Britney Spears' former bodyguard Tony Barretto has said that he feared that the star was close to dying after an apparent drug overdose in a hotel room.

In an interview with the News of the World Barretto, who recently testified in the custody battle for the singer's two children, also questioned the Baby One More Time star's parenting skills.

Speaking to the tabloid about his testimony in the court case, he said: "I gave evidence to the court because Britney is out of control and needs help.

"I have done this for her children. She's not a good mother. She has mental problems.

"With her drug and booze issues, her home is no place for kids to be raised," he added.

Barretto, who told the paper that he has attended Police courses on drug abuse, also spoke about how he had found the star in a trashed hotel room after spending time with a musician she met during her spell at a rehabilitation centre.

He said: "We could see Britney all red-eyed from crying... The hotel room was trashed. There were half-eaten plates of food everywhere. There were blankets all over the floor, clothes strewn everywhere. The trash was emptied everywhere over the floor.

"The entire place was littered with empty beer bottles and liquor bottles, small glasses of ice and cigarette butts everywhere. On the surface of the dresser, I could see mounds of white powder and a straw on top. I suspected it was cocaine or powdered methamphetamines.

"By the side I spotted a glass pipe, which I knew from my drugs training was often used with crystal meth," Baretto explained.

He added that Spears looked sick and "out of it" when he found her.

"I couldn't beliEve what I was seeing. Britney was completely out of it. We thought she'd overdosed," the singer's former bodyguard added.

"She was distraught, crying. Her skin was all waxy. She looked so ill. We tried to speak to her.

"My fellow bodyguard and Alli [Spears' assistant] were so worried they wanted to get hold of a medic to detoxify her. We were panicking. We thought she was going to die," he added.

Spears was recently charged with misdemeanour hit-and-run and driving without a valid California driver's licence. If convicted, she could be ordered to serve time in jail.

The pop princess was also told by a judge in her court case with her ex-husband that she was a "habitual, frequent and continuous" user of alcohol and controlled substances and was told to appear for random drug tests twice a week.

Spears has also been directed to enrol in one-to-one counselling sessions on childcare issues and to meet with a parenting coach every week, who will assess her progress.

The star's manager and lawyer recently ended their association with her.

Spears, whose latest album will be released in November, has also been universally ridiculed for her performance at the recent MTV video music awards.

24/09/2007 07:40:18