Brian Jones: Who killed the Rolling Stones guitarist?

Officially, he died by accident. But rumours about the Rolling Stones guitarist's death won't go away. Now, an explosive new theory may prove it was murder, says Steve Bloomfield
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The bust, even before it was put on display, was far from popular. It had been paid for with subscription fees from the Brian Jones Fan Club which had been wound up in 2003. But local paper the Gloucestershire Echo couldn't find many local people happy with the idea, while an editorial in the Western Daily Press proclaimed: "Addict is no role-model for spa town".

At the ceremony to unveil the statue, the shopping centre's public-address system played a series of Rolling Stones tracks from the 1970s - all written and recorded after Jones's death. Worse was to come. The cloth covering the bust was removed, to gasps of disbelief from the die-hard fans who had travelled from all over the country for the occasion. The head beared little resemblance to Jones and was a rather bizarre shade of green. Yet this was nothing compared to the hair. In a bid to recreate Jones's golden mop, a bright yellow thatch clung to the bust's scalp. It was, claimed one fan, as if someone had plonked an omelette on his head. Fan messageboards hummed with outrage. "Would some vandal kindly paint it black?" pleaded one. "It is hideous," claimed several. "It is so dreadful it is almost funny," cried another.

The bust was quietly removed last month, although David Reynolds, who ran the original fan club and was responsible for commissioning the bust, has said this is simply so that it can be re-cast in bronze. Whether the omelette will stay or not is another matter.

For those who cling to the memory of Jones, this farcical episode is no surprise. Jones was one of the style icons of the 1960s. He was not afraid to wear women's clothes or jewellery, while his long, golden hair put the Beatles' more conservative mop-tops firmly in the shade. Jones did not just play the guitar but also the piano, sitar and xylophone, among others. He played with Jimi Hendrix and counted Bob Dylan among his group of friends.

But since his death in 1969, Jones has slipped from public consciousness. Jagger, Richards, Wyman and Watts are now worth more than £100m each, their never-ending world tours are always sold out, and even their new material has found an appreciative audience. For Stones fans who found the band after 1969, Jones never existed. The remaining band members rarely talk about him. In a recent interview with Q magazine, Keith Richards was asked if he could bring anyone back from the dead, who would it be? His immediate answer was the American blues musician, Muddy Waters. When the interviewer mentioned Jones, Richards replied: "Oh, I wouldn't want to bring him back. He was an arsehole."

Just weeks before his death, Jones was sacked from the band he had founded and named. His part in Stones history has been all but wiped from the group's official version of events. But that may change. A new feature film, Stoned, to be released this month, will tell the story of Brian Jones' life and death. Directed by Stephen Woolley, producer of The Crying Game, it could prove controversial. Woolley contends that Jones was killed by Frank Thorogood, his builder. Woolley claims that Thorogood was owed £8,000 by Jones and held him under water in an attempt to scare him into paying, but held on too long and accidentally drowned the guitarist in his swimming pool.

Woolley hired a private detective to track down Janet Lawson, the girlfriend of the Stones' road manager. She was at Cotchford Farm on the night Jones died. According to Lawson, Jones had just sacked Thorogood, which caused the builder to get "out of control". Several books written by close friends and former girlfriends also claim that Jones was murdered. It is also claimed that Thorogood admitted responsibility on his deathbed in 1993. But one conspiracy theory is never enough for a celebrity death. So here is another. It involves a first love, a Beatles fan, a cold case investigation team, a television psychic, and the possible exhumation of Jones's body.

Pat Andrews was 15 when she first met Brian Jones. She agreed to meet him in the Aztec coffee bar in Cheltenham where she worked as a waitress. It was, she says, a favour for a friend who said Jones had returned from Germany and didn't have any friends left in the spa town where he had grown up.

A stylish 60-year-old with dyed red hair, Andrews giggles and blushes at the memory. "I can still see him now - ooh, I'm getting all hot and flushed!" Jones was just 17 at the time and, unbeknown to Andrews, had already managed to get at least one former girlfriend pregnant. Their affair lasted for four years and they had a son, christened Julian Mark Andrews (although he is known as Mark rather than Julian), when Pat was just 17. "It all went gloriously until October 1961 when I gave birth. I hadn't realised I was pregnant until seven months in - I thought it was a tumour.

