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JFK snippets still tantalise

(First Edition)

WASHINGTON - Reporters and investigators are beginning to emerge from the stack of newly released Kennedy assassination papers with tantalising, but contradictory, snippets of information about what Americans continue to call the crime of the century, writes Phil Reeves.

Three days after the National Archives in Washington released hundreds of thousands of pages of assassination-related material, several trophies have emerged from the pile. The first is a CIA memo about the state of mind of Lee Harvey Oswald, which suggests he was the deeply-disturbed lone killer of the president. The second is a dodgy looking letter, purportedly from a Cuban, which indicates the exact opposite - that he was a paid-up player in an international plot.

The memo was written by Arthur Dooley, a CIA agent, in March 1964, four months after President Kennedy was killed. It says: 'It is abundantly clear from all the materials reviewed that Lee Oswald was psychiatrically disturbed from his earliest youth. All available evidence points to a solitary act of a mentally unstable person.'

Agent Dooley indicates that he has seen transcripts of a psychiatrist's examination of Oswald, held when the alleged assassin was 13 years old. 'That he had a compulsive urge to kill people at times showed its beginnings in the aforementioned psychiatric reports in which he acknowledged fantasies about being all-powerful and being able to do anything he wanted,' Mr Dooley writes.

The letter was written in Spanish to 'Friend Lee', signed by a 'Pedro Charles', and contains a cloak-and-dagger text that will cause conspiracy theorists to salivate. 'You ought to close the business as soon as possible, like I told you before in Miami. Do not be foolish with the money I gave you . . . After the affair I am going to recommend much to the chief.' The writer claims he admiringly informed the chief that Oswald 'could put out a candle at 50 metres'.

The missive's postmark is from Havana, Cuba, but is dated six days after the assassination - prompting the CIA to treat it with considerable scepticism. The agency may, however, have been its author. Gaeton Fonzi, a staff member of two congressional investigations into the Kennedy assassination, said it was probably connected to an elaborate disinformation campaign directed by 'assets' of the CIA and designed to discredit Fidel Castro.