It was around 9pm on one of rock music’s most infamous nights that 16-year-old Pauline Hallet heard a single piercing scream.
It was joined by a chorus of other cries and wails which ripped through the humid air 50 years ago this week.
Then, as a crescendo, came the screeching of departing cars, which had earlier crowded the grassy verges of the lane, followed by a cloak of silence, intensified by the thundery electricity in the air.
Pauline had been hanging from her bedroom window on July 2 1969, listening avidly to the exciting music crashing through the still atmosphere up the narrow country road.
A party was in full flight next door at Cotchford Farm, a party that had been going on in the east Sussex village since Rolling Stone Brian Jones bought the cottage formerly owned by Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne.
If anything, the partying had been harder since the group’s founder and guitarist had quit – or been sacked, depending on the teller of the tale – from the band a month beforehand.
That day, as the sun burned hotter and higher, so, it seemed, did the revellers.
They included Brian’s girlfriend, Swedish dancer Anna Wohlin, his minder, Tom Keylock, Keylock’s girlfriend, Janet Lawson, and a troop of builders led by Frank Thorogood, who had been renovating the house.
Their hedonistic voices spiralled to a frenzy as wine bottles emptied.
Pauline later told investigative journalist Terry Rawlings it was not until around midnight, three hours later, that the heavy silence was shattered again when the police finally, inexplicably late, arrived.
The news spread quickly – blond, beautiful guitarist Brian Jones, 27, was dead, found floating in his swimming pool.
Death by misadventure, the coroner ruled – “drowning under the influence of drink and drugs”.
But there was something about that night, something – many things – that just didn’t add up, according to investigators, journalists and authors like Terry.
He first wrote about the mystery in his 1994 book Brian Jones: Who Killed Christopher Robin? He is now involved in a TV documentary based on his findings.
Something about the nervousness of witnesses, the twitches, the fear when probed, even today, of saying anything out of line. Was this the accidental death of a troubled addict or, more bluntly, murder?
One person who wants an answer once and for all is Brian’s daughter, Barbara Marion.
Giving her first in-depth in-terview after visiting her father’s Cheltenham grave to mark the anniversary of his death, she admits she has now been convinced by numerous strands of evidence that the circumstances surrounding his death were sinister.
The 50-year-old says: “I carry a sense of unfinished business, I want an answer.
“I believe someone knows something. Someone has got away with murder.”
Her words are chilling but Barbara, a clinical hypnotist from Chicago, has become so convinced that the need for answers consumes her despite never knowing Brian. She is even unsure if he ever knew of her existence.
Her mother, a model she will only identify as Elizabeth, was visiting from America in 1968 and, despite being married, had a fling with the rock star.
Barbara was born in the US in 1969, five months before Brian’s death and wasn’t told the truth about her parent until she was 33.
Despite all this, she feels a “connection” to the dad she resembles so closely, and deeply “cares” about what happened. She says: “I have been cheated of a father. I want police to re-open this.”
So what of the official narrative of events at the time? The police were called around midnight, as Pauline’s account suggests, with the first officers arriving at 12.15am.
Just three guests were reported present – Thorogood, Wohlin, and Lawson.
They gave statements saying Brian had been drinking and Lawson adding he had been taking sleeping tablets, too. All three said they had been nowhere near the pool and seen nothing.
Thorogood was taken to hospital with an injured wrist but again nothing seems to have been made of that odd detail.
However, the jigsaw of evidence Terry and numerous others have gathered over the years, although far from conclusive, challenges the official version.
For one thing it places many more people at the party – as the teenage neighbour’s description suggests.
Even Det Chief Insp Bob Marshall, head of the investigation, admitted “six or so” friends were present.
Yet disturbingly, police never got to the bottom of a concrete number.
Terry is certain it was builder Thorogood who killed Brian, accidentally, during a row.
The gaffer and his team had been renovating the farm but were increasingly taking advantage of a vulnerable Brian, who had been cut adrift from the band he started – and even named. Bassist Bill Wyman once famously said: “No Jones, no Stones.”
Yet Brian’s caustic personality, combined with new manager Andrew Loog Oldham wanting Mick Jagger as the main man and then Keith Richards running off with Brian’s girlfriend Anita Pallenberg, saw him out of his own band.
He was paid off with £100,000 – almost £2million in today’s money – and £20,000 a year for the rest of the band’s life.
Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham described the guitarist’s life as becoming “more desperate for him day by day” due to substance abuse, paranoia, and rows.
Builder Thorogood and his team – who originally worked for Keith Richards but had been sacked – were reportedly taking liberties, even though Brian had paid them handsomely – £18,000 or £291,000 in today’s money, since the previous winter. He had had enough and that day had decided to stop their wages before sacking them, too.
Terry says Brian would have started drinking “white wine at midday as usual” and with the booze and heat the party became a “melting pot of tension”.
“I think it was a scuffle that went wrong,” he says – a theory which daughter Barbara also buys.
She says: “I don’t think it was planned but they were a rough bunch who tried to teach him a lesson.”
Speaking exclusively to the Mirror from her US home in Idaho, Brian’s ex-girlfriend Dawn Young, nee Molloy, also agrees with the theory.
She admits she never for a moment believed Brian drowned by accident.
Dawn, 73, says: “Brian was a strong swimmer and only had a pint of beer in his system according to the autopsy. I can’t see how it would happen without some kind of help.”
In 1965 the former hairdresser had a son, John, with Brian, who also never knew his dad.
Fifteen years ago he tried to get police to re-open the case.
Mum Dawn says: “It seemed weird to him, he wanted to know. Brian was going to start a new life, a new band, and then this happened.”
There are a number of later interviews that back this belief. Ten years ago, minder’s girlfriend Janet Lawson spoke out for the first time. She said she went to fetch an inhaler for Brian, and when she returned builder Frank Thorogood “came in a lather. His hands were shaking.
“He was in a terrible state…When I saw Brian on the bottom of the pool and was calling for help, Frank initially did nothing.”
Girlfriend Anna Wohlin too, also made the same revelation in her own later book on the subject. “I don’t know if Frank meant to kill Brian. Maybe it was horseplay in the pool that went wrong,” she said. “But I knew all along he did not die a natural death.”
Wohlin even alleges that the Stones’ management “knew I knew what really happened”.
Most damningly, Terry says he was approached by minder Tom Keylock before his death in 2009 and, in a recorded interview to be shown as part of the documentary, he finally admitted that he too, was at the scene at the time, saw Thorogood kill Brian and then made the snap decision to create the ruse of an accident.
The minder harboured resentments towards Brian – he had spent years cleaning up after his debauchery.
Terry believes “he witnessed the murder, he panicked, and covered it up, and then had to stick to it.”
He phoned the police hours after the incident so everyone could leave or get their stories straight. Helpful, possibly, was the fact his brother was a senior policeman.
Questions have been asked about Jones’ death since that night and Sussex Police have even reviewed their own investigation in 1984, 1994, and 2009.
Barbara has visited her father’s grave three times now. She also visited Cotchford Farm. “It was very peaceful,” she admits.
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