Behind One of the Last Photos of John Lennon Signing an Autograph for His Killer

On December 8, 1980, the world was shocked to hear that one of the most famous rock stars in the world, John Lennon, had been shot. It seemed nearly unbelievable. How could such a central figure fall victim to something like this?

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Unfortunately, a 25-year-old Mark David Chapman, had a volatile reaction to Lennon’s fame. For whatever psychological reason, Chapman felt Lennon’s ever-rising star was in direct competition with his own public obscurity. On that day in 1980, he decided to turn his injurious thoughts into action.

Chapman flew from Hawaii to New York to carry out his plan. A few hours prior to shooting Lennon five times in the back, Chapman asked the former Beatle to sign an album for him.

[RELATED: 3 Songs You Didn’t Know John Lennon and Yoko Ono Wrote Together]

“He was very kind to me,” Chapman explained at a parole hearing. “Ironically, very kind, and he was patient with me. The limousine was waiting, his wife was waiting in the limousine, and he took his time with me and he got the pen going and he signed my album. He asked me if I needed anything else. I said No. No, sir, and he walked away. Very cordial and very decent man.

“There was an inner struggle for a while there, you know, what am I doing here,” he continued. “I did try to tell myself to leave, but I was so compelled to commit that murder that nothing would have dragged me away from that building.”

Chapman didn’t try to flee the scene and later pleaded guilty to the crime. Years down the line, he would express remorse for the act, but no admission of guilt could prompt Beatles fans to forgive Chapman.

While the police worked behind the scenes, the public would get their first glimpse of Chapman through a photo taken by an amateur photographer/long-time Beatles fan, Paul Goresh. The innocuous photo would soon be a valuable piece of information in Lennon’s assassination.

Goresh heard on the news that the shooting suspect may have been from Hawaii. Having captured photos of Lennon while signing photographs earlier in the day—and presumably having met Chapman or at least gleaned some information about him—Goresh immediately called the police.

“I was shocked and then I’m saying to myself, ‘Who did this,'” Goresh said in the documentary, The Day John Lennon Died. “Then, all of the sudden they said, ‘We’re getting some information that the man who killed him may have come all the way from Hawaii.’ When they said that I immediately realized who it was.

“You can’t imagine the disgust and anger,” he continued. “Then it struck me that I might have a picture of him. So, I called the New York City police and told them I had a picture of him and the killer and they hung up on me. So I called The New York Daily News.”

The outlet was intrigued but needed more information before running the photo. A reporter stationed at the hospital was trying to sneak a glimpse of Chapman (who was covered up with a trench coat). At the last second, they saw a scarf peaking out of the covering that matched the one in Goresh’s photo.

The photo was splashed across the front page, keying the rest of the world into who shot Lennon.

“It’s so mind-boggling,” Goresh added. “It’s so senseless, but it achieved what that piece of garbage wanted to achieve. By doing that he linked himself to John forever.”

Check out the eerie photo, below.

Photo by Harry Benson/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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