"I never saw [Michael] on drugs. Not once. He deliberately did it away from us. He didn't want his family to know anything about that part of him. He did almost everything in his power to make sure we didn't know," Tito Jackson, 55, tells Britain's Daily Mirror in a lengthy interview Wednesday.
But when the stories just grew too loud to ignore, "We had to act. It was me, my sisters Janet, Rebbie and La Toya and my brothers, Jackie and Randy," says Tito – adding that they all barged in and "surprised" Michael, "to say the least."
Confronted with their questions about his doing drugs, Michael "kept denying it" and told his siblings – some of whom were crying – they were "overreacting," says Tito, who, along with his brothers and sisters, were assured by Michael's doctor that the King of Pop was "healthy."
Who to Believe?"We didn't know what to believe. We didn't take what Michael said as the truth," admits Tito, who said his brother's staff at Neverland "literally shut us out. I don't know if they were just doing their job or if it they were part of some kind of conspiracy."
Michael Jackson, whose June 25 death is now being treated as a homicide by the LAPD, is believed to have first become hooked on painkillers as the result of the scalp burns he sustained while filming a 1984 Pepsi commercial. Tito says the awareness of the problem wasn't until 1993, when Michael was treated in a London rehab clinic.
Still, the older brother maintained a hands-off policy. "Before the intervention attempt I would never go to him and say 'Are you still doing it?' I would just say, 'Are you sure you're fine?' He'd say, 'I'm fine, TT.' " Even so, the older brother says he asked others to keep an eye on Michael and "make sure he's okay."