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A Murder in the House of Pooh:  Brian Jones

"Merry Old England" is a stubborn non sequitur.  The UK is one of the gloomiest places on earth.  In the late 1960s the shadow of Big Brother fell on British youth and civil rights activists as ominously as it did in the States. The National Union of Students and the National Council for Civil Liberties, based in London, collected a dossier on police agents who'd approached students to spy on their fellow academics.  One of these cases concerned John Bell, former chairman of the Durham University Conservative Association. Bell reported that he'd been visited by a detective who attempted to recruit him to inform on student leftists. Bell rejected the offer and told the leader of a campus Socialist organization about the incident. [1] Another student, Bill Clinton, was also courted by the CIA, while attending Oxford University, and enlisted -- by Operation CHAOS, the most sweeping covert program in the history of the Agency -- for the same purpose. [2]

Counterintelligence operations in the UK kept pace with those in the States.  Robert Lashbrook, a representative of the Human Ecology Fund -- the notorious CIA front at Cornell that quietly disbursed grants for mind control experimentation, with or without the consent of the human subjects -- was then assigned to the London station. Agents under Lashbrook's supervision slipped LSD to English rock groups before performing without their prior knowledge to  "study the drug's effects on their musical abilities." 

Before long, some of the most popular rock acts in Britain were scoring the mind control drug directly from Lashbrook's CIA colleagues. [3]

David Schneidermann, the Rolling Stones' LSD supplier for one night, certainly exhibited that air of cloak-and-dagger.  Schneidermann, Mick Jagger recalls, was a "sinister" Yank hailing from California, but "he had so many passports no one was certain of his origin." Schneidermannn brought to Keith Richards' hotel room "a suitcase [that] contained every herb and chemical to stab or stroke the mind ... along with choice LSD from San Francisco.  Schneidermann had let believe he was bending the law all over  the world. He was on a James Bond thing, the CIA or something." [4]

Singer Marianne Faithfull recalls Schneidermann as "a fantastic" drug peddler. "He was a Californian who dressed in proper suit-and-tie and carried a leather attache case in which he had almost every kind of drug you could think of, including several types of LSD." [5]

Schneidermann nearly destroyed the Stones with one stroke. On February 11, 1967, the band whiled away the evening recording a four-track rough cut tentatively titled "Blues One." Afterwards, Keith  Richards drove to the Mayfair Hotel in a chauffeur-driven Bentley.  The remaining Stones and their entourage followed Jagger in a Mini-Cooper "S" to West Sussex, a convoy that included photographer Michael Cooper, Marianne Fathfull, King's Road jet-setter Nick Cramer, and "Acid King" David Schneidermannn. They were met at Keith's hotel room by George and Pattie Harrison. [6]

Bob Dylan and the Who blared on the stereo. "While the party was in full swing," bassist Bill Wyman wrote in his autobiography, "an informant, who had earlier telephoned the News of the World, arrived at the newspaper's offices. In that first phone call at about 10 PM, he told a reporter that he had some information about a party some of the Rolling Stones were holding. The informant rejected the paper's suggestion that he should go to the police, saying, 'I want to remain anonymous, but I think the police should know what's going on."'  The informant, Wyman realized, was an insider. "Who else would  know that only 'some' of the Stones would be there?"

The newspaper's editor, finding the "insider" credible, phoned police and was referred to the West Sussex narcotics squad. [7]

Marianne Faithfull told historian A.E. Hotchner that the next morning, "Schneidermannn came to our rooms and distributed Sunshine [LSD] to all of us ... By afternoon we all began to emerge from our rooms, floating on LSD trips." [8]


Wyman wrote that Schneidermann woke the guests "with cups of tea and offered some of them 'white lightning,' a hallucinogenic drug that had the effect of LSD but was slightly less powerful." [10] As Richards recalls it, "we had all taken acid and were in a completely freaked-out state when the police arrived." The television was on with the sound off and the stereo blasting. Keith answered the door, and said, 'Oh, look, there's lots of little ladies and gentlemen outside."'

