Sale puts final nail in saga of JFK killer's coffin

The coffin in which they buried Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of shooting President John F Kennedy, is to be sold at auction in Los Angeles, almost 50 years after the events that led to his untimely death.

Bidding for the somewhat gruesome item of memorabilia, which contained Oswald's decomposing corpse from 1963 until 1981, will start at $1,000 [£640], though interest from museums and private collectors is expected to eventually see it fetch many times more.

Oswald, who was arrested in the immediate aftermath of Kennedy's assassination in Dallas, was shot and killed by nightclub owner Jack Ruby while he was still in police custody but before he could face trial. That incident launched endless conspiracy theories.

He was interred in a pine coffin at Fort Worth, Texas, shortly afterwards. But almost two decades later, his widow Marina and brother, Robert, had the coffin exhumed, after hearing extravagant rumours that his body had been replaced by that of a Russian intelligence agent.

A check of dental records by pathologists revealed that the body had not been switched. The remains were duly transported back to Rose Hill cemetery, before being re-interred in a fresh coffin.

Oswald's original coffin has remained ever since at the Baumgardner Funeral Home, the local undertaker which handled the exhumation. They are now cashing in on their brush with historic notoriety by selling it through the LA-based auctioneers Nate D Sanders.

"There's just a lot of interest in Kennedy and anything to do with his assassination," said Laura Yntema, auction manager at the California-based company.

Her catalogue tells the item's colourful story, noting that it is made from discoloured pine and measures 80 inches long by 24 inches deep. The coffin was badly water-damaged.

Sanders says that the auction on 16 December will include, in a separate lot, a blood-stained piece of the actual leather car seat on which President Kennedy was sitting when he was killed.

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