The scene outside New York's spooky old Dakota apartment building on the evening of December 8, 1980, was as surreal as it was horrifying. John Lennon, probably the world's most famous rock star, lay still, suffering from four flat-tipped bullets blasted into his back. His wife Yoko Ono held his head in her arms and screamed.
A few yards away a pudgy young man stood still, peering down into a paperback book. Moments earlier he had dropped into a military firing stance - legs spread for maximum balance, two hands gripping his .38 revolver to steady his aim - and blown away the very best Beatle. Now he leafed lazily through the pages of a book.
The doorman at the apartment shouted at the shooter, Mark David Chapman, "Do you know what you've done?"
"I just shot John Lennon," Chapman replied, accurately enough.
"He walked past me and then I heard in my head, 'Do it, do it, do it,' over and over again, saying 'Do it, do it, do it,' like that," Chapman, preternaturally serene, recalled in a BBC documentary several years after going to prison.
"I don't remember aiming. I must have done, but I don't remember drawing a bead or whatever you call it. And I just pulled the trigger steady five times."
Chapman described his feeling at the time of the shooting as "no emotion, no anger dead silence in the brain."
His unnatural tone sounded all-too-familiar. British lawyer/journalist Fenton Bresler took it as a tip-off. Chapman was a brainwashed hit man carrying out someone else's contract.
"Mark David Chapman," writes Bresler, "is in many ways as much the victim of those who wanted to kill John Lennon as Lennon himself." ( www.jfkmontreal.com/john_lennon/lennon_report.htm)
Prosecutors, without a motive, stated: Chapman did it for the...