On 8 September 1980, an American psychic named Alex Tanous was being interviewed by Lee Spiegel for NBC Radio's 'Unexplained Phenomena' show. The interview was going out live and was being held in the office of the American Society for Psychical Research, which is located on West 73rd Street in New York City.
Spiegel asked Tanous to prove his alleged powers of second sight by making a prediction, preferably one that would be of particular interest to the radio station's audience, who belonged to the eighteen to thirty-five age group. Tanous paused for a moment, as if concentrating, then said, "A very famous rock star will have an untimely death, and this can happen from this moment on. I say 'untimely' because there is something strange about this death, but it will affect the consciousness of many people because of his fame. The star will be foreign-born but living in the United States."
hospital with its roof-lights flashing and siren screaming. As the police car jumped the traffic lights on Broadway, police officer James Moran, who had been a keen Beatles fan in his youth, leaned back and talked to John Lennon in a vain attempt to keep him conscious. Moran was deeply shocked at the shooting, but to his dying idol he managed to say, "Are you John Lennon?"
After giving his prediction, Tanous glanced through the windows of his office at the building opposite, a superior high-rise known as the Dakota Apartments.
Three months later, on the night of 8 December, a limousine pulled up outside the Dakota Apartments building at 10.50 p.m., and Yoko Ono left the vehicle. Her husband John Lennon followed her a few moments later, clutching several reels of tape from the recording session on which he'd been working. As John walked under the archway leading to the Dakota building, he heard a voice behind him call out: "Mr Lennon." John turned to see tubby 25-year-old Mark Chapman a mere twenty feet away, crouched in a combat stance and pointing a .38 Undercover Special handgun. A heartbeat later Chapman pumped four hollow-point bullets into one of Liverpool's most famous and adored sons. The songwriter who urged the world's leaders to 'Give Peace A Chance' staggered up the steps of the building's entrance and fell flat on his face. Minutes later, John was placed on the back seat of a police car which rushed him to the nearest
With his life rapidly ebbing away, John faintly replied, "Yes."
And that was the last word John Lennon uttered. He was the 701st person to be gunned down in New York City that year.
Chapman is currently serving a 'twenty years to life' sentence at Attica State Prison in northern New York State. He is kept in solitary confinement to prevent any of the prison's other 2,000 inmates from attacking him. He may be eligible for parole around the year 2001.
Chapman's motive for killing the ex-Beatle is still unclear. The official theory was that Chapman was simply a psychotic Lennon fanatic trying to make a name for himself, but there is something more sinister about the killing. Chapman was dismissed as a "lone nut" - the same expression that was used to describe Lee Harvey Oswald seventeen years earlier in Dallas. In fact the murder of John Lennon has several striking parallels with that of John F. Kennedy. When Lennon's body was taken to the morgue, the gunshot wounds in the cadaver were so close together that one pathologist remarked, "Good shot group" - which is a firing-range term used by the police and the military to describe skilled marksmanship. Yet Chapman was said to be a novice with firearms. But the grouping of the gunshot wounds in Lennon's body was so tight that pathologists at the morgue got mixed up trying to count them as they conducted their post-mortem.
The assassin's choice of weapon - the Undercover Special - known on the street as a 'Saturday Night Special", is an extremely reliable gun. It is deadly accurate and never jams or misfires, yet it is small and sleek enough to fit into the back pocket of your jeans. In may 1972 would-be assassin Arthur Bremner used one to blast Alabama Governor George C. Wallace. The bullet that impacted into the politician's spine left him wheelchair-bound for life.
Beside's the mystery of Chapman's expert choice of weapon and his inexplicable marksmanship, there is the fuzzy account of the killer's journey from his home in Honolulu to New York that just doesn't stand up to the most cursory examination. According to the official version of events, Mark Chapman persuaded his wife to take out a loan of two and a half thousand dollars from her employer's credit union, and without her knowledge he used this sum to finance the assassination. He bought his well-chosen gun and dum-dum bullets, and flew overnight from Honolulu to New York on a United Airlines plane. But the distinguished British barrister Fenton Bresler, who researched the Lennon murder for eight years, unearthed a plethora of sinister missing links. Firstly, he discovered that United Airlines had no direct flights from Honolulu to New York. One actually has to fly by way of Chicago. Chapman did not mention this. Further investigations made by Bresler convinced the barrister that the killer spent three unaccountedfor days in Chicago.
Bresler got in touch with the New York County district attorney's office and told them about the three 'missing' days, but they denied that the facts had any substance. Bresler believes that the days in question from 2 to 5 December - were covered up by the authorities. During that period, he claims, Chapman was being 'programmed' to kill by the CIA with brainwashing drugs and repeated hypnotic suggestion. Is Bresler right? Was there a top-level conspiracy to assassinate John Lennon? Let us examine some less-publicized facts about one of Liverpool's most famous sons.
The FBI and the CIA had files on Lennon dating back to the 1960s that detail the star's participation in antiwar demos. There are two reports in one dossier on Lennon for May 1972 with the heading 'Revolutionary Activities'. The FBI and CIA apparently saw Lennon as a cult-like leader who had the latent ability to overthrow the established government of the United States; a political subversive who could easily produce a stirring song along the lines of 'Power to the People' to incite millions of Americans to demonstrate against the reactionary policies of the newly-elected president Ronald Reagan. As early as 1972, Lennon knew he was under constant surveillance. He said at the time to reporters, "I'd open the door. There'd be guys on the other side of the street. I'd get into my car, and they'd be following me in a car. Not hiding. They wanted me to see that I was being followed."
By September 1973 Lennon's telephone was bugged, a fact to which even the Justice Department later admitted. In December 1975, Lennon said, "We knew we were being wire-tapped. There was a helluva lot of guys coming in to fix the phones."
In the light of these cloak-and-dagger details, Bresler's conspiracy theory seems less outlandish. Furthermore, the week John Lennon was shot, he was due to fly to San Francisco to participate in a rally for Japanese-American workers on strike. He was so enthusiastic to get to the demonstration, he had already bought the airline tickets.
In November 1992, Mark Chapman broke his silence over the Lennon murder when he agreed to be interviewed by American television reporter Barbara Walters in Attica State Prison. Chapman dismissed the commonly held belief that he had killed John Lennon to become famous. He also told Walters that he was horrified by the amount of fanmail he regularly received from people wanting his autograph.
"That tells you something is truly sick in our society," Chapman told Walters in a broken voice.
FROM TOM SLEMEN'S "MURDER ON MERSEYSIDE"
ISBN 0 7090 5579X
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