As 1968 drew to a close, Brian Jones did what all rock-stars now do and bought himself a country retreat, Cotchford Farm. Cotchford Farm is a country manor house in the East Sussex countryside, formerly owned by A. A. Milne, author of the Winnie The Pooh books, and included a large outdoor swimming pool.
Around midnight on July 2nd, Brian Jones was found at the bottom of his swimming pool in mysterious circumstances. All attempts to revive him failed. He was 27.
Back in December 1968, Brian Jones made his last ever appearance with The Rolling Stones in their “Rock and Roll Circus“. Although he appeared enthusiastic at times, throughout The Rolling Stones performance he appeared distant. In fact he was out of it and playing so badly that his guitar was turned down so low that you could not hear it on most tracks.
On the DVD commentary on “Rock and Roll Circus“, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who (who also played on “Rock and Roll Circus” along with Jethro Tull and Taj Mahal) said they thought it would be Brian Jones‘ last live musical performance and so it was.
Brian Jones, the blues purist, had been unhappy with the direction The Rolling Stones were taking. He had barely played a note on “Let It Bleed” and according to Anna Wohlin, “So many times the car would come down [to take him to the studios] and Brian would say, ‘Anna, you’ll have to go out and tell them I’m not going to go, I don’t want to.'”
It wasn’t a surprise to Brian Jones. He had in fact considered starting his own band and during 1969 was known to have contacted Alexis Korner, blues-man and one of his oldest friends, Rolling Stones collaborators Jimmy Miller and Ian Stewart and Mitch Mitchell who played with The Jimi Hendrix Experience. There are reports that Brian wrote and recorded a single during this time, although if it exists, it has never surfaced.
Like many things around this time, Brian Jones physical and mental state are uncertain. The last known photos of him, taken by schoolgirl Helen Spittal on 23 June 1969, show him looking bloated and tired.
Other reports say that his feeling of relief after his sacking was huge. Indeed his friend, Alexis Korner, said he seemed, “happier than he had ever been” after he visited him and his girlfriend Anna Wohlin in late June.
Anna Wohlin described them as being young and in love. “I lived with Brian and it was very nice and easy. He was very happy about his country life. He said it was the first time in his whole life that he felt he had a home.” She explained that Brian had told her of his plans to bring his two sons by previous relationships, to visit and wanted to marry her and settle down, “He was prepared to have a family. He wanted to have a big family and lots of dogs. He was even talking about having horses.”
Anna Wohlin maintained that after his arrests Brian had calmed down and was clean. “He had stopped with the drugs,” she says. “He was so scared about drugs. When he was busted and all that, he hated it. He hated the police. People have the wrong impression.” This did lead to a nasty incident when Brian hit Anna when he discovered she was taking prescription pills.
According to The Rolling Stones tour manager Tom Keylock, this was not the first time something like this had happened. In an interview he said Brian Jones, “had this thing about whacking women” (Tom Keylock had arranged for Brain to be left in Morocco the night he assaulted Anita Pallenberg and she left him for Keith Richard)
Tom Keylock was obviously not impressed with Anna Wohlin‘s claims either, “She was on the scene five or six weeks and – ‘I’m in love with Brian‘ – Bullshit! Brian was running out of birds, he’d always want one around him. She was probably on the gravy train, she wanted to groove around with a star”
Renovating Cotchford Farm
Frank Thorogood had previously been employed by The Rolling Stones before, to do some work on Keith Richard‘s house so he was trusted. They had employed a team of three builders and Frank Thorogood was staying at Cotchford Farm in the room over the garage to oversee the renovations and keep an eye on Brian.
Initially Frank Thorogood and Brian Jones got on well, but as the job went on their relationship became strained. Brian Jones was not the easiest client to deal with, often changing his mind or being told by his accountant to change his mind when they found out how much it was going to cost. From day to day he did not know what he was supposed to be doing, making it very hard for him to manage a team to build something that was a moving target.
The team of builders were also openly hostile to Brian Jones. Not only was he difficult to work for, but this was 1960s Britain and to many The Rolling Stones were still public enemy number one. The fact that he was also obviously far wealthier than them and this effete fop had a string of incredibly attractive women appearing at the house (usually when Anna went away) also stoked their jealousy, although they were happy to drink his booze!