"Brian came to see me in the nursing home. He sold a number of his treasured records to buy me flowers and a skirt and jumper, which was rather sweet."

But Jones did not want to stay in Cheltenham - he wanted to make music. Mother and son followed Jones to London, where they stayed in a series of one-room bedsits while he tried to make it in the music business. From time to time they stayed in the same flat in Edith Grove as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

However, the relationship did not last. "In the summer of 1962, Brian's insecurity got too much," says Andrews. "I came from a small town where you say hello to people on the street - I didn't realise you didn't do that in London. He thought I was flirting with every male. I couldn't stand it anymore. I left him."

Pat and Mark returned to London in spring 1963 as the Stones were starting to make a name for themselves. Bill Wyman had joined the band ("I remember him turning up at the audition in a shoestring tie and crêpe trousers - he was just like a teddy boy") and the band were playing in clubs and pubs every night.

It was also around this time they first met the Beatles. Andrews was asked to meet them at the door because the Stones were still on stage. "The Stones were my friends," she says. "But the Beatles... My legs were shaking, my heart was in my mouth, I thought I was going to trip over or dribble." Both bands went to Mick and Keith's flat, with Andrews taking a lift in the Beatles' van, giving directions to Paul McCartney.

But it wasn't long before Andrews and Jones fell out again. "We were more or less friends by then, rather than lovers. Brian was alone. Mick and Keith had their mums - they would come up and do their laundry and cook them food. Brian had nobody. The only person who really knew him was me. I accepted him for who he was, not because he was going to be famous."

There was always other women around, but it was a relationship with one girl, who Andrews considered to be a friend, that proved to be the final straw. "I knew I couldn't trust him as far as I could throw him - he was like a cat on heat. But this was different. I felt it was a terrible betrayal on his part. It was just the wrong person for him to get involved with."

At the end of 1963, Andrews took Mark back to Cheltenham to bring him up at her parents' house. She saw Jones just once more before his death - a Stones gig in Cheltenham in 1964, during their first UK tour.

"Brian said, 'Once we've done the tour I'll contact you at your mum's'." He never did. Andrews blames the Stones "machine". "He got caught up in this hedonistic lifestyle. He had been brought up in Cheltenham and smothered by his parents - now he was king of the hill. What young man wants to come back to Cheltenham? I am not excusing him - I know he should have come back - but I can understand."

Not only did Jones not come to Cheltenham, he also provided little in the way of maintenance for his son. Andrews was offered £1.50 a week and had to go to court to force it up to £2.50. A further kick in the teeth was provided when Linda Lawrence, Jones' latest girlfriend, gave birth to a son. He was christened Julian - the same first name Andrews had given her son.

Following Jones' death, Andrews got on with her life. She has had "several" serious relationships, but is currently single. "I expect too much of people," she says. "I set my standards too high but I don't think I consciously compare other people to Brian. Over the last few years it has dawned on me that I don't really need anybody. And how can I turn round to someone and say I'm off to do something to do with Brian?"

She started doing voluntary work and organised after-school programmes run by Ken Livingstone's Greater London Council, until the authority was scrapped by Margaret Thatcher in 1986. Since then, Andrews has continued working with children, but she prefers not to go into details. "I feel like I have two separate lives and I want to keep it that way."

By 1995, despite more than 30 years passing since she last saw him, Andrews returned to her first love. She set up the Brian Jones Fan Club as a means to help change people's attitudes towards the forgotten Stone. "The 'death by misadventure' verdict was iffy to say the least. There was this terrible stigma surrounding Brian. He was described as a drug-induced guitarist, which is like saying Van Gogh was just a painter."

For the past decade, Andrews has struggled to change that image, campaigning for Sussex police to re-open the case. The appeal has, thus far, fallen on deaf ears, but that may change.

Trevor Hobley was working in the United States as a writer's researcher in 1997 working on a book about Brian Jones. Knowing very little about him, Hobley travelled to Britain to meet Andrews. The pair quickly became friends and towards the end of 2002, he met other members of the fan club.

At the time, Andrews was unhappy with the club's direction. On Jones's birthday, 28 February 2003, the club's organiser, David Reynolds announced he was closing it down. Hobley had already started work on a website so when Andrews asked him to start up a new club, he said yes. "I spent the first three months looking at all the evidence that had been put together. When you look at it logically it quickly becomes clear that there was something terribly wrong," he says.

