on 14 January 2009
As I reader of many books on the assassination of John F Kennedy, I was intrigued by a passing remark author Robin Ramsey made in his short book 'Who Shot JFK'. There was, Ramsey said, even more evidence of a conspiracy in the killing of Robert Kennedy than there was in the killing of his older brother. Knowing little about the murder of RFK, that little aside motivated me to get this book.
The story of the assassination goes like this: Robert Kennedy, having just won the Califoria primary, made a short speech to supporters at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He was then ferried through the hotel's kitchen by bodyguards where he was ambushed by Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan. Sirhan shot Kennedy in the head at close range. Kennedy was rushed to hospital but died of his wounds the next day.
Sirhan was apprehended at the scene and the resulting trial was an open and shut case. Numerous people had witnessed the shooting and testified that Sirhan was the man they had seen pulling the trigger. Sirhan was further incriminated by a notebook found in his home in which 'RFK must die' had been written over and over again. Sirhan made little attempt to defend himself. He was just a 'lone nut' who had 'acted alone' (sound familiar?) and was quickly sentenced to death (later commuted to life in prison when California voted to ban the death penalty). Case closed.
When one looks deeper into the killing, however, certain facts unaired at the trial indicate something much more complicated was going on.
1) The fatal shot which hit Kennedy behind the ear came from the rear and was fired at a distance of less than 1 inch from his head. Witnesses, however, were in agreement Sirhan was standing directly in front of Kennedy and never came within 3 feet of him. The bodyguard standing to the rear of Kennedy had often voiced his hatred of the Kennedy family. He owned a gun identical to the one used by Sirhan and may have had it on him that night.
2) Whilst Sirhan has never attempted to deny his involvement, he still claims to this day to have no memory of the shooting. Witnesses reported he seemed to be in a trance like state during the shooting and up to several hours afterwards. Experts in hypnosis who examined him in later years saw evidence he had been regularly hynotised in the past.
3) Several witnesses reported seeing a girl in a polka dot dress fleeing the scene in an exited state, shouting 'We did it, we killed Kennedy' and 'we killed him'. Sirhan had said to police the last thing he remembered before waking up in a jail cell hours after the shooting was drinking coffee with a pretty girl in a polka dot dress.
Unfortunately, whilst O'Sullivan is able to highlight these inconsistencies in the official story (and many others), lack of evidence prevents him from preventing an alternative version of events. An enormous amount of research has obviously been put in but O'Sullivan is unable to give us anything concrete. For example, a lot of space is devoted to trying to place shadowy CIA figures linked to the JFK assassination at the scene of the crime but ultimately nothing is proven.
I give credit to O'Sullivan's journalistic integrity- unlike many writers of conspiracy works he is not willing to take shortcuts and fudge evidence to give us a culprit to point the finger at. He has the guts to admit he is at a loss as to what really happened.
So, this book is ultimately unsuccessful in its goal of solving the case, but I think O'Sullivan undeniably presents enough evidence to warrant a retrial of Sirhan, who stills sits in jail today.
As O'Sullivan points out at the end of book, real life is not like an Agatha Christie novel, where the detective calls all the suspects together at the end and reveals 'whodunnit'. We will probably never know what really happened in Dallas on 22nd November 1963 and we will probably never know what realy happened at the Ambassador Hotel on June 5th 1968.
Annoying, isn't it?