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Monday, 10 January 2011

Who really killed John Lennon?

Mark Chapman 2009
Who killed John Lennon? At just after 11pm on 8th December 1980, Mark Chapman (pictured left) then 25-years-old, was found leaning nonchalantly against the entrance to the Dakota Building flicking through a battered copy of J D Salinger's novel Catcher In The Rye. The smoking gun he'd apparently used to pump four bullets into Lennon lay on the floor beside Lennon's iconic blood-smeared glasses. An open and shut case?

Maybe. But there are some things about this incident that just do not add up - no matter which way you look at them. The evidence against Chapman not being Lennon's killer is mostly circumstantial, but it has never been truly explored. Any dissension from the known facts is ignored or branded as inventions of fertile minds. And that particular line from the establishment works every single time, and has successfully stifled any meaningful debate about what happened on that particular night at the Dakota Building for the best part of thirty years.

But some of the facts just do not ring true. Chapman made no attempt to escape, indeed he waited for police officers to cuff him before uttering his first words. 'I acted alone,' he said, as he was bundled into a patrol car. Isn't that an odd thing to say?  Unless you were trying to cover for somebody, they would not be your first words. At police headquarters Chapman added, 'Lennon had to die.'

'Why?' he was asked. According to police records of the interview he did not respond to that question. He was silent for several seconds before again uttering the words, 'I acted alone.'

Mark Chapman 1980
If you'd just shot one of the most famous musicians on the planet is that what you'd say? 'I acted alone.' I don't think so. If you were insane, you'd be muttering about hearing voices, carrying out God's work, or the devil's, depending on how far gone you were. You would be rambling, probably incoherent, and you would know precisely why you'd done it - no matter how incredible your reasoning - because it would all make perfect sense to you. If you weren't insane what could you possibly say that would justify killing John Lennon in cold blood?

The theory put forward by the NYPD was that Chapman was an obsessive fan. Delusional. Jealous. And yet, he did not own any of Lennon's albums, tapes or books, indeed, he was vague on all aspects of Lennon's (or The Beatles) works. That is hardly the definition of a fan, obsessive or otherwise.

Was he a celebrity stalker that went too far? Was he looking for his 15 minutes of fame? No, that theory can be ruled out by his subsequent actions. He pleaded guilty on all counts and faded away into the American correctional system without a whimper and he's still there in 2011, eleven years past the minimum sentence of twenty years set by the trial judge.

If he really was looking for some sort of infamy, he would have pleaded not guilty and stood in the dock in front of the world's media. Now that would have been an event. And facts that have been overlooked would have come tumbling out into the public domain. And just whom would those facts have embarrassed? Unfortunately, we'll never know...

...because that scenario was never going to happen.

A newly published book 'John Lennon - Life, Times and Assassination' by Phil Strongman, raises several more theories that are not beyond the realms of possibility. The killer's calmness after the shooting is seen as the key to what really happened, and provides evidence for the theory that Lennon's death was a state-sponsored conspiracy. If Chapman looked like a zombie, as he hung around after the killing and waited for the police, it was because that was exactly what he was.

Chapman, it is suggested, had been recruited by the CIA and trained by them during his travels round the world, when he mysteriously pitched up in unlikely places for a boy from Georgia. How strange, for example, that Chapman should visit Beirut at a time when the Lebanese capital was a hive of CIA activity - and was said to be home to one of the agency's top-secret assassination training camps. Another camp was supposedly in Hawaii, where Chapman lived for a number of years. And who funded the penniless young man's round-the-world trip in 1975, which took in Japan, the UK, India, Nepal, Korea, Vietnam and China?

Money never seemed to be a problem for Chapman, but no one has ever explained where it came from. The distinct possibility remains, in Strongman's opinion, that the secret service was his paymaster. And somewhere along the line his mind was infiltrated. With Chapman, the CIA could have drawn on its long experience of using mind-controlling drugs and techniques such as hypnosis to produce assassins who would eliminate trouble-makers.

Strongman claims 'Catcher In The Rye' was part of Chapman's hypnotic programming, a trigger that could be fired at him by a few simple keywords via a cassette tape message, telex or telegram or even a mere telephone call. 'It's certainly true that conspiracy theorists have long suspected both the Americans and their communist foes of using such techniques to activate sleeper assassins - as fictionalized in the film 'The Manchurian Candidate.'

The author is uncertain whether Chapman fell into the category of unwitting killer or unwitting accomplice. It has been noted that the four (dum-dum) bullets fired into Lennon's body were so closely grouped that pathologists later had trouble marking out the different entry points. If all of these shots came from Chapman, it was a miraculous piece of shooting. Interestingly, Chapman was standing on Lennon's right and, as the autopsy report and death certificate later made clear, all Lennon's wounds were in the left side of his body. How is that possible? There had to be another shooter involved, Strongman insists. He suggests that a CIA plant who worked at the Dakota building was the real killer.

Jose Perdomo
Would it surprise anybody to know that the Dakota Building doorman, Jose Perdomo, had CIA connections? It is believed that Perdomo was a member of Brigade 2506 during the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961, a failed CIA operation to overthrow Fidel Castro. If he wasn't, why has that piece of information never been denied by law enforcement agencies or security services - i.e. the CIA?

The cursory nature of the police investigation after Chapman's arrest also raise suspicion. His bizarre post-killing calm was not questioned, he was not drugs tested, his programmed state (a word used about him by more than one police officer) was not investigated, and his previous movements were not thoroughly looked into.

Put simply, the authorities' investigation into the assassination was shockingly slack and still beggars belief to this day. They were trying to hide something. But what? I don't think that question will ever be answered.

Another question that remains unanswered is why was Lennon on a government hit list in the first place? Maybe he rattled the cages of America's powerful right wing, first with his opposition to the Vietnam War and then with his campaign of pacifism. Or did it have something to do with his application for a green card?  Maybe it was his songwriting. Did it get under somebody's skin? As John wrote in one of his most played songs, 'No short-haired, yellow-bellied son of tricky dicky (Richard Nixon) is gonna soft soap me with just a pocket full of soap.'

But just how much of a threat was Lennon? He was, undoubtedly, a genius and a showman, but he was also a self-confessed dreamer, not a doer.

He wrote songs, he played the guitar, he had some strange ideas. He made us laugh and he was irreverent, but he wasn't about to bring down capitalism. He was doing much too well out of it himself for that.

Interestingly, some thirty years after the event many of the files relating to secret service investigations into Lennon's activities remain closed, fueling suspicions of a governmental cover-up which will, undoubtedly, continue until the day they are placed into the public domain...

...and you can bet that won't be any time soon.