As writer Terry Rawlings put it, “There was a network of drivers, builders, laborers. The same guys who were working on Redlands. All working class, all in their thirties, all taking as many liberties as they could, borrowing his Rolls Royce. Seeing him swan around with dolly birds in this beautiful house, there’s bound to be resentment.”
Brian Jones Fires Frank Thorogood
As things progressed Frank Thorogood and Brian Jones had several arguments about both the cost and the workmanship, both accusing the other of messing things up. This culminated in a huge argument when on July 1st when a supporting beam in the kitchen came crashing down, almost hitting Anna Wohlin.
The next morning Jones told Thorogood in no uncertain terms that he was withholding all further payments until the beam was fixed and he was also going to review all of Thorogood‘s bills, including his grocery bills (which Jones was also paying as he was staying at the farm) Initially Thorogood did not take Jones seriously, feeling that he was actually employed by Tom Keylock to keep an eye on him, not to be his employee. When Jones threatened to fire him and make sure that he never worked again, the 44-year-old Thorogood became very sullen. He did not take kindly to being dressed down by some 27-year-old upstart.
As has been stated many times before, Brian Jones was a complex man. He was capable of great moments of “Ass-holery” as Bill Wyman described it, but he could also be very sensitive. As he hid himself away upstairs he could hear the builders working downstairs.
The Night of Brian Jones‘ Death
From here on, things are not clear. At some point Tom Keylock became aware of the situation, possibly through a call from Brian. As Tom Keylock said, “Brian was a very difficult man. One minute he would be loving, gentle, a really nice boy and a brilliant musician, but he had these turns. He couldn’t punch his way out of a paper bag, so if he upset some bloke, he had to call me to get him out of trouble.”
Janet Ann Lawson
According to Janet Ann Lawson, Keylock asked her to go down to Cotchford Farm to ‘keep an eye on Brian‘. Keylock was not only worried about the tensions between Thorogood and Jones, but also for Brian‘s health and she was a state registered nurse. It would appear that Tom Keylock was doing what he could to keep Brian Jones out of trouble
Many people have reported that Janet Lawson was Frank Thorogood‘s mistress (he was married) but she was in fact Keylock‘s girlfriend (a fact that she confirmed herself) although she did know Frank Thorogood through Tom Keylock.
When Janet Lawson arrived she reported, “There was something in the air. Frank was acting strangely, throwing his weight around a bit.” Brian asked Frank Thorogood to go into town and get some more liquor and wine, which lead to some conjecture that other guests were expected.
However both Anna Wohlin and Janet Lawson reported that only Frank, Janet, Anna and Brian and were there, although Anna Wohlin claims that Thorogood and Lawson were in the rooms over the garage and Janet Lawson claimed they were all together for a dinner of steak and kidney pie.
This is not the only area of uncertainty as from here on the details of what happened that evening become foggy as the various reports of the evening differ, with the three guests giving as many conflicting accounts of what happened.
What is certain that at some point later in the evening everybody swam in the pool. Janet Ann Lawson described Brian as “a good swimmer and acrobatic in the water.” a view that was shared in all reports, however she did decline to get in the pool with them. This has been attributed to inability to swim by some reports, while others have said she thought they were too drunk to be swimming.
Brian Jones was also reported to be asthmatic, keeping inhalers in various places, and the following day was again hot (by British standards, the day had been in the high 80s Fahrenheit, 30+ Celsius) causing his asthma to play up.
Janet Ann Lawson’s Version of Events
According to Janet Ann Lawson, after the four had eaten dinner together, they had gone to the pool for drinks. Later that night, Wohlin, Thorogood and Jones had gone for a swim. Anna had gone back to the house to answer the phone and Brian Jones then asked Lawson to go and find his inhaler and bring it down to the pool. Frank Thorogood and Brian were then left alone in the pool.
What happened next in Janet Lawson’s words was,
I went to look for it (the inhaler) by the pool, in the music room, the reception room and then the kitchen. Frank came in in a lather. His hands were shaking. He was in a terrible state. I thought the worst almost straight away and went to the pool to check.
