Star Jackson vanishes in the Luton triangle

MICHAEL JACKSON was at the centre of a classic showbiz mystery last night after he admitted being addicted to painkillers and called off his world tour. Following a midnight flight across the Atlantic with his friend Elizabeth Taylor, the entertainer disappeared after his privately chartered jet landed at Luton airport.

Jackson, in a tape released by his publicity agent in Los Angeles, had said he could not bear the stress of performances while fighting addiction and facing allegations that he sexually abused a boy in California.

He was then flown on a Boeing 727 from a remote airfield in Mexico - the latest stage of the 'Dangerous' tour - to Luton, via Canada and Iceland. There is confusion about his next move, but there are reports that he was then secretly taken to a private psychiatric hospital in London.

Other rumours had him leaving Luton in the early hours of yesterday morning and travelling to Switzerland with Ms Taylor. She has a luxury villa at Gstaad but there were no signs of the couple there. When the 727 landed in Geneva, only Taylor left the plane, speeding away in a limousine.

In his message yesterday, Jackson, 35, said it was impossible for him to continue performing because of his addiction and the stress of accusations - which police are investigating - that last year he sexually abused a 13-year-boy in California. Police have recently made a number of searches at several of Jackson's Southern California homes and taken away boxes of material.

The singer said the painkillers were prescribed after he recently underwent reconstructive scalp surgery. His scalp was badly burned by an explosion during the filming of a Pepsi- Cola commercial several years ago.

He said: 'It is time for me to acknowledge my need for treatment in order to regain my health. I became increasingly more dependent on the painkillers to get me through the days of my tour.' He described charges of sexual molestation as 'an extortion attempt' by the father of the child. There have been growing fears about Jackson's health after he repeatedly postponed concerts on his current tour.

In his statement, the reclusive entertainer credited Taylor with advising him to cancel the remaining dates on his tour and repair his health. Taylor, a reformed alcoholic, visited Jackson on Thursday in Mexico City, where he was said to be bedridden with a severe cold. She is reported to have arranged for him to go to a clinic in Gstaad, where she has a chalet with an antique horsedrawn sleigh on the lawn and uninterrupted views of the Alps. The area between Gstaad and Lake Geneva is dotted with private clinics specialising in the treatment of addictions.

Dr Michael Farrell, a consultant psychiatrist at the National Addiction Centre, London, said painkiller addiction was often linked to depression: 'People who are depressed have a lower pain threshold.'