Former child star Mark Lester is backing superstar pal Michael Jackson through the child molestation allegations made against him - insisting he's happy to let the singer look after his four kids.

Lester - who found fame taking the lead role in 1968 OSCAR-winning movie OLIVER!, when he was just 10 - is convinced the THRILLER star is innocent of the charges, believing he is misunderstood because he's "childlike".

Lester and Jackson, both 45, met in Hollywood as teenagers and have been firm friends since. Lester is a regular visitor to the singer's American homes and remembers a prank Jackson played with his children - aged between four and 12 - on passers-by while his family stayed in Los Angeles earlier this year (03).

He says, "Michael and my children were throwing water bombs out of the hotel windows at people in Beverly Hills.

"He thought it was great fun, even though it wasn't strictly allowed in the parental sense. He's childlike.

"As a father of four, I would without doubt leave my children in Michael Jackson's care and I have done before."

20/11/2003 13:41