When I saw Brian on the bottom of the pool and was calling for help, Frank initially did nothing. I shouted for Frank again as I ran towards the house, and he burst out before I reached it, ran to the pool and instantly dived in. But I had not said where Brian was. I thought, “How did he know Brian was at the bottom of the pool?”
I ran back to the house and tried to call 999 but Anna was on the phone and would not get off it.
Anna Wohlin‘s Version of Events
According to Anna Wohlin, during the day Brian Jones hid away from the builders, feeling guilty about the way he had talked to Thorogood and Jones couldn’t stand the thought that Thorogood might be upset with him. After discussing the situation repeatedly with Anna Wohlin, he decided to ask Frank Thorogood over for a drink and a swim to make things right with him. At 10 p.m Jones went to fetch Frank Thorogood.
They returned 15 minutes later with Janet Lawson (described by Wohlin as Thorogood‘s companion for the evening) Brian Jones served drinks in the dining room and Frank Thorogood, who was still sulking, asked for vodka while Jones drank brandy. Jones tried to patch things up with Thorogood but with limited success.
After a while Jones suggested that they take a moonlight swim; Thorogood and Wohlin took him up on the offer while Lawson declined. Wohlin says that Jones always placed his inhaler by the side of the pool where he could get to it in case of an asthma attack and tonight was no different. Jones then went straight to the diving board and dove in.
Wohlin noticed that Frank Thorogood‘s mood hadn’t improved, but Jones was feeling mischievous, swimming underwater, grabbing Thorogood‘s ankles, and pulling him under. Frank Thorogood was not amused before and this only agitated him, but Jones continued to tease him, calling him “old man”. As Jones swam by, Thorogood lunged and dunked Jones’ head under the water, Jones came up coughing and laughing. At that point Janet Lawson called to Anna Wohlin from the house; she was wanted on the phone and the women went inside, leaving the men alone in the pool.
Wohlin rushed downstairs and found Frank Thorogood dripping wet in the kitchen, trying to light a cigarette with shaking hands and unable to make eye contact with her. She ran outside, passing Lawson, and looked into the still pool, where Jones was “lying spread-eagled on the bottom.”
She dove in and tried to pull him to the surface, but he kept slipping out of her hands. She yelled to Frank Thorogood for help and he came, but took a while getting there, she said. When he arrived he sat on the edge and slipped into the water, then helped Wohlin get Jones out of the pool. As they turned Jones onto his chest, Wohlin noticed that Thorogood‘s manner was “cold as ice.”
Lawson ran over to help and they turned Jones onto his back while Lawson massaged his heart as Wohlin administered CPR (“kiss of life” to use her term) They worked on him without stop. Wohlin said she thought he weakly clasped her hand and he was alive.
Around fifteen minutes later the ambulance arrived, but by then Brian Jones had passed. He was 27 years old.
So who killed Brian Jones?
Anna Wohlin said that Frank Thorogood showed little sympathy when Brian Jones was discovered in the pool and he did nothing to help them in their attempts to revive him. “I don’t think Frank meant to kill him, because I don’t think he was a killer,” she says. “I think it was some sort of horseplay. I think it went too far.”
Yes. I went into the house to look for Brian‘s inhaler. Frank jumped back in the pool, did something to Brian and by the time I came back, Brian was lying peacefully on the bottom of the pool with not a ripple in the water.
I think because of the state that Frank was in, something had to have happened. I mean, why would Frank have been standing in the kitchen absolutely terrified if something hadn’t happened?
Jan also believed that Thorogood had not intended to kill Jones, it was an unfortunate accident, probably the result of horseplay that had got out of hand.
In an interview with Classic Rock Magazine, Tom Keylock said that in 1993, he went to visit Frank Thorogood who was terminally ill in hospital. While there Frank Thorogood told him that he had “done” Brian Jones. However he did not get anymore details as Frank was very tired and obviously in pain, so he left him to come back the following day. Unfortunately Frank Thorogood died overnight and Tom Keylock was never able to get the details.
(This was reported in an interview in Classic Rock Magazine dated 2005, however he has also denied saying this in Bill Wyman‘s book of 2002, so I will leave it up to you to decide.)
