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The tragic doctor seduced by the Hollywood life

04 NOVEMBER 2011

"He was just a little fish in a big dirty pond."

This was the view put forward by Conrad Murray's defence team as his trial on manslaughter charges over the death of Michael Jackson drew to a close.


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His lawyers painted a picture of a charismatic and caring medic adored by his patients. Several even took the stand in his defence, with one pointing to him, and saying: "I wouldn't be alive today if it wasn't for that man."

But he was not your typical small town GP. 

He became the trusted physician of the biggest artist of the 20th century, netting himself a $150,000-a-month salary in doing so.

During the trial it emerged Dr Murray used the money to support seven children and a wife and several girlfriends – whom he lavished with gifts.

Among his mistresses was former waitress and actress Nicole Alvarez, who described how she had been "star struck" when Dr Conrad took her to meet his famous patient.

 

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Living the Hollywood high life, the physician had come a long way since he started out as a hardworking and ambitious student in the Caribbean.

Born on the island of Grenada, Conrad was brought up by his grandparents, before following his absent father – also a doctor – to America.

He enrolled at Texas Southern University, graduating three years later with a degree in pre-medicine.

After completing his studies in Nashville, Tennessee, he trained in California and the University of Arizona where he studied cardiology.

 

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He opened his own private clinic in LA in 2000 and later opened another in a deprived area in Texas, in memory of his late father.

The elder Dr Murray took pride in treating all section of the community and his son did the same.

Indeed, at his trial several patients told how he regularly offered his services free of charge to the poor.

One character witness, Dennis Hix, said the doctor carried out a series of live-saving operations to his arteries, even though his insurance did not cover the cost.

 

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"When I went and told him I didn't have the sort of insurance to pay for hardly anything, he did it for me for free," he said.

But it seems the doctor's reputation was tarnished by outstanding debts and tax demands. According to reports, he filed for bankruptcy in California in 2002.

There was also evidence of a troubled personal life and an inability to keep up with his numerous child support payments.

Doctor Murray was arrested on domestic abuse charges in 1994 involving a girlfriend. The case went to trial and he was aquitted.

He has been ordered to jail twice over non-payment of child support. In 2009 and 2007, he was sentenced to 10 and 25 days respectively for charges relating to the son he fathered in California with Nenita Malibiran.

He avoided prison time on both occasions by managing to come up with the money before the sentences could be carried out.

In light of the physician's financial struggles, the king of pop could have seemed like the answer to his problems.

They became friends after meeting in Las Vegas in 2006, and the superstar hired him in May 2009 ahead of his series of 'farewell' London concerts.

"As a company, we would have preferred not having a physician on staff full-time because it would have been cheaper... but Michael was insistent that he be hired," said Randy Phillips, head of AEG - the promoters who were putting on the concerts.

"Michael said he had a rapport with him."

 

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"He was there in case Micheal Jackson needed anything," a spokeswoman for the doctor said after his death.

Little was known about him until the fateful night of June 29 when news that one of pop's most gifted performers was dead sent shock waves around the world.

And as news stations in every country began unravelling the mystery of what had happened, Dr Conrad emerged as a main player in the tragedy.

Right from the start he denied any wrongdoing, and at first was not treated as a suspect.

An initial autopsy revealed no foul play and the Los Angeles Police Department said they did not intend to speak to him again after interviewing him.

But a month later officers from the Drug Enforcement Agency entered Dr Murray's Huston office looking for evidence of manslaughter.

More raids followed and Dr Murray became the central focus of the investigation, which was then being treated as a homicide.

A coroner ruled that the singer had died from a fatal dose of the medical anaesthetic propofol.

Dr Murray released a YouTube video thanking his supporters for the kind emails and messages. "I told the truth and I have faith the truth will prevail," he said in the messages.

The physician told police he had been giving Michael the drug as part of his treatment for insomnia.

In doing so, he played "Russian roulette" with his patient's life, said prosecuters, and ultimately destroyed his own.

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