Michael Jackson (Photo:Reuters)
Michael Jackson fans laid flowers Wednesday at the pop icon's mausoleum to mark the fifth anniversary of his death, as the singer's doctor recalled his patient's final hours.
Conrad Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter over Jackson's 2009 death, voiced remorse but insisted he was not to blame.
"I am very remorseful that Michael has passed," Murray told CNN.
"Michael was a friend. I felt like a father figure to Michael," he said, adding that he treated Jackson not because of the $150,000 a month he was going to be paid. "It was not about money, it was about the love of Michael," he said.
His comments to CNN came hours after around 100 fans, some dressed as the self-proclaimed King of Pop, gathered at the Forest Lawn cemetery outside Los Angeles, where the 50-year-old died while rehearsing for a comeback tour.
"We love you Michael," read a banner on a giant red heart placed outside the small mausoleum in Glendale, north of downtown LA.
"Five years without you -- we love you more," read one message, while others said simply: "We miss you" or "Thank you for continuously giving us reason to smile."
Mikie, who came with a group of girlfriends from Japan all dressed in Jackson T-shirts, said it was her second time at the neatly-tended cemetery.
"There are lots of feelings," she told AFP.
Jackson died on June 25, 2009 of an overdose of the clinical anesthetic propofol, administered by his doctor to help treat insomnia as the singer prepared for "This is It" shows in London.
Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011 over the star's death and jailed for four years. He was released in October after serving two years.
On Wednesday, he recounted the final hours as he gave Jackson a series of drugs to help him sleep. But he insisted he did not know that another doctor had been giving the singer another drug, Demerol, for years to treat pain.
"Michael Jackson lived a life of pain, for so many years, decades .. I could not help but be sympathetic to this man," said Murray, who added that he plans to appeal his conviction to the Supreme Court if necessary.
"I have suffered a lot ... my life is certainly a struggle. I'm doing my best to put it back on track," he said, adding: "I grieve for Michael every day."
Jackson was planning a global comeback tour to help him stave off bankruptcy, five years after being acquitted of child molestation charges that left his career in tatters.
He had debts of up to $500 million before his death, but in the five years since, his executors have earned more than $700 million, according to the recent book "Michael Jackson Inc."
Money-making ventures have included the "This is It" movie of rehearsals for the doomed tour, a touring Cirque du Soleil stage show and two posthumous albums so far, with more to come.
Fans came Wednesday from Britain, Germany, Italy, Mexico, the United States and many other countries to the cemetery, the final resting place of generations of Hollywood celebrities.
Carine Temmerman, from a Belgian Jackson fan club, picked through the carpet of messages laid out before the star's mausoleum. "I've cried a lot, seeing what people have written," she said.
"It's a sad day for most of us, but we decided to celebrate who the man was, and celebrate his legacy," said Melanie Freeman from New York.
"Five years later, it just grows, it's not diminished at all," she told AFP, adding: "All the things that MJ used to do, we do it for him now."