Claims that Brian Jones was Killed by the Builders
In researching his book, Blown Away author A.E. Hotchner tracked down two men who claimed they witnessed the murder, Nicholas Fitzgerald and his friend. Nicholas Fitzgerald was a good friend of Brian Jones in 1969 and he and a friend had got Cotchford Farm at about 11pm (after pub closing time) on the night of July 2. Seeing that the pool lights were on, they went around to the back of the house instead of going to the front door.
Coming through the bushes, Fitzgerald reportedly saw three men dressed like workmen by the pool and a man and a woman standing on the other side of the pool. The man on the other side of the pool was yelling instructions while one of the three workmen was down on one knee, pushing someone in the pool under the water. One of the three workmen leapt in and “landed on the back of the struggling swimmer.” Before Fitzgerald and his friend could do anything, a “burly man” with a cockney accent threatened them and scared them off.
One of the laborers who worked for Frank Thorogood at Jones’ home at the time spoke to Hotchner. He told his version on condition of anonymity and simply referred to as “Marty” in the book. Marty claimed that at least two of the laborers resented Jones for his wealth, his pretty women, and his air of superiority around them. He also claimed to have been at Cotchford Farm along with a few other members of the work crew who had also brought their wives and girlfriends on July 2nd.
As the evening progressed the men started horsing around in the pool, harassing Jones and preventing him from getting out of the pool. They then leapt in and held him under while the women pleaded with the men to leave him alone. Since the effect Jones had on women was one of thee things thay disliked about him, it enraged them further.
Things then got out of hand, and Jones drowned. “Those guys got carried away,” Marty said, “and I wouldn’t say what happened was an accident.”
The interview with Marty is below. WARNING there is some strong language in the interview.
This version of events contradicts all the information given by the people that were known to be there. Although neither Janet Lawson or Anna Wohlin claimed to have seen what happened at the moment Brian Jones died both were there shortly before he died. Additionally both said the only people there were Jones, Wohlin, Lawson and Thorogood. In the time the pair were in the house there was certainly not enough time for a group of laborers to arrive and start harassing Brian in the pool.
Since none of the people known to be at the house say there was anyone else there, including Anna Wohlin and Janet Lawson who both made accusations against Frank Thorogood, you have to question the validity of the witnesses. This is especially true when none have identified themselves or come forward until several years later when rumors of ill-deeds became rife. After all, without the bizarre stories it wouldn’t be rock and roll would it!
Retired Detective Inspector Stuart Booth, the man charged with preparing Sussex Police’s response to the media ‘every time this case came up’ during the Eighties and Nineties, revealed that a new file was opened on Brian Jones by Sussex CID in 1983. This was prepared as a response to a book that claimed Brian was murdered by a gang of men who held him upside down in the pool. That claim was dismissed by the police but their file contained this statement: ‘It is possible that Thorogood was larking about with Jones in the water and Jones subsequently drowned.’
Immediately After Brian Jones‘s Death
Frank Thorogood called Tom Keylock who set off immediately from London. With todays cars and roads in the middle of the night it would still be approximately a 1 hour 15 minute drive to Cotchford Farm, so we can assume it took Tom Keylock around two hours to get there (for those that would like to check distances, here is the location of Cotchford Farm)
The ambulance had arrived at around midnight and The Rolling Stones were made aware of Brian Jones death around 2am as they followed their usual nocturnal patterns recording “Let It Bleed” in Olympic Studios late into the night. Since Tom Keylock was the first of The Rolling Stones people to arrive he would have been the one who would have called to tell them the news, which also fits in with this timeline.
According to Tom Keylock by the time he got to Cotchford farm, the ambulance had taken Keith’s body away and the police had spoken to everyone at the house, so there was no time to cover anything up.
Anna Wohlin also reported that as soon as Tom Keylock arrived he took charge, so this would imply that they had not been taken to be interviewed by the time he arrived. This also fits with the Police and both Wohlin and Lawson’s version of events, as the times on the interviews are between 4 and 5 am.
