LONDON — Forty years after the body of Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones was found floating in his swimming pool, British police said Monday they are reviewing new evidence about his death turned over by an investigative journalist.
Though Jones’ 1969 drowning was ruled an accident linked to a drug and alcohol binge, friends and fans have long insisted the rock star was murdered, and reports have swirled of a death bed confession by a building contractor.
Sussex police in southeast England said they will examine new documents received from a journalist relating to Jones’ death. They have not yet decided whether to officially reopen the case.
“It’s too early to comment at this time as to what the outcome might be,” the Sussex duty inspector said, reading a statement over the telephone. Police did not give further details.
The Mail on Sunday reported that journalist Scott Jones — who is not related to the musician — has handed over 600 documents.
Jones, a founding member of the Rolling Stones, reportedly came up with the band’s name, taking it from a song title on a Muddy Waters album cover. Formed in 1962, the band branched out from blues covers to become pivotal in the so-called British Invasion, drawing fans attracted by their rebellious image and surly but sexy style.
“In the beginning, Brian Jones was the real catalyst for the Rolling Stones, the smart, handsome, multi-instrumentalist leader who the blues and galvanized the band,” Jasen Emmons, the director of curatorial affairs at Seattle’s Experience Music Project, said in an email.
But his role started to shrink “and his legendary substance abuse made him less reliable and desirable, although it didn’t hurt the Stones’ reputation as one of rock n’ roll’s most dangerous bands.”
Jones was eclipsed by swaggering lead singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards, whose songwriting propelled the band’s popularity. Increasingly marginalized and drawn to drugs and alcohol, Jones was convicted twice on narcotics charges, avoiding jail by promising to quit his habit.He quit the band a month before his death and was replaced by Mick Taylor.
He stood out even among his band mates for his flashy clothes and prodigious appetite for drugs. He died July 2, 1969 at age 27, his body found in the swimming pool at his 11-acre 4.5-hectare Sussex estate.
Two 1994 books claimed that Jones was murdered by a London builder who had been hired to help renovate Jones’ home: “Paint it Black: The Murder of Brian Jones,” by Geoffrey Giuliano and “Who Killed Christopher Robin?” by Terry Rawlings.
Both claimed that builder Frank Thorogood confessed on his deathbed in November 1993 to killing Jones.
“It was me that did Brian. I just finally snapped,” Thorogood reportedly said to road manager Tom Keylock, Rawlings’ book quoted Keylock as saying.
It was not clear why British police did not reopen an investigation after those books were published.
Scott Jones interviewed Janet Lawson, the person who discovered the guitarist’s body, shortly before she died last year. In the interview, published in The Mail on Sunday last November, Lawson claimed that Keylock, her boyfriend at the time, had asked her to visit Brian Jones because he was worried about tensions between Jones and Thorogood.
The night Jones died, official reports say there were three guests at his home at Cotchford Farm in Hartfield, east Sussex — Lawson, Thorogood, and Jones’s girlfriend Anna Wohlin. All three gave statements to police saying Jones had been drinking that evening. Lawson later told Scott Jones that the police had pressured her.
“The police were trying to put words into my mouth,” she is reported as saying.
She told Scott that the evening Jones died, they had all eaten in the early evening, and that Jones and Thorogood began fooling around in the swimming pool. She said a short while later Jones, who was by then in the pool alone, asked her to find her asthma inhaler.
“I went to look for it by the pool, in the music room, the reception room and then the kitchen,” she said. “Frank came 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.”
She told the journalist her original police statement did not mention any tensions between Jones and Thorogood, or the fact that Thorogood initially ignored her cries for help.
Keylock died in July 2009, according to the British newspaper, The Times.
Scott Jones also spoke to Bob Marshall, the chief investigating officer of the case. Marshall retired in 1974, but still occasionally responds to questions about the case. He told the reporter he still believed Jones’ death was “a tragic accident, a simple drowning.”
The title of Rawlings’ book, “Who Killed Christopher Robin?,” is a reference to Jones’ estate, which was formerly the home of the late A.A. Milne, author of “Winnie the Pooh,” which features the character Christopher Robin.
The Rolling Stones are one of the most influential and biggest-selling rock bands in the world, with album sales estimated at more than 200 million copies. The band’s long list of classic hits include “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” ”Street Fighting Man“ and ”You Can’t Always Get What You Want.“”
The band is now made up of Jagger, Richards, Ronnie Wood — who replaced Taylor in 1975 — and drummer Charlie Watts. Emails and phone calls to the groups’ publicists and record labels were unanswered.
The Stones topped Forbes’ rich list for music acts in 2007, earning some US$88 million between June 2006 and June 2007, mostly from their “Bigger Bang Tour.”