It started as a simple notion as to whether one of the most famous crimes in history could finally be solved. What it evolved into was something quite different and the end result led to a shocking conclusion.
The founding question that begin this journey was one that has been asked, but never truly answered, for half a century: what really happened that day nearly 50 years ago in Dallas when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated?
The quest to uncover the truth, no matter how shocking, compelled an Australian homicide detective to wander down an often self-destructive path that in the end led him to come forward with his own theory about what really happened to the 35th President on November 22, 1963.
To this end, ReelzChannel offers up “JFK: The Smoking Gun,” a documentary that sets out to prove that Lee Harvey Oswald did not fire the bullet that killed Kennedy that day.
Retired Australian homicide detective Colin McLaren, whose investigation is the focus of the ReelzChannel film, reveals his technique for uncovering his theory about a second shooter, and the identity of that second shooter is a shocker.
McLaren, using both modern technology and good old-fashion investigative skills, exposes evidence proving that the fatal bullet that struck President John F. Kennedy’s head, long thought to have been shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, was actually fired by Secret Service Agent George Hickey.
“JFK: The Smoking Gun” is based on a combination of solid ballistic and forensic evidence and actual witness statements from the scene of the shooting. The findings, developed during consecutive, multi-year investigations, present evidence indicating that the only plausible explanation for the shooting is that while Oswald certainly did fire at – and hit – the President and Gov. Connally, the bullet that struck Kennedy’s head came from an AR-15 rifle accidently fired by Hickey, who was riding atop the left-rear seat of the follow-up car immediately behind the presidential limousine.
After reading Bonar Menninger’s “Mortal Error: The Shot That Killed JFK,” McLaren embarked on his own four-year investigation building on the research conducted by ballistics expert Howard Donahue, who spent 20 years studying the available evidence from history’s most infamous and debated crime scene. Donahue concluded that while Lee Harvey Oswald was the actual assassin, a second gunman fired the fatal bullet into Kennedy’s head – and that the kill shot was an accident. There was never a conspiracy to kill Kennedy, Donahue determined, but there was a colossal cover-up.
McLaren isn’t some random theorist, having served in Australia’s most elite crime squads; he solved some of that country’s most horrendous crimes of the 1980s and 1990s as part of the 14,000-strong Victoria Police department. There he investigated, charged and jailed many underworld figures and served on four nationally important task forces into homicides and organized crime – the longest of any serving detective sergeant or team leader of his time. He sent Australia’s Mafia godfather and 10 others to jail after going undercover and leading the country’s largest covert operation. His expertise was (and is) “crime scene principles & procedures.” McLaren’s life and crime solving have inspired multiple documentaries, a movie and a TV series.
But for all of his credentials, McLaren could never have imagined just how immersed he’d become in this particular investigation.
“When I started this I natively thought that I would work for 12 months and then it would be ready,” reveals McLaren. “But, I quickly realized that it’s just too big and at that point I thought I might be in over my head.”
The project soon began to take a toll on McLaren. “After a year of working relentlessly, day in and day out, in my writing room trudging through thousands and thousands of pages of documents, I was sick of it. There were many days that I’d never started this. I became brooding and was convinced that I was getting nowhere.”
McLaren believes that it was his upbringing that prepared him for this kind of hard work. “I grew up in a very poor family. We moved 53 times by the time I was 16, so I developed this perseverance. When I commit to something, no matter what the task, I see it through and I really think there’s something to be admired about commitment. Whether it’s sports, politics or business, I admire that quality, so that’s what I strive for.”
Just when he was deep down in it and not sure how to keep his focus, something happened that led to a breakthrough moment for the McLaren..
“I found a ‘critical mass’ situation and once I found that I felt better about the whole thing,” the author explained.
McLaren is referring to his discovery that witnesses near the motorcade that day reported smelling gun powder from shots fired and some even recalled seeing George Hickey with a gun.
“The real turning point was I read about a woman who was a secretary in her late thirties who just happened to go out to see this passing parade and then after the shooting she’s hit by the smell of gun smoke. That was a real turning point for me. I thought, ‘Wait, you can’t smell gun smoke from someone who’s six stories up like Oswald was. So I decided to keep digging and I found there were others who said the same thing, many very adamant that they smelled gun smoke. First, it was that one woman, and then I found testimony from ten people and then it was up to 22 people – some smelled smoke, some saw smoke, some say they saw George Hickey and believe he fired. It’s just too many people saying these things to ignore. One person saying something can be dismissed as possibly unreliable, but to have more than ten becomes critical mass and that’s when I started to think it was solvable.”
Knowing that his allegations will only continue to feed the public consciousness that even half a century later believes in a massive government cover-up, McLaren offers his reasoning for why that happened. “A cover-up was necessary for several reasons,” theorizes McLaren, “It was the height of the cold war. The damage that the truth would have done to the nation was just too much. The Secret Service would have been a laughing stock. At the time, the Secret Service was under question by J. Edgar Hoover. He wanted to disband them and this would have assured that that happened. I can understand the need for the cover up and once you start something like that, you’re all in from the start. You can’t undo it.”
While McLaren understands the decisions that led to the cover-up, he speculates that had the truth been told immediately about what he says really happened the American public would have dealt with the reality of the situation in a positive manner, saying, “I really think that If they’d come out and explained what really happened, the country certainly would have been shocked, and rightfully so, but… they would have gotten over it.”
McLaren is not unaware that the introduction of his theory will cause uproar, much of which may be directed at him. “I’m ready to take whatever comes my way,” he says confidently. “I have an enormous amount of respect for Howard Donahue and the way he carried himself as he presented his findings. People were not kind to him and he died with no recognition of the work that he’d done. I’ve dedicated my book to him as I feel he deserves that. I’m sorry if people are upset, but this guy was right and he was maligned for speaking up. I know that I’m going to be maligned too and I’m ready for it, but I really want people to know that to malign me is to malign all of those witnesses on the ground at the scene. Those 22 people are good Americans who happened to be there that day and spoke up about what they felt and saw. They’re honest, decent people, so in essence you’re not really maligning me, you’re maligning those Americans. They’re the collective voice of the people.”
With his book and the documentary, McLaren offers yet another reason as to why he’s an ideal candidate to finally uncover the truth, saying, “Not being an American, I have a different perspective on this. I don’t carry any politics. I love the country and the people but I have no interest in all the machinations that this story has in it. I don’t carry the scars that I think Americans do. All I had was the burning desire to get to the bottom of this. I’m only interested in facts, exhibits and testimony. I came to this undertaking cleanly with no agenda other than to find the true and that’s exactly what I believe I’ve done.”
The thing that McLaren most wants people to know about his work is that, “The final result of this project is the story I’m telling, but it’s not my story, I’m just the messenger. This is the story of all of these witnesses, these good Americans who, for a variety of reasons, never got their voice heard. I think it’s high time that these people are heard and I think that’s something to be proud of. Some of them demanded to be heard and they were refused due to corruption or filtering of some sort. Finally, finally they’re being heard and I think that’s truly the most important thing in all of this.”
“JFK: The Smoking Gun” airs throughout November on the REELZChannel, including on Friday, November 22nd, the 50th anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy. For exact showtimes, please vist the REELZChannel website here.
For more information on Colin McLaren’s book, the documentary and the ReelzChannel, please visit this site.