PC Albert Evans
PC Albert Evans was the first officer on the scene, arriving at 12.10am on July 3rd as the ambulance crew tried to revive Brian Jones. After Brian‘s body was taken away Evans searched the house and took possession of a number of bottles of spirits and various pills. He also thought there had been additional people at the house, not just the three witnesses interviewed.
Now in his late 60s, Evans was asked what did he think had happened?
‘Some sort of altercation – drug-induced, alcohol-induced. It was Frank Thorogood who was mentioned – he was the one who had been in the pool with Brian Jones. There was nothing at the time to connect Thorogood with any more. Just feelings.’
‘Indeed, I said exactly this to DCI Marshall (the chief investigating officer) at the time and he reasonably asked me why I thought so. Along with everyone else, I had no evidence to support my feelings other than the ” policeman’s instinct”, but nevertheless these suspicions have remained with me down the years.’
“I’m sure that Bob Marshall [the chief investigating officer] had those feelings very strongly. I shared these views with him. I think he said exactly the same to me.”
PC Mike Harvey
Drugs squad officer PC Mike Harvey was also on the scene in the early hours of July 3. He found five “Black Bombers” (capsules of Durophet) in Frank Thorogood‘s coat.
In other words, he was in unlawful possession of them. Court proceedings would normally have resulted, but Thorogood was only cautioned.
“A caution was quite unusual in those days.” said Harvey in 2008, “We were trying to stamp down hard on drugs so we couldn’t say, ‘Just forget it,’ but given the circumstances, it didn’t justify court proceedings. That was a decision made by a senior officer.”
That officer, according to Harvey, was DCI Bob Marshall, who his part, said he had no knowledge of the drugs find and was not responsible for the decision to caution rather than prosecute Frank Thorogood.
Police Interview Thorogood, Lawson and Wohlin
The Police took Thorogood, Lawson and Wohlin to East Grinstead Police Station to take statements. It was here, outside the police station, writes Wohlin, that Frank Thorogood “sidled up to her” and said, in a very threatening manner, “Don’t forget to tell them it was Brian who wanted me to come down to you, not me. 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. 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.”
According to Janet Lawson, this was not the only subversion going on, hours after Jones’s death at East Grinstead police station Jan gave a statement to Detective Sergeant Peter Hunter, who is now retired.
“The police were trying to put words in my mouth,” said Jan. “They kept saying, ‘Did this happen or did it happen like this?’ I was very tired, it was about four or five in the morning. I wanted to know if I would be able to give another statement later on because I was tired, confused and nervous. They said ‘Yes’, so when the police asked me to give this statement, and they were suggesting all these things to me, I eventually said, ‘Yeah, yeah,’ to bring it to a close. I thought I would have another chance to give a statement where I could be clearer.”
This never happened and her statement, she says, was, “A pack of lies, the policeman suggested most of what I said. It was a load of rubbish.”
In her original statement, Janet did not mention the tension between Jones and Thorogood, the fact that she feared the worst as soon as she saw Thorogood coming in from the pool nor did she reveal how Frank Thorogood initially ignored her cries for help or that he dived into the pool without her telling him that was where Jones was.
When asked about this in 2008, DS Hunter replied, “If Janet Lawson is saying I physically wrote her statement that is correct, but if she is saying I influenced the content of her statement that is not correct.”
Janet Lawson was not the only one where claims of inaccuracies in police statement were reported. An anonymous source (a policeman at the time) claims Anna Wohlin had been given sedatives by the doctor and had to be actually woken up during her interview.
For all those involved in the events at Cotchford Farm, it is amazing to consider that there is no evidence that any follow up statements were taken from the witnesses when they had sobered up and had a chance to get some sleep and recover from the shock (the statements were all taken in the small hours of July 4th)
The anonymous source claims that Bob Marshall was determining what evidence was being written down. He went on to say that a DCI would not “push the buttons” without orders from above.
“Chief Constables were and still are political animals, If the Chief Constable knew drugs had been found in the house you’d expect him to say, ‘I want the man charged.’ Yet Frank Thorogood was only cautioned. You wouldn’t do that unless you knew the Chief Constable was backing you. It was decided this information about the drugs find would not be given to the coroner. It’s outrageous.”
