Jackson hideout hoax

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AVORIAZ (Reuter) - Wherever Michael Jackson may be hiding, he is not in the French Alpine resort of Avoriaz.

Reporters who rushed to the Franco-Swiss border overnight hoping for a glimpse of Jackson after reports that he had checked into the mountain resort found an unlit, closed hotel and amused police who had not heard of him. Police and tourism officials said yesterday that the media had been victims of a hoax.

Jackson, 35, last seen in Mexico, cut short a world tour on Friday, saying he was suffering from an addiction to painkillers and stress brought on by allegations, which he denies, that he sexually molested a boy in California.

Veronique Fromont, a spokeswoman for the Avoriaz tourist office, said she had received a report 'from people I work with' on Monday that the singer was staying at the chic Les Dromonts hotel and passed it on to a national news agency without checking the story. Asked whether it had been a publicity stunt for the resort, Ms Fromont said: 'That was not the idea.'

Flashed on French radio and television, the story spread like wildfire, drawing a deluge of phone calls and attracting journalists to the resort.