Another drug peddler arrived, a mystery man Richards had never met. "He'd come with some other people and was sitting there with a big bag of hash," said Richards. "They even let him go, out of the country." He wasn't what they were looking for. [11]

This was a peculiar enough squad of drug police. For one thing, they weren't in the least concerned with drugs. In fact, the Stones were wanted for their political sympathies and all that anti-establishment wriggling, prancing, sneering and taunting.  One of them, guitarist Brian Jones, had gone so far as to publicly criticize establishment war policies. "Nothing destroys culture, art or the simple privilege of having time to think quicker than a war."

"The whole raid was a set-up," Marianne Faithfull insists to the present day. Keith Richards and others who witnessed the bust likewise came to the conclusion that Schneidermann had arranged it.  "We also believed information was supplied by the fink, Schneidermannn, who, despite having an attache case chock-a-block with drugs, was not searched. When a cop asked to see the contents of his case, Schneidermann said it was full of exposed film and couldn't be opened, and the cop let it go at that. Also, Schneidermann mysteriously disappeared that very evening, never to be seen again."

The police got satisfaction from the raid-- until it dawned on them that none of the suspects present at Richard's flat actually had drugs on them. Schneidermann was released and boarded a plane for California, taking the evidence with him. "When it came down to it, they couldn't pin anything on us at all," said Richards "All they could pin on me was allowing people to smoke on my premises. It wasn't my shit. All they could pin on Mick was these four amphetamine  tablets [benzedrine, legally prescribed and obtained] that he'd bought in Italy across the counter. It really backfired on them because they didn't get enough on us." [12]

But the arrests of Jagger and Richards did land them before the bench. They were both found guilty and sentenced to prison. A third defendant, art gallery owner Robert Frazier, was also convicted. (It was Frazier, an occultist on the Aleister Crowley path, who introduced Jagger to film-maker Kenneth Anger, an early recruit of Anton La Vey's Church of Satan. Anger received generous grants from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations to fund his movies. He relocated to England after living for a spell in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, where he co-habitated with convicted murderer Bobby Beausoleil. [13]) When the verdicts were read, Jagger turned pale. He nearly fainted, wept openly in the  courtroom. Protests of the sentencings broke out on Fleet Street and at the News of the World editorial offices.

Under questioning by Mr. Morris, the Crown's prosecutor, Keith Richards openly discussed the conspiracy. He assumed under questioning that the News of the World had arranged the bust, but Schneidermannn was no journalist, and the coordination of phone taps and a full-blown intelligence operation is beyond most newspapers.  The busting of Jagger and Richards was an act of political harassment, a coordinated attempt to discredit the Stones. They were spied upon, Richards testified that one night when he stayed with Brian Jones, he noted "a brown furniture van with white side-panels. There was no  name on the van. The same night I saw it outside Mick's house. In the same week, I was followed by a green florist's van, which had the same white panels." [144 (After his move to the United States, John Lennon also  complained that he was constantly tailed by parties unknown who drove him to a state of "paranoia." [15])

Faithfull recalls hearing "peculiar noises" on Jagger's telephone. She and Jagger also noticed "a blue and white van permanently parked near our house, so we figured we were both being watched and listened in on."

Keith Richards was mystified and annoyed the night he fell asleep and woke up to find that someone had slipped through a newly-installed and very costly security system. [16]

The fusion of music and politics made the Stones enemies of the state. Mick Jagger had watched the anti-war protests at the London Embassy and followed the youth rallies in Paris. While awaiting trial, he told the Daily Mirror, "I see a great deal of danger in the air."  The fans "are not screaming over pop music anymore, they're screaming for much deeper reasons. We are only serving as a means of giving them an outlet. Teenagers the world over are weary of being pushed around by half-witted politicians who attempt to dominate their way of thinking and set a code for their living. This is a protest against the system. And I see a lot of trouble coming in the dawn." [17] Jagger openly sassed the wigs: "War stems from power-mad politicians and patriots.  Some new master plan would end all these mindless men from seats of  power and replace them with real people, people of compassion." [18] The "half-wits" and "mindless men," of course, were not numb to Jagger's venom and replacement was not on their desk calendars.