With the Police suffering from some egg-on-face following the arrests and trial of Mick Jagger and Keith Richard at Redlands on drug charges, they may simply have been trying to take a softly-softly approach. It also may have been that the Police saw the line of least resistance was to find a known drug user to have accidentally drowned in a drug fuelled stupor.
When asked about this, Marshall said everything in Wohlin’s statement was correct. He also denied manipulating the case or having orders to find a particular outcome.
“It was clear to me within two or three hours of arriving at the scene that this was a tragic accident, a simple drowning.”
The Day After Brian Jones Death
When Harvey met Sussex Chief Constable T. C. Williams the following morning for a prearranged interview at 9am, he reported that Chief Constable Williams was already aware of the details of the case (The Chief Constable is the top ranking officer for a given region)
Harvey said, “He knew Brian Jones was dead and we’d found some drugs in there. He didn’t express an opinion but he would no doubt have discussed it. He may have had some influence on it, I don’t know.”
Brian Jones‘s Possessions burned by Tom Keylock
Around the same time Tom Keylock was burning many of Brian‘s clothes and possessions. He says this was what he was asked to do by Lewis Jones (Brian Jones‘s father), and admitted he thought this was strange. He stopped when he was asked to pack all Brian‘s things up and send them to Lewis Jones. This was done in a a single, huge travel case. Lewis Jones then came down with a truck to take away larger items such as Brian‘s mellotron.
Some have claimed that many items went missing from the house, taken by the other builders, including recordings made by Brian Jones. Tom Keylock claims this is also untrue, “Nothing came out of that place without my knowledge.”
Coroner’s Report into the Cause of Brian Jones‘ Death
Immediately after Brian Jones‘s death, it was reported that his death had been caused by an asthma attack, leading to his drowning. However investigators ruled this out because such an attack would have blocked his windpipe, thereby preventing Brian from drowning.
The autopsy revealed that Brian Jones had alcohol in his blood, roughly the equivalent of 3-4 pints of beer. Brian Jones‘s urine also revealed an “amphetamine-like” substance, although not amphetamine, at nearly nine times the normal level.
As much as legend would want us to believe otherwise, no hard drugs were found in Brian Jones‘ system, although the coroner noted his liver and heart were heavily enlarged by years of drug and alcohol abuse. There was however a “purple spot” on Brian Jones‘s liver which was not explained.
But the post-mortem examination found that Brian Jones had sustained no trauma to any part of his body and body bore no internal injuries. In other words there was no evidence of violence. What his body did show was evidence that he had died through drowning.
The coroners report concluded death by misadventure, but what had caused the drowning we will never know for certain. One thing is for sure, there are some serious questions about the process followed.
Was the Investigation into Brian Jones Death Flawed?
There does appear to be plenty of evidence that the investigation by the police and coroner was not as exhaustive as it should have been. The first piece of evidence is, ironically, a response to an author denying that the investigation was flawed by DCI Marshall. Marshall retired in 1974 but he still keeps a detailed file on the case.
In 1991, Marshall wrote a letter to an author researching a book about Brian Jones stating,
“On the evening in question he [Jones] was at the farmhouse with some six or so associates, all of whom were entertaining themselves in their own way and with little concern for each other.
Most, if not all, had been indulging in alcohol and perhaps drugs of some description. This made it difficult to get a precise account of the events of the evening.
After carrying out what was a very thorough investigation, I was satisfied that this unfortunate death was accidental and at no time did I discover anything to warrant consideration of taking criminal proceedings against any person.”
So Marshall believed there were “six or so associates” yet made no effort to track them down and take statements, yet considers it a thorough investigation. In addition he states that due to the inebriated state of the witnesses making it “difficult to get a precise account of the evening” they made no attempt to take further statements when they had sobered up.
The next issue concerns PC Harvey’s statement, which was never presented to the coroner, a fact that surprised retired Detective Inspector Stuart Booth, who during the Eighties and Nineties prepared Sussex Police’s response to the media ‘every time this case came up’.
