Getty Images
Macaulay Culkin has famously defended Jackson for years. Photo / Getty Images

Culkin stopped regularly visiting Neverland around the age of 14 — the same age Mr Robson and Mr Safechuck say they were when their relationships to Jackson petered out.

It was around the same time that the young actor's parents divorced, which he said was "one of the best things that's ever happened" because it led to him taking a break from the industry.

He sued them over his $US17 million ($AU21.2 million) earnings in a custody dispute when he was 15 years old, and had their names removed as his legal guardians so they could no longer control his fortune.

Aged 17, the actor started returning to Neverland, but would usually sleep in a guest room, he testified in 2005, because he "enjoyed my privacy a little bit more".

In 2002, Culkin began dating Mila Kunis, and the pair were together for nine years. The actress later told Howard Stern that Culkin's extreme level of fame was difficult to deal with.

In 2004, he was charged in Oklahoma City with marijuana possession and possession of a controlled substance without a prescription. Police seized 17.3 grams of marijuana, eight Xanax pills and 16 pills identified as clonazepam, a sedative used to treat anxiety and seizures that can be addictive.

Since Jackson died aged 50 after overdosing on anaesthetic propofol in 2009, Culkin has remained close to the performer's daughter Paris, his goddaughter. The pair even have matching tattoos.

Culkin and his goddaughter Paris Jackson show off their matching tattoos on Snapchat. Photo / Paris Jackson Snapchat
Culkin and his goddaughter Paris Jackson show off their matching tattoos on Snapchat. Photo / Paris Jackson Snapchat

"I am very protective of her," he said of Paris, 19, last year. "She is beloved by me."

In 2012, photographs showed him looking gaunt, and rumours swirled about him battling a drug addiction, which he denied. He quit Hollywood in 2016 to spend time working as a roadie for Adam Green of The Moldy Peaches and Har Mar Superstar, and performing with Velvet Underground tribute act Pizza Underground.

Mr Safechuck and Mr Robson filed lawsuits in 2013 and 2014 respectively, saying they were suffering from anxiety and depression after having their own children. They said they had stayed silent until then because Jackson had warned them they could go to jail if they ever spoke about the sexual abuse — and they had grown up loving him.

The lawsuits were thrown out in 2017 because too much time had elapsed for Jackson's estate to be held liable. They are both appealing.

Jackson's lawyer Tom Mesereau has characterised the star's accusers, including Mr Safechuck and Mr Robson, as "opportunists out to make a buck".

The late pop star's estate said in a statement that the documentary was "another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson."

Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed said he did not reach out to Culkin while making the documentary. "Macaulay has gone on the record many, many times, including recently to say that his relationship with Jackson was innocent," he said.

Culkin, 38, recently starred in Seth Green's Changeland and told the New York Times he was splitting his time between New York and Paris, taking walks between two and four in the morning to avoid the paparazzi.