Over the next two-and-a-half years Hobley compiled a 150-page dossier that he and Andrews believe prove that Jones was murdered. As well as painstakingly piecing together evidence from autopsy reports and witness statements made at the time, Hobley has also tracked down one of the police officers who originally investigated Jones's death.

"A whole different scenario has reared it ugly head. There are witnesses from the time who have since disappeared, statements made that were ignored. If Brian was murdered there must have been some sort of cover up from a fairly high level. They would have had to influence the police investigation, the medical records, the coroner's report."

The smoking gun, Hobley claims, is a new witness - a man who was at Cotchford Farm in the six weeks prior to Jones's death and was by his side two hours before he died. Hobley refuses to reveal the man's identity, but says "some people" clearly know who he is. "He and his family have been threatened. They are very frightened people."

Hobley dismisses the theory put forward by the new film. "I believe Brian was rendered unconscious in the music room in Cotchford Farm, carried outside the house and held upside down with his head in a trough of water, where he drowned. He was in swimming trunks when the ambulance men arrived but I do not believe he was in the swimming pool." Instead, he argues, the men who killed Jones put him in his trunks to make it appear as if he had drowned.

The dossier is, Hobley admits, the work of a fan. So last year, he says, he turned to a private, cold-case style investigation team - "Just like in programmes like Waking the Dead or CSI," he says. The company, which Hobley refuses to name, is staffed by former Thames Valley and Metropolitan Police officers and Home Office pathologists.

"If my theory was right," says Hobley, "there could still be a crime scene at Cotchford Farm." A former Home Office forensic scientists spent six hours at Cotchford Farm last year carrying out an investigation of the fire place searching for traces of blood. The cold-case team have cut Hobley's dossier down to a more manageable 19 pages ("they have taken out the passion, compassion and idolatory") and presented Sussex Police with eight reasons why the coroner's original verdict is unsafe. Andrews and Hobley are now awaiting a response.

The best way to prove the verdict was unsafe, Andrews says, is to exhume Jones's body. "I don't know if it is a good thing, but it may be the only way to clear up what happened to Brian. The truth is never going to be told by those who know - the only way to solve it is by Brian talking himself. It would be very nice for Brian to have the last word."

Despite being buried 36 years ago, there is a chance that the body has been well preserved. In the late 1990s, Andrews tracked down an employee at a funeral parlour in Cheltenham that had received the body. It was originally taken to a parlour in East Grinstead where it was embalmed and Jones's hair bleached white, before being transferred to Cheltenham where it was buried. "It will be in very good condition," says Hobley. "All sorts of tests could be carried out."

Andrews' desire to prove Jones was murdered does not stop at conventional methods such as asking the police to re-open the case. She has also turned to cable television psychic, Tony Stockwell. In his Living TV programme earlier this year, The Psychic Detective, Stockwell wandered around Cotchford Farm surmising on how Jones died. According to the psychic, two men gave Jones a huge injection of drugs and dumped him in the pool, where his lungs filled up with water and he drowned. Two other men, who had planned the whole operation, looked on.

"It was awful," remembers Andrews. "I had to switch off and imagine it was somebody else he was talking about. It is like an ulcer. If you touch it, it is sore. You have to become detached."

Hobley, 55, has staked everything on proving Jones was murdered. He won't say exactly how much the case has cost. It is five figures, not quite six. He does not work ("I'm working on Brian Jones 24/7") and has exhausted his entire savings. Jones was the driving force behind his band at the height of the Stones vs Beatles battles, so it is perhaps fitting that the Beatles have funded Hobley's fight. "I had a wonderful Beatles memorabilia collection. I have had to sell it all."

For both Andrews and Hobley, Brian Jones is their life. Andrews' eyes light up when she reminisces about her first love, in a way they don't when she discusses teaching. The manner of his death clearly still affects her. When Hobley recounts his theory of how Jones was murdered, Andrews nervously rearranges the coffee mugs, milk jug and flowers in front of her on the table into a straight line. "I find it difficult, yes, but I need to know the truth. We must stick to our mission - to get justice and the truth for Brian. I know it sounds silly, but I don't know what the truth is yet. I just want to know how he died." s

The film 'Stoned' is released on 18 November