-UPDATE - Greetings from 09 May 2012. This morning George Michael has commented on the article mirrored below. You are invited to read his tweets in sequence here.
EXCLUSIVE: Caught 'cruising' in woods
By Neville Thurlbeck
MEGA-RICH pop superstar George Michael this week sank to new levels of depravity—trawling for illegal gay sex thrills in a London park.
News of the World investigators caught the singer red-handed and red-faced as he emerged from the bushes after cavorting with a pot-bellied, 58-year-old, jobless van driver.
When challenged George, 43, was wild-eyed and trembling. Trying to hide his face under a baseball cap, he screamed:
"I don't believe it! F*** off! If you put those pictures in the paper I'll sue!"
CHECK OUT OUR SEX SHAME SLIDESHOW HERE [link removed]
Minutes earlier the one-time heart-throb had been lurking in the shadows at the notorious homosexual pick-up spot on Hampstead Heath.
George is a man with the world at his feet. He's on the brink of a lucrative 50-concert comeback tour, which sold out in half an hour.
Yet he ignored all the risks and dangers to pull seedy Norman Kirtland.
The pair kissed and groped each other before going even further. It was all in a public place and totally illegal — just like the day in 1998 when George flashed at an undercover cop in a California park toilet.
After the shock of being confronted by us, George stumbled to his flash Mercedes coupe, retrieved his keys from their hiding place on top of the rear wheel and roared off into the night — back to his world of showbiz, celebs and glitz.
Meanwhile his new buddy Kirtland crept from the undergrowth looking sheepish and rushed to his Ford Transit van. As he opened the door a grubby, stained mattress was clearly visible in the back.
We later tracked him to his home 60 miles away—a squalid flat in Brighton, East Sussex.
Looking gross and dishevelled, Kirtland answered the door naked — pulling on grimy shorts as he invited us in.
The contrast with George Michael's opulent, high-roller rock lifestyle was stark.
George, whose family is Greek-Cypriot, has amassed a £70million fortune from sales of records including I Want Your Sex and Careless Whisper. He owns a £5million London town house and a £4million Beverly Hills mansion.
Kirtland's dingy place just off Brighton seafront, was littered with rubbish, dirty crockery and filthy laundry. His only companion is a 20-year-old cat.
He told us: "I don't even like George Michael. And I didn't recognise him immediately.
"He sort of came up and got close. He looked kind of brown so I said to him, ‘You're not totally English, are you?'
"I told him I'd come all the way up from Brighton and he said, ‘What? Isn't Brighton good enough for this sort of thing?'
"I told him it's highly dangerous at 2am. You'd get your throat cut.
"He told me I could contact him on the Gaydar website and we just started kissing.
"He did it very well. That was one of his major points. Then it was fondling and mutual pleasuring. It wasn't full sex but it was fantastic."
Kirtland's confession then took a bizarre twist as he bragged: "There's a secret that I have which no one knows about. It's a personal thing.
"Most people pull away from it. But George actually seemed to respond.
"When we'd finished he said, ‘I've got to go. I've got to go somewhere and chill out.' And that was that.
"OK, I admit I was there for sex. But I'm astonished a man as famous as George should even think about doing it. It's potentially so dangerous."
George's night of shame began just after midnight on Tuesday when he took a short drive from his Highgate house to the Hampstead home of long-term lover Kenny Goss.
Five minutes later he drove to the nearby heath and spent two hours prowling around before hooking up with Kirtland.
When confronted by our team, a shaken George desperately tried to justify his sordid secret quest for cheap, risky thrills, which friends fear is spiralling out of control and threatening his destruction.
In a sweat, the ashen-faced singer declared: "Are you gay? No? Then f*** off! This is my culture!"
Then he claimed: "I'm not doing anything illegal. The police don't even come up here any more.
"I'm a free man, I can do whatever I want. I'm not harming anyone."
But George's worried pals say the former Wham! frontman is the one being harmed.
After the California cottaging scandal, George escaped a six-month jail term but was sentenced to community service plus sex therapy to curb his habits.
It obviously hasn't worked. In February this year he was cautioned by police for possessing cannabis after being found slumped in his car by London's Hyde Park Corner at 1.50am.
Weeks later we snapped him driving erratically and he appeared to fall asleep at traffic lights.
One friend said last night: "We're really concerned. It's long been known he's a heavy cannabis user but we're beginning to fear the pot may have affected his mind. He's lost his judgment. He must seek professional help or things could end very badly for him.
"He's just asking for serious trouble. One day he'll be attacked in one of these dodgy late-night encounters.
"It's so sad to see a talented guy wasting himself like this."