Ultimately, the convictions of Jagger and Richards were overturned on appeal. The judge declared in each case that "no proper evidence" had been presented by the prosecution to prove possession or even indulgence in drugs.

But Marianne Faithfull looks back at "all that persecution, the fact that every time any of us were in a car we were stopped and searched." One evening, "one of many, many busts, the cops very obviously planted something during their search. Mick set the guy up -- the detective, whoever he was -- to pay him off, and filmed the payoff with a hidden camera." All charges were immediately dropped. [19]

The police had Jagger and Richards, and, Bill Wyman observes, "wanted to bust another one and dispatch the Stones for good." On May 10, the very same evening of the arrests in West Sussex, the doorbell chimed at the Brian Jones home. About a dozen bobbies entered and conducted a 45-minute search of the premises. The detectives turned up one planted vial of "pathetic grass," according to Wyman, a bit of low-grade marijuana to justify an arrest. They also found a small quantity of marijuana resin, and Jones, who confessed to smoking pot in the past, was charged. Like Jagger and  Richards, he was convicted the first time around. But within a month of the arrest, his emotional state wavered under the pressure. The possibility of going to prison terrified him and continual police harassment aggravated his fears. Prince Stanislaus Klossowski de Rola, a close friend with Jones on the day of the arrest, explained why the guitarist's behavior was erratic toward the end. "An artist can be hounded into a state in which his mental health will deteriorate and that's what happened to Brian." [20]

But Brian's legal problems were not the entire cause of his decline and fall. A hostile clique, a very odd construction crew hired to restore Brian's home, originally A.A. Milne's cottage, muscled their way into his private life at Cotchford Farm. Brian's friend Nicholas Fitzgerald ran into the rhythm guitarist and founder of the Stones at a pub before he was found at the bottom of his swimming pool. Jones was in a snit over "a bunch hanging out at the farm." For a lark, they'd  =hidden his motorcycle. When on the phone, the line would sometimes suddenly go dead. "Then when I get the engineers in, they say there's nothing wrong. They're always leaping up to answer the phone and then they tell me it was a wrong number. I just can't trust anybody. I know you think I'm paranoid. Maybe I am, but not about this. I know they're up to something." [21]

Bassist Bill Wyman found the crew "a horrible group of people," and it was largely due to their intimidations that Jones decayed "physically, mentally and musically." [22]

Richards recalled the bullying by Jones' house "guests" after the murder: "Some very weird things happened the night Brian died. We had these [people] working for us, and we tried to find out. Some of them had a weird hold over Brian. I got straight into it and wanted to know who was there and couldn't find out. The only cat I could ask was the one I think who got rid of everybody, and did a whole disappearing thing so that when the cops arrived, it was just an accident. Maybe it was I don't know. I don't even know who was there that night, and finding out is impossible. It's the same feeling with who killed Kennedy. You can't get to the bottom of it." [23]

Not, that is, until the killer confessed on his death bed. In April, 1994, the UK's Independent reported:

MURDER CLAIMS RAISE DOUBT OVER ROLLING STONE'S DEATH. Police are to consider reopening the investigation into the death of former Rolling Stone Brian Jones 25 years ago, after claims in two new books that he was murdered.

The books to be published this month, conclude that the 27-year-old guitarist was deliberately drowned in the swimming pool of his country mansion by one of his aides. Both name a builder, Frank Thorogood, who died last year, as the man responsible for the killing at the star's home in Cotchford Farm, Sussex, on 2 July 1969.

An inquest recorded a verdict of death by misadventure, assuming that Jones -- who was notorious for his rock-star excesses -- had drowned because of the drink and drugs he had been consuming in the weeks after he was sacked from the Rolling Stones ...

