Police may reopen 36-year-old case after
nightclub boss claims rock star was killed by heroin overdose
and that drug dealers launched cover-up by moving body
For more than three decades it has
remained one of rock music's most tantalising mysteries.
Why did Jim Morrison, legendary lead singer
of The Doors, suddenly collapse and die in his Paris apartment,
aged only 27?
The official death certificate states he died
in the bath of "natural causes".
But now, in an exclusive interview with The
Mail on Sunday, a former close friend of the singer says he
knows the truth.
According to Sam Bernett, Morrison died of a
massive heroin overdose in the toilet of a nightclub he was
managing, the Rock 'n' Roll Circus on the French capital's
fabled Left Bank.
Bernett, 62, a French-born former New York
Times journalist, claims the death was then covered up by two
drug dealers who transferred Morrison's body from the club to
the singer's apartment and dumped it in the bath.
Bernett was then warned by the club's owners
never to tell anybody about what he had seen.
This extraordinary testament is contained in
Bernett's forthcoming book "The End - Jim Morrison" soon to be
published in France.
The allegations are being taken so seriously
that they are being examined by the French authorities and may
lead to the investigation into Morrison's death being reopened.
Jim Morrison first arrived in Paris in March
1971. One of the most widely-recognised stars in the world,
thanks to hits such as Break on Through and Light My Fire, he
had just finished recording what was to become The Door's most
popular album, LA Woman.
He lived a notoriously wild life, abusing
both alcohol and drugs, and soon became a regular at the Rock
'n' Roll Circus, a club frequented by the Beatles, Rolling
Stones, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.
It also played host to trapeze artists and,
on one memorable occasion, a live tiger and monkeys from a
In the early hours of 3 July 1971, the
underground disco was heaving with 500 revellers, including
24-year-old British siren Marianne Faithfull who had recently
split up with Mick Jagger. Morrison, who was living in Paris
with his girlfriend Pamela Courson, arrived at about 1am.
"I greeted Jim as I always did," recalled
Bernett from his home in Paris.
"He didn't look in great form, and
immediately went to his usual spot at the bar and ordered a
bottle of vodka. He was also drinking beers.
"I was used to talking about everything with
him - from Janice Joplin to the beatniks - but that night it was
just a bit of small talk.
"He'd come in to pick up heroin for Pam. He
was always collecting drugs for her and the club was full of
According to Bernett, Morrison bought the
heroin from two men working for Jean de Breteuil, a French
playboy and drug dealer.
"The dealers who Jim was talking to were well
known," said Bernett.
"Both were French guys in their 20s. I knew
what they were up to, and kept an eye out for Jim. He
disappeared to the toilets at around 2am.
"Then, about half an hour later, a cloakroom
attendant came up to me and told me someone was locked in one of
the cubicles and wasn't coming out. It was then that I got a
bouncer to smash the door down.'
Bernett was met by the sight of Morrison's
body, slumped on the toilet.
In his book, he writes: "I recognised the US
Army combat jacket and the riding boots from the Camargue region
of France which he never took off. It was Jim Morrison, with his
head between his knees, his arms dangling.
"For a few seconds our eyes were glued to the
unmoving corpse. We were mesmerised by the baffling spectacle.
"The flamboyant singer of The Doors, the cool
and good-looking Californian guy, was now a collapsed and inert
lump lying in a nightclub toilet.
"Seeing Jim in such a bad way was pretty
awful. We were certain he'd been snorting heroin because there
was foam coming out of his lips as well as blood. He was scared
of needles so never injected drugs. He just snorted them."
Bernett's first reaction was to send for one
of his regular customers, a doctor. The medic, who Bernett
refuses to name, "recognised Morrison but kept his cool. Very
calmly, and expertly, he examined the body for a few seconds.
"He pushed Jim's head back, lifted his
eyelids, opened his mouth, and fixed his ear to his chest to
listen to his heartbeat. He looked for marks and bruises on the
body and the arms.
"It was a quick and professional examination.
His diagnosis was very confident: 'This man is dead. Apparently
the victim of a cardiac arrest.' The doctor was not stupid and
spoke of a lethal overdose."
In the meantime, Morrison's two "friends"
from the bar who had sold him the heroin had arrived. Ignoring
the doctor's verdict, they insisted the singer 'had just
fainted' and they would take care of him.
Then, according to Bernett, they lifted
Morrison's body out of the toilets and along a corridor that
linked the Circus with Alcazar, the club next door which still
That was the last Bernett saw of the body
but, from Alcazar, he says it would have been easy to place
Morrison in a car or van waiting in the small side street
outside, and then take the body to the singer's apartment across
the river in Rue Beautreillis.
Minutes after the tragedy, a representative
of the club's owner - a well-connected Paris businessman called
Paul Pacini still alive, we are trying to get a comment from
him] - warned Bernett not to tell anyone what had happened.
Bernett says: "I was told, "Since Morrison's
friends want to take him with them, we have nothing more to do
with this story.
"The club has no responsibility for what
happens here. It was a sad accident, certainly, but that's fate.
So we saw nothing, we heard nothing, we shut up! OK? It's what
we better do to avoid a scandal."
Bernett adds that he saw little point in
calling the emergency services, as he was convinced Morrison was
already dead and nothing could be done for him.
And he says anyone else in the club that
night who had an inkling of what went on - including Marianne
Faithfull - was also sworn to secrecy.
Incredibly, after Morrison's body was found
in his apartment, no proper investigation into his death was
Pamela Courson, Morrison's girlfriend since
they were at university together in Los Angeles, swore on oath
that her lover had been alive and well the night before.
She told police they had been to the cinema
together and then returned home at 1am - the time Bernett claims
Morrison was arriving at The Circus - where she did the washing
up and he watched a film, before they retired to bed to listen
Then, in the middle of the night, Morrison
had woken up coughing and she had watched him leave the room to
take a bath "and relax".
Max Vassille, a compliant French doctor, was
happy to write off Morrison's demise as "death from natural
causes", pointing out that the singer had been suffering from a
serious stomach ulcer and asthma attacks after moving from
America earlier in the year.
He ruled that no autopsy was required, as
there was "no evidence of foul play".
Vassille and Pamela Courson have both since
Morrison's official death report, still filed
at Paris town hall, has been used ever since to quash countless
conspiracy theories ranging from security agency plots to
theories that Morrison faked his own death to escape the
trappings of fame.
As for Marianne Faithfull, Bernett says she
and Jean de Breteuil left Paris for Morocco the moment they
heard about Morrison's death.
"De Breteuil was Pam's dealer, and had
supplied the heroin on the night," said Bernett.
"He and Marianne immediately packed their
bags and headed for Casablanca, where De Breteuil had relatives.
They didn't want to hang about.
"Marianne never mentioned Jim again. She
won't talk about what happened in the club to this day."
The Mail on Sunday contacted Marianne
Faithfull but she was unavailable for comment. De Breteuil died
of an overdose not long after Morrison.
Bernett, a former journalist who now presents
programmes on French national radio, says he has finally decided
to break his silence despite risking prosecution for covering up
the death in his club.
"I was 26 in 1971," he said. "Today, I'm past
60, and want to get rid of my heavy load. At least everything is
now out there to be discussed. I've said what I have to say."
According to French law, criminal cases
cannot be reopened after 20 years have lapsed. However, civil
law - as well as international law - may provide an opportunity
for investigators to re-open the case.
A spokesman for France's Police National
said: "The new evidence will have to be considered.
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