Ben Hoyle, Arts Correspondent
July 20, 2009
The doctor who attempted to revive Jimi Hendrix on the night that the
guitarist died believes that it is "plausible" that he was murdered.
John Bannister said that medical evidence was consistent with claims
in a book that Hendrix was killed on the orders of his manager, Mike Jeffery.
James "Tappy" Wright, a former road manager who worked for Jeffery,
writes in his new memoir, Rock Roadie, that in the early hours of
September 18, 1970, a gang hired by Jeffery broke into the London
hotel room where Hendrix was staying with his girlfriend, Monika
Dannemann, and forced sleeping pills and wine down his throat until
Mr Bannister was the on-call registrar at the now defunct St Mary
Abbots Hospital in Kensington on the morning that Hendrix was brought
in. He had no idea who the famous patient was but remembers that he
was "very long". Mr Bannister, 67, speaking at his home in Sydney,
said: "He was hanging over the table we had him on by about ten inches."
It was apparent from the start that Hendrix had probably arrived too
late for the medical staff to save him. "When you are in casualty,
one always tries very hard to resuscitate people. There's always a
hope. We worked very hard for about half an hour but there was no
response at all. It really was an exercise in futility," said Mr
Bannister. "Somebody said to me 'You know who that was?. That was
Jimi Hendrix' and, of course, I said, 'Who's Jimi Hendrix?'."
Mr Wright's description of what had happened to Hendrix "sounded
plausible because of the volume of wine", Mr Bannister said. What
struck him most about the unusually tall patient was that he was
drenched in alcohol. "The amount of wine that was over him was just
extraordinary. Not only was it saturated right through his hair and
shirt but his lungs and stomach were absolutely full of wine. I have
never seen so much wine. We had a sucker that you put down into his
trachea, the entrance to his lungs and to the whole of the back of his throat.
"We kept sucking him out and it kept surging and surging. He had
already vomited up masses of red wine and I would have thought there
was half a bottle of wine in his hair. He had really drowned in a
massive amount of red wine." According to the conventional account,
Hendrix one of the most charismatic guitarists in the history of
rock died at the age of 27 from choking on vomit after a drugs
overdose. Wright, now 65, has stirred conspiracy theorists and
Hendrix obsessives around the world with his alternative account of
the guitarist's demise. He claims that Jeffery confessed the murder
to him a month before he died in an aircraft collision.
Dannemann, an ice-skating instructor-turned-drug addict, who many
people suspected knew more about Hendrix's death than she let on,
committed suicide in 1996.
Wright contends that Jeffery, his old boss, was "a dangerous man" who
had been in the Secret Service and flaunted his connections with
organised crime. By 1970 he was heavily in debt and had fallen out
with his star act who may have been looking to change management and
whose behaviour had become increasingly erratic as his drug taking
reached uncontrolled levels.
In response Jeffery allegedly took out a $2 million life insurance
policy on the guitarist. According to Wright, Jeffery told him that
Hendrix was "worth more to him dead than alive".
Mr Bannister returned to Australia in 1972 and practised as an
orthopaedic surgeon until 1992, when he was deregistered in New South
Wales for fraudulent conduct.