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Was John Lennon’s murderer Mark Chapman a CIA hitman? Thirty years on, there’s an extraordinary new theory

Tony Rennel
Daily Mail
Dec 4, 2010

For many baby-boomers whose formative years coincided with the Swinging Sixties, a mild Monday in early December 1980 will always be remembered as the day the music died.

In New York, the enigmatic, charismatic – and frankly often loony – ex-Beatle John Lennon staggered into the entrance hall of the Dakota, the exclusive parkside mansion block that had been his home for nearly eight years.

The cassettes of a new song the 40-year-old had just recorded, called Walking On Thin Ice, clattered to the floor as he collapsed – blood flowing from four gunshot wounds.

Though seemingly far-fetched, if true it would startle and appal the millions of fans who still idolise Lennon.

Autograph hunter Mark Chapman gets a signature from John Lennon outside his elegant Dakota apartment building in New York where hours later he gunned down the former Beatle

In a new book, author Phil Strongman claims that Chapman was a stooge. Lennon’s real assassin was the CIA — at the behest of Right-wing fanatics in the American political establishment.

He gets to this controversial conclusion by contesting many of the so-called ‘facts’ about the case — including the basic assumption that Chapman was a Beatles and Lennon fan.

Strongman writes that, until the weekend before the killing: ‘Chapman, the supposed Lennon “obsessive” and “fan of fans”, did not own one Lennon single, book or album. Not one. Some “fan”, some “obsession”.’

He dismisses the often-made claim that Chapman had 14 hours of tapes of Lennon’s songs in his rucksack on the day of the shooting. ‘They have never been photographed or produced for the simple reason that they do not exist.’

It is the killer’s calmness after the shooting that Strongman sees as the key to what really happened, providing evidence for his 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, he suggests, 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, and ‘patsies’, the fall guys on whom such killings could be blamed.

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 fictionalised in the film The Manchurian Candidate.

The author is uncertain whether Chapman fell into the category of unwitting killer or unwitting accomplice.

But his deep suspicion is that Chapman did not act alone — any more, he says, than Lee Harvey Oswald did in the murder of JFK in Dallas or Sirhan Sirhan in Bobby Kennedy’s death. He even doubts if Chapman fired the fatal shots.

‘The bullets slapped into Lennon’s body so closely together 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.

‘In fact, if any of them came from him it was miraculous because 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.’

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.

What increases his suspicion is the cursory nature of the police investigation after Chapman’s arrest.

‘His bizarre post-killing calm was not questioned, his behaviour was not checked with a drugs test, his “programmed” state [a word used about him by more than one police officer] was not investigated, his previous movements were not thoroughly looked into.

‘Put simply, the authorities’ investigation, or lack or it, into the assassination was shockingly slack and beggars belief.’

It had to be, he concludes, that the FBI were conspiring with the CIA to cover up the reality — that shadowy figures in the American establishment ordered Lennon’s assassination.

But why was Lennon on their hit list? He had, it seems, rattled the cages of America’s powerful Right wing, first with his opposition to the Vietnam War and then with his campaign of pacifism.

It is here that those of us who lived through the period must pause for breath. Lennon was a mad and maddening genius, a showman and a show-off. But he was a dreamer, not a doer.

He wrote songs, he played the guitar, he had some funny ideas. He made us laugh. He was irreverent.

But he wasn’t about to bring down capitalism. He was doing much too well out of it himself for that. Grumbling to an aide one day about soaring business expenses, he was reminded: ‘Imagine no possessions, John.’ Lennon shot back: ‘It’s only a bloody song!’

Still, the fact that some of the files relating to secret service investigations into Lennon’s activities remain closed continue to fuel suspicions of a cover-up.

Strongman writes: ‘I am as convinced as any human being can be that elements of both the FBI and CIA were undoubtedly behind a cover-up in December 1980. They were also deeply involved in the killing itself.’
Full story here.

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