In 1961 John F Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th president of the United States. The youngest, and the most enigmatic leader America had known. Yet in less than three years he would be dead. Assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22nd 1963. An event which continues to baffle and confuse 49 years later. In an age rich in conspiracy theories this is the granddaddy of them all. Just who killed JFK?
The last time I took any great interest in the subject was 1993, on the 30th anniversary of those tragic events. From a large collection of books and documentaries I have read, watched and listened myself deeper into a confusion of conjecture and conspiracy. In end I could draw no satisfactory conclusion. I was no more sure Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone, than I was that this was some Mafia/Cuban/CIA collusion.
Now with the modern media the game has changed. Thanks to the birth of the Internet the source material available to the amateur detective is vast, and so with little more than search engine and a keyboard I set about trying to come to a conclusion on perhaps the greatest mystery of the 20th Century. As the facts began to stack up it would lead me to a shocking conclusion.
One of the common misconceptions of the Kennedy assassination is that we would, by now, have heard the true story. The fact is many witnesses have gone on record, and continue to do so. The problem is that in the clamor for fame many of those claiming knowledge are distractions from the truth. If you were looking to keep the truth from people silencing those who could talk would be a difficult task. It would be far easier to throw in so many conspiracy theories that people begin to doubt every one of them. It is easy to get lost amongst the smoke and the mirrors of conflicting testimonies.
So I set about answering some specific questions. The first being -- where did that fatal shot come from?
There has been a long and lengthy debate about from where the fatal shot was fired. I've seen scientific conclusions which prove a number of different theories. Notions of a some magic bullet which somehow changed it trajectory in mid-air have been voiced, but I concerned myself with that fatal shot. The official verdict places Oswald as the lone gunman, shooting from the sixth floor Book Depository window. So the shot would have to come from high and behind the Kennedy limousine.
Three films captured that fatal shot -- there is said to be a fourth which the FBI have refused to release. The most famous of which, and easily the clearest, is the Zapruder film. It shows the Limousine enter Dealey Plaza, and after emerging from behind a road sign Kennedy raises both his hands to his throat. This is said to be the second shot, the first missed.
At frame 313 we see the fatal shot. Kennedy's head snaps back, a large flap appears from the right of the skull and we see him fall to his left. You don't have to be a ballistic expert to note two things. The movement of Kennedy's head and the shape of the fatal wound both indicate the shooter to be from the front right and not from behind -- where Oswald was said to be.
This would put the shooter on the infamous grassy knoll. There is much testimony from witnesses who assert they heard shots from that direction. Many of whom can be viewed from interviews done at the time and now uploaded from old newsreel. Perhaps the most interesting footage for the conspiracy theorists comes from another angle of the assassination which is now viewable on the Internet.
Orville Nix was positioned on the opposite side of Elm St to Emil Zapruder. His view has two strange anomalies. The first is a purported flash from fired rifle, which occurs milliseconds before we see Kennedy's head snap back. The second, and taking some imagination from the viewer, is the outline of a man who appears to be aiming a gun. The infamous badge man. Neither of which are conclusive. The flash could be explained by the grainy footage and the outline is tenuous at best.
One source which should be conclusive are the Autopsy reports and photographs. Anyone who's sat through an episode of CSI will know that an entry wound is smaller, than the exit wound. Yet even here conspiracy continues to dog the investigation. Original photographs appear to have been doctored in order to cover up what was described by one witness as a "grapefruit" size hole in the back of the presidents head.
Without too much searching it is possible to obtain the undoctored photographs which clearly show a large portion of the rear of the Presidents skull is missing -- which would appear to indicate that the fatal bullet was not fired from behind, and therefore that Oswald did not kill Kennedy.
I have other doubts over Oswald. To fire with such rapidity, and accuracy would be a tough ask. What is even more hard to believe is that to flee the scene and to be placed where Oswald shot the police officer would probably require he had the running ability of a marathon runner. I've yet to find any testimony to support Oswald had this ability. I believe he was what he said he was a patsy.
So if Oswald did not kill Kennedy who did? There are plenty of theories but not that many confessions. Many claim to have been there, but few claim to have pulled the trigger. Bizarrely even the father of Hollywood actor Woody Harrelson gets a mention, but he has since retracted his confession. There are quite a number who say that there was not one shooter at all, but teams of them. All positioned in various locations on Elm St. Though I stuck with finding the man who fired that fatal shot.
And after much searching I found only one man who seemed to be a legitimate suspect.
to be continued....
Follow David Fearnhead on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dafea