Paint It Black by Geoffrey Guiliano and Terry Rawling's Who Killed Christopher Robin, claim to have unearthed fresh evidence about Jones' final hours which proves he was deliberately killed. Mr. Guiliano's book quotes an unnamed associate of Mr. Thorogood's, described as "a husky Cockney," who admits helping him hold Jones's head under the water. [24]

Witnesses have elaborated on Thorogood's death-bed confession, and the story that has emerged completely contradicts press accounts.  Nick Fitzgerald now acknowledges that he arrived at the Jones estate shortly after the drowning, walked past the summer house behind the mansion and "saw the full glare of the lights over the pool and in the windows of the house. We had a clear view of the pool." Fitzgerald approached to find three men dressed in sweaters and blue jeans,  probably workmen, but the spotlights "blotted out their features and made their faces look like white blobs. At the very moment I became aware of them, the middle one dropped to his knees, reached into the water and pushed down on the top of a head that looked white." Two others, a man and a woman, watched passively. "The kneeling man was pushing down on the head," Fitzgerald told Hotchner, "keeping it under. The man to the right of the kneeling man said something. It sounded like a command." One of the men leaped into the pool and "landed on the back of the struggling swimmer." A third man was "commanded" into the pool to hold Jones down.

From the bushes near Fitzgerald, a "burly man wearing glasses" rushed him. The man pushed Richard Cadbury, a companion, out of  he way and grabbed Fitzgerald by the shoulder. He stuck a fist in Fitzgerald's face. "Get the hell out of here, Fitzgerald," the man spat, "or you'll be next."

"He meant it," Fitzgerald reported decades after the fact. He had never seen the Cockney before, yet somehow the brute knew his name. Shaking, he stumbled to his car and Richard floored it away from the murder scene. They were too terrified to go to the police.  "Brian was dead I couldn't rectify that and I might be putting my own life in danger. So I let it pass, but that scene hasn't passed from my mind and even to this day it troubles me very much." [25]

Who authorized the clean-up after the murder? Fitzgerald attempted to contact Cadbury the day after Jones died. He was told that Cadbury had picked up and moved, leaving no forwarding address. A pair of other witnesses, Anna Wohlin and Linda Lawrence, received instructions to leave the country immediately."

Wohlin was visiting Cotchford Farms at the time of death and was instructed to alter her testimony. She writes in The Murder of  Brian Jones (1999) that Frank warned her "Just think about what you say to the police. The only thing you need to tell them is that Brian had been drinking and that his drowning was an accident.  You don't have to tell them anything else. 'I left Brian to go to the kitchen and light a cigarette and I don't know any more than you.'  But there's no need for you to tell the police that you saw me in the kitchen. Just tell them we pulled Brian out of the pool together." Wohlin recalls, "Frank was worried, and I knew he had every reason to be. But I was scared, too. I didn't want to end up like Brian, so I did what Frank had told me to do. I didn't dare challenge fate. Frank lied during the interview. Janet's recollections seemed confused. And I concealed the truth. I know I let Brian down. I'm still ashamed of withholding information, but I was scared of reprisals."

The coroner ruled that Jones was felled by "misadventure." In Merry Old England legalese, this means "accidental death not due to crime or negligence," a spurious judgment at best. The word "murder" did not appear in the report, and he laid blame on the victim with emphasis on liver deterioration brought on by chronic narcotics and alcohol abuse.

The death of Brian Jones has since been universally laughed off, attributed to drug use, when in fact he was completely off drugs, with the exception of ale and wine, for several weeks prior to his drowning. It is evident that he was drugged the evening of his murder, suggesting premeditation, planning. Eyewitnesses reported that he drank a couple of brandies before taking a swim. But Jones biographer Laura Jackson was shocked to discover in the biochemist's analysis "far and away the most disturbing truth relating to Brian's death." Jones was "subjected to thin-layer chromotography, a  technique designed minutely to separate and analyse the body's components, and which failed to reveal the presence of any amphetamine, methedrine, morphine, methadone, or isoprenaline. What it did reveal, however, is far more alarming: two dense spots, one yellow-orange in color and one purple which were not able to be identified. Brian's urine revealed an amphetamine-like -- not amphetamine, and the distinction is important -- substance 1720 mgs percent, nearly nine times the normal level."