“I would expect it to have gone before the coroner and people to have asked Frank Thorogood what drugs he gave to Brian Jones, how many, when, times and dates, where he got the drugs from and did he give any other unlawful drugs to Brian Jones that night, bearing in mind the toxicology report showed there was an unidentified purple spot found on the liver”
Did a Taxi Leave Cotchford Farm before the Police Arrived?
Even though the reports of Brian being murdered by a gang do not seem to be too likely, the possibility that there were other people at the house at the time Brian Jones died do seem to have have merit.
There were other reports of a taxi that left Cotchford Farm before the ambulance arrived and the Police that arrived on the scene believed that more people had been there and in 2008 a journalist uncovered some evidence from another case that reinforces these claims.
On July 26, 1969, Joan Fitzsimons, then 29, was the victim of a vicious assault near Chichester which left her in a coma with a fractured skull and blinded for life. Her boyfriend, Jordanian Michael Ziyadeh, pleaded guilty to attempted murder and spent four years in Broadmoor Prison before being deported. Despite his guilty plea, Ziyadeh always claimed he did not carry out the attack. The police case against him concluded: “The motive for this is a mystery.”
Where this becomes more relevant to Brian Jones‘ death is that Joan Fitzsimons was the on-off mistress of Frank Thorogood. She was also friends with Janet Lawson and was the person that introduced Lawson to Tom Keylock. Fitzsimons had also occasionally stayed with Thorogood at Cotchford during the renovations. Lastly, she had driven Jones and his fellow Rolling Stone Keith Richard as she worked for her family’s taxi firm in Chichester (approximately 40 miles from Cotchford Farm)
So, had Joan Fitzsimons been invited along to Cotchford Farm, she would almost certainly have driven herself there, quite possibly in one of her family’s cabs (Cotchford Farm is in a remote location, a good distance from trains etc) So could it be that the taxi reportedly seen leaving Cotchford Farm on the night of Brian Jones‘ death was not one that had been called to take people from the farm, but one that belonged to someone already there?
Joan Fitzsimons died in 2002 so the journalist that discovered this then used the freedom of information act to get further information released (which was something unavailable to earlier biographers). This information included a letter from the Sussex Chief Constable’s office from 1969
‘She is to be asked as to her reason for allegedly being afraid of Mr Francis Thorogood as referred to in a statement of her brother Mr John Russell and what knowledge she has relating to the death of Brian Jones which causes her to be frightened.
The prime suspect: Frank Thorogood was sacked by the star on the day of his death and was in a ‘terrible state’ just before Jones’s body was found
‘In light of the statement of Mr John Russell enquiries are to be made and statements taken to eliminate Mr Francis Thorogood as being in the Chichester area between 8.30pm and 9.55pm on the 26th July, 1969, and with having anything to do with the assault on Mrs Fitzsimons.’
The statement from John Russell is still not available under the Freedom of Information Act as Mr Russell is alive and has elected not to release it into the public domain. However a statement from Frank Thorogood was taken in response to this to eliminate him from the police inquiry.
The statement eliminated Frank Thorogood as a suspect by Sussex Police after his wife and two friends confirmed he had been in London on July 26. However the other information included in the response was enlightening.
The statement from Thorogood said that Fitzsimons knew Suki Poitier, Jones’s ex-girlfriend, and stayed at Cotchford Farm for three days after Jones’s death because Poitier was upset. By this time Anna Wohlin had gone back to Sweden, either coerced by The Rolling Stones Management or on her own accord depending on which version of events you believe.
In another police statement Joan Fitzsimons’ mother, Irene Russell, told police that Suki Poitier had been at Cotchford Farm the night Brian Jones died but left about 30 minutes before the incident. Irene Russell said –
Joan told me that Frank (Thorogood) was causing trouble by trying to get her back. Frank was very persistent. Frank said to me that Joan knows a lot about The Rolling Stones that shouldn’t get out. Joan, as it appeared to me, was frightened of Frank.”
At the time, several newspapers reported the attack on Joan Fitzsimons. One said that detectives wanted to find out from her whom she drove on the night Brian Jones died and if she was present at Cotchford Farm at any time during that evening.
The newspaper report went on to say, “The police information is a result of “several interviews” with men, all acquaintances of Mrs Fitzsimons, who talked with her after the death of Jones.”
