Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Mary Jo Kopechne
There was a documentary on BBC 2 the other night on the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. The documentary included a filmed interview with Rosemary Keough, the only person at the party who has broken their vow of silence. However, her testimony was only concerned about the moral behaviour of the women at the party. She denied that Mary Jo or any of the other women were sexually involved with the Kennedys. However, she refused to say anything about the party. This vow of silence is one of the most interesting aspects of the case. Why, after all these years, are these people still not talking about what happened at the party?
The documentary also included an interview with Kennedy’s close friend, Dun Gifford. He was also unwilling to talk in any detail about Chappaquiddick. However, using the testimony of Kennedy family pilot, Wilfred Rock, Gifford reluctantly agreed that he and Kennedy had lied about the timing of events that night. It has always been clear that the car went into the water at a different time than the one put forward by Kennedy.
There is one major problem with the timings provided by Kennedy. At about 12.45 Kennedy's stationary car was seen at the intersection on Dike Road near the bridge by Christopher ‘Huck' Look, deputy sheriff and part-time police officer. Look claims that a man was driving and that two other people were in the car. Look approached the car on foot but when the driver saw his police uniform the car then sped off down Dike Road . The car had a Massachusetts registration letter L. It also had a 7 at the beginning and at the end. Only eight other cars of this type had this number plate. They were all later checked out. Kennedy's car was the only one with that number plate that was on the island that night.
Christopher ‘Huck' Look appears to be a convincing witness. There seems to be no reason why he should lie about what he saw on the morning of the 19th July, 1969. Therefore we have the situation where Edward Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne left the Lawrence Cottage at around 11.15 p.m. For some reason Kennedy returns to the cottage at 12.20 a.m. However, it is not to report the accident as at this stage the car has not yet had the accident on Dike Bridge.
The most interesting aspect of the documentary concerned the re-enactment of the car accident that killed Mary Jo Kopechne. Car accident investigators unanimously agreed that Edward Kennedy’s testimony was clearly false. In fact, they argued persuasively that Kennedy would have been unable to escape from the car if it had crashed into the water in that way. They concluded that Kopechne was driving the car when it went off the bridge and that she was alone as no one else could have escaped from the vehicle.
Jim Arena, the Edgartown Chief of Police, claimed on camera that his investigation showed that Kennedy was not in the car when it went into the water. Lieutenant George Killen has already gone on record as saying something similar. He interviewed two friends of Kennedy, Ross Richards and Stan Moore, who met with him in his hotel just before 8 o'clock. They reported that he appeared to be acting in a relaxed way and did not appear to be under any stress. Soon afterwards, Paul Markham and Joe Gargan arrived at the hotel. According to Richards they were “soaking wet”. It was while talking to Markham and Gargan that Kennedy became visibly upset. Killen, who interviewed all those people who had contact with Kennedy that morning in the hotel, became convinced that it was at this stage that Kennedy first discovered that Mary Jo Kopechne was dead. Ross Richards also agreed with this analysis.
The solution to this puzzle in the documentary was very unconvincing. They used the theory of Lieutenant Bernie Flynn. He said: “Ted Kennedy wasn't in the car when it went off the bridge. He would never have gotten out alive.” Flynn was convinced that Kennedy had intended to have sex with Mary Jo in the car. He was drunk (evidence suppressed in court showed that Kennedy had consumed a great deal of alcohol that day). When Look approached Kennedy's car, he feared he would be arrested. Therefore he sped off into the darkness. Afraid that Look would catch him up he gets out of the car and persuades Mary Jo to drive off (she herself has consumed a fair amount of alcohol. Kennedy then walks back to the cottage. When Mary Jo does not return Kennedy becomes convinced she has had an accident. Kennedy then goes back to his hotel leaving Markham and Gargan to search for Mary Jo. It is not until the next morning they discover what has happened. They then go to Kennedy's hotel to tell him the news. This fits Lieutenant George Killen idea that Kennedy did not know about the accident until the morning meeting with Markham and Gargan.
I agree with part of Flynn’s theory. Especially, the part that claims that Kennedy did not find out about the accident until the following morning. However, if he had left the car because he was drunk, why didn’t admit to doing this when interviewed by the police? It would have been far less hurtful to his career than to admit that he left the scene of the accident without reporting it, therefore guaranteeing her death.
My own theory of what happened that night at Chappaquiddick includes the following: Mary Jo Kopechne worked as a secretary for George Smathers in 1963. She also shared an apartment with Nancy Carole Tyler, who worked for Bobby Baker. As a result, I suspect she had important information about the assassination of JFK. Like Grant Stockdale (Smathers’ business partner) she probably passed this information onto Robert and Edward Kennedy. However, for some reason, Robert did not do anything with this information and publicly claimed he agreed with the Warren Commission. Maybe the Kennedys told Mary Jo that they were biding their time. As I have said before, I think that the real motive was that they were trying to protect the reputation of the Kennedys. Robert no doubt thought that if he remained quiet he would become president in 1968. After gaining power he would then be in a safe position to reveal details about Operation Freedom. What we do know is that Mary Jo becomes Robert’s secretary after the assassination of JFK. Maybe this was done to keep an eye on her. He does not want her to talk about what she knows.
Robert Kennedy looks like he is going to become president until he is murdered on 4th June, 1968. Mary Jo now sees no reason for holding back this information. Edward Kennedy disagrees. Why? What do these people have on the Kennedys? Is Edward still playing the long game? He still believes the best way of becoming president is not to reveal this information. Does he tell the people responsible for the assassinations that he has taken out an insurance policy. That all the information the Kennedys have will be published if he is also murdered. Maybe a deal is done. Edward Kennedy will be allowed to become president in 1972 if he keeps quiet about what he knows about the deaths of his two brothers. In this way the reputations of his two brothers will remain untarnished.
If that is the case, Mary Jo has to be kept from talking. Edward is told to arrange a meeting with Mary Jo. Edward believes the idea is for Mary Jo to be frightened into not talking. However, the conspirators see it as an opportunity to prevent Edward from ever becoming president.
Edward leaves the party with Mary Jo and takes her by car to a place where she is to be “frightened”. Edward is then taken by boat to his hotel in Edgartown.
The conspirators then murder Mary Jo (drugged and then drowned). The car is driven at speed towards Dyke Road Bridge to provide the tyre markings that will implicate Kennedy in her death. Mary Jo is then placed in the passenger seat and the car which is then pushed off the Dyke Road Bridge.
This helps to explain Edward’s behaviour following the accident. In fact he does not know that Mary Jo is dead until he arrives back on Chappaquiddick Island the next morning. Edward Kennedy is allowed to live but will now never become president. Edward cannot tell now what he knows without disclosing his own role in the cover-up of JFK’s assassination and the death of Mary Jo. The best option for Edward is to go along with the story that he was driving the car.