The tell-tale signs of a cover-up by authorities are unmistakable. The bottle of brandy that Jones drank from was confiscated by PC Albert Evans "for analysis," and was never seen again. No lab report on the wine appeared in court papers. [27] Any probes into the drowning of Brian Jones were relegated to the Sussex Criminal Investigations Division (CID). The CID had the option of referring the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions -- instead, the division chose to monopolize the investigation, in the end claiming there was "no evidence" to warrant prosecution, although at least one senior investigator protested this decision. East Sussex coroner David Wadman suggested falsely that the Home Office and police had thoroughly investigated the drowning. "I am bound to say that I think it is extremely unlikely that you'll obtain any further information," he insisted. But a Home Office spokesman subsequently rejected the claim that an investigation had been conducted at all, admitting flatly, "We do not have any information touching Mr. Jones' death." [28]

A.E Hotchner found that the death is still, some thirty years later, a sensitive subject in some quarters. While living in London, Electra May, his editorial assistant, scheduled an interview with Justin de Villeneuve, the mentor of Twiggy, the doe-eyed celebrity model of the 1960s. Two days before the de Villeneuve (his real name was Nigel Davies) interview, Hotchner took a train to Eastbourne to meet with the coroner, Mr. E.N Grace, "who kindly provided me with all the  police and medical reports relative to Brian's death, and a transcript of the inquest. A few days later, Electra phoned de Villeneuve to confirm the interview for that day. 'There is no interview,' de Villeneuve's assistant said." Electra asked why he had chosen to cancel. "Because Hotchner has been to see the coroner, hasn't he? We didn't know he was opening that can of worms. That's why." Hotchner's secretary was unnerved by this response, he notes, since "she thought she was the only person who knew about my meeting with Coroner Grace." [29]

Who sent the lorries to the estate to cart off Brian's possessions, the same sort of looting that followed the death of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, and other star-crossed musicians? After the funeral at St. Mary's Church, the workmen who killed Jones repaired directly to his mansion, girlfriends in tow. An estate worker said, "They drank,  laughed and joked crudely and cavorted about. They even took their women to Brian's bed. It really turned me over. I was out in the grounds and they hadn't even bothered to close the curtains. You just couldn't help but see them in there, in Brian's bed. It was utterly appalling." Jones' belongings, with the exception of a couple of his most valued musical instruments, were systematically loaded into vans lined up in front of the house. Shortly thereafter, a bonfire was set in  the garden. "A group of men were burning an enormous amount of stuff. I know, because I had a very nice little Bible and they'd flung that on, too," said a gardener. "They were burning Brian's things -- his clothes, shirts and what have you. I don't know on whose sayso, but they cleared no end of stuff out of his house and burned the lot." [30]

Jones was buried at Cheltenham Cemetery two days after the murder. In 1980, Rolling Stone staked an epitaph to the life of Lewis Brian Hopkin-Jones. "Jones played rhythm guitar for the group since its inception in 1962, but his contribution was more spiritual than musical. His flamboyant appearance and notorious lifestyle -- which included fathering two illegitimate children by the time he was sixteen -- set the tone for the band's image." Rock critic Greil Marcus likewise found the essence of the band in him. "What the Stones as a group sang about ... Jones did." [31]

But the account of his death left by police and the media industry is a fiction, because he was off drugs completely at the time. His death was not an accident caused by a life of abuse. He was murdered. 



1. "Random Notes," Rolling Stone, no. 38, July 26, 1969, p 4.

2. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, "Student Bill Clinton 'Spied' on Americans abroad for CIA," London Telegraph, June 3, 1996. Also see, Roger Morris in Partners in Power ( 1996). Among the first to publicly note the relationship of Clinton with the CIA was Gene Wheaton, formerly an NSC contractee and a Christic Institute investigator, in radio interviews following the first Clinton inaugural. On June 10, 1996, the Telegraph reported, "in the late 1960s, Mr. Clinton worked as a source for the Central Intelligence Agency ... He was certainly no dangerous radical. 'No attack by his reactionary opponents would be more undeserved than the charge that young Bill Clinton was 'radical,' concludes [Roger] Morris.  The bearded, disheveled Rhodes scholar was recruited by the CIA while at Oxford -- along with several other young Americans with political aspirations -- to keep tabs on fellow students involved in protest activities against the Vietnam War. Morris says that the young Clinton  indulged in some low-level spying in Norway in 1969, visiting the Oslo Peace Institute and submitting a CIA informant's report on American peace activists who had taken refuge in Scandinavia to avoid the draft.  'An officer in the CIA station in Stockholm confirmed that,' said Morris.  The Washington Establishment would like to dismiss this troubling book as the work of a fevered conspiracy theorist. But Morris is no lightweight. He worked at the White House in both the Johnson and Nixon administrations, resigning from the National Security Council in 1970 in protest over the US invasion of Cambodia. He went on to become an acclaimed biographer of Richard Nixon.

3. A.E Hotchner, Blown Away: A No-Holds-Barred Portrait of the Rolling Stones and the Sixties Told by the Voices of the Generation, New York Fireside, 1990,  pp. 2 18-19.

4. Mae Brussell, "Operation CHAOS," unpublished ms.

5. A.E. Hotchner, p 232.

6. Bill Wyman with Bill Coleman, Stone Alone, New York Viking, 1990, pp. 404-5.

7. Ibid.

8. Hotchner, pp. 232-33.

9. Wyman.

11. Hotchner, p. 233.

12. Hotchner, p. 234.

13. See Bill Landis, Anger: The Unauthorized Biography of Kenneth Anger, New York Harper Collins, 1995.

14. Wyman, pp. 437-38.

15. Pete Hamill, " Long Night's Journey Into Day: A Conversation with John Lennon," Rolling Stone, no 188, June 5, 1975, p 73. Lennon: "I went on the Dick Cavett show and said they were followin' me ... [And] when they were followin' me, they wanted me to see when they were followin' me."

16. Landis, p 167.

17. Davin Seay, Mick Jagger: The Story Behind the Rolling Stone, New York: Birch Lane, 1993, p. 98.

18. Hotchner, pp. 231-32.

19. Brussell.

20. Wyman.

21. Hotchner, p. 296. Psychological pressure of this sort put Jones in a hyper-vigilant state, tactics common in mind control operations. The Manson Family attempted to bully and cajole Los Angeles studio musician Terry Melcher and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys into forking over "travel expenses." The shakedown of guitarist Gary Hinman ended in his murder by torture. Brian Jones was also murdered after an argument over money with Thorogood. Jones had been stalked by the workmen for months. The psychological intimidations led, according to Jones' friend Robert Hattrell, to "odd mental behavior, paranoiac, afraid there were people after him, out to get him.

22. Wyman, p 428.

23. Brussell.

24. "Murder Claims Raise Doubt over Rolling Stone's Death," Independent, April 4, 1994, p. 2.

25. Hotchner pp. 297-99.

26. Laura Jackson, Golden Stone: The Untold Life and Tragic Death of Brian Jones, New York: St. Martin's, 1992, p. 217.

27. R Gary Patterson, Hellhounds on Their Trail: Tales from the Rock 'n' Roll Graveyard, Nashville, Tennessee, Dowling Press, 1998, pp. 202-3.

28. Jackson, pp. 225-26.

29. Hotchner, p. 299.

30. Jackson, pp 224-25.

31. Burk Uzzle, "Rock & Roll Heaven," Rolling Stone, June 12, 1980, p. 45.

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