The same day the story appeared, Sussex Police released a statement, “There is no truth in those reports whatsoever.” As has been shown from the documents now available that they were aware of the possible connection and had made inquiries.
I was nursing in Hampshire when Joan was attacked, but I saw the headlines in a newspaper. When I saw her injuries, I cried.” Janet Lawson said. “I knew it was no coincidence. I felt there was some link with Frank. I went into hiding at my brother’s house on an RAF base. Behind those walls and security fences, that was the only place I had where they couldn’t get to me.”
Whatever actually happened on that fateful night may never be known. What can be seen is that the subsequent investigation was flawed. There were obviously leads that were not followed up and witnesses that were not tracked down. On top of this there is the information regarding the drugs found at Cotchford Farm being withheld from the coroner. Regardless as to whether this was a cover-up or ineptitude, it seems there is more than enough evidence for a further investigation.
Where are they now
Janet Ann Lawson
After this Janet Lawson dropped out of nursing and changed her name to Tallyn and was not heard from until she was persuaded to tell her story by a journalist in 2007. Janet Lawson died from cancer in a hospice in 2008.
For years Anna Wohlin had refused to talk about her time with Brian Jones, not least because she claims she had signed a contract with The Rolling Stones‘ management to discuss his death only with their agreement. This is again something Tom Keylock disputes, “Nobody offered her any money to keep her mouth shut. No threats. She lives in cuckoo-land if she said that”
Having married and settled down back in Sweden, Anna Wohlin finally decided she would go public after she and her husband divorced. “I kept silent all these years because, even if I had friends who [would have] supported me, I was a little bit scared over it. I knew something was very wrong. He didn’t die of drowning because he was drunk and drugged, but how could I prove it? I couldn’t.”
She wrote her book (titled either “The Murder of Brian Jones” or later re-issued as “The Wild and Wycked World of Brian Jones“) as the legions of stories circulating about Brian being drugged up to the eyeballs at the time of his death, did not represent the man she knew.
After Brian Jones‘ Death
Two days after Brian‘s death, The Rolling Stones performed before over a quarter million people in London’s Hyde Park. Mick Jagger led the other Stones onto stage. As the enormous crowd looked on he stepped up to the microphone and said, “Cool it and listen. I want to say something for Brian.” He then read two verses from Percy Shelley’s eulogy “Adonais,” as thousands of white butterflies were released. The Rolling Stones then opened with “I’m Yours And I’m Hers”, a favorite of Brian‘s.
“Stoned” – the Movie of Brian Jones Life and Death
Around the same time Stephen Woolley, probably best known for producing films such as “The Crying Game” and “Scandal” (based on the Profumo affair, another piece 1960s tabloid sleaze), was developing the movie “Stoned“. Stephen Woolley also believes that Frank Thorogood was responsible for Brian Jones‘ death and met Anna Wohlin a few times in the 10 years he spent developing “Stoned“.
Both Anna Wohlin and Tom Keylock both acted as advisors on the film and at about the only time agree that it is a fairly accurate portrayal. “Stoned” was released in late 2005 starring Leo Gregory, Paddy Considine and David Morrisey.
Prior to buying Cotchford Farm, Brian Jones went on holiday to Ceylon and while there he visited an astrologer. The astrologer said, “Be careful swimming in the coming year. Don’t go into the water without a friend.”
- Brian Jones Straight From The Heart: The Rolling Stones Murder
- The Wild and Wycked World of Brian Jones: The True Story of My Love Affair with the Rolling Stone (also published as The Murder of Brian Jones)
- Blown Away
- Interviews with Keith Richards and Tom Keylock in Classic Rock magazine November 2005
- Interview with Anna Wohlin in The Independant Newspaper, November 2005
- Daily Mail Article ‘Has the riddle of Rolling Stone Brian Jones’s death been solved at last?‘ from November 2008
- Brian Jones – Who Killed Christopher Robin?: The Truth Behind The Murder of a Rolling Stone
- The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones by Stanley Booth
- According to the Rolling Stones
- Up and Down with The Rolling Stones
- Keith Richards: Satisfaction
- Rolling With The Stones