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Why I'm convinced the Mob killed my soulmate Elvis
By Suzanna Leigh
Last updated at 2:13 AM on 30th September 2011
Sixties starlet Suzanna Leigh dated Richard Harris, Steve McQueen and Michael Caine. But it was her friendship with Elvis Presley, with whom she starred in the 1966 film Paradise, Hawaiian Style, that still dominates her life. For years, she’s been plagued by doubts about his death. Here, she describes how her investigations led to a shocking conclusion . . .
As soon as I saw photos of the aftermath of Elvis’s death, alarm bells went off in my head.
There was a picture of a woman, who was close to Elvis, standing in the doorway at Graceland in the middle of the night, just hours after his death. She looked immaculate, her make-up perfect.
What was wrong with this? Well, if the love of my life had just been found dead, I would have looked like the Witch of Endor, mascara streaming down my face.
Mob connection? Elvis Presley had been part of one of the largest FBI investigations of the Seventies, codenamed Fountain Pen
Although we were only ever friends, I had been in love with Elvis since I was 11. My dreams of meeting him came true when I was cast in Paradise, Hawaiian Style. We bonded immediately and became true soulmates.
Elvis, who was very religious, loved my stories about my English convent school. The first time he took my hand was on set. We only kissed twice but there was the promise of many more intimacies to come. We remained friends throughout my passionate affair with Richard Harris, and wanted to make another movie together — but it was never to be.
Colonel Tom Parker never liked our friendship, mainly because I was introducing him to actors like Richard Harris. Elvis wanted to be a real actor, but Colonel Parker only looked for easy money.
I was asleep in London when Elvis died — having returned to Britain in the Seventies. In the years that followed, I continued my career in England. Then, in 2003, I put my connection with Elvis to use by going to work as a VIP tour guide at Graceland.
It was there that I first heard rumours from people on the estate that Elvis had been murdered. And when I went to the library to find out more, I discovered that many reputable people believed his death — from apparent heart failure, compounded by drug abuse — was not straightforward.
The King and I: Paradise Hawaiian style (1965) Starred Elvis Presley and Suzanna Leigh
One book pointed the finger at Elvis’s doctor, ‘Nick’ Nichopoulos, who prescribed scores of pills for his hypochondriac patient, although it’s hard to believe he would kill his paymaster.
The most interesting theory was by British journalist John Parker, who claimed there was a Mafia connection.
Then there’s the fact that the post-mortem report will not be available until 2027. Why would the Federal Bureau of Investigation lock documents away if there was nothing to hide?
I soon learned Elvis had in fact been part of one of the largest FBI investigations of the Seventies, codenamed Fountain Pen. Apparently, he had been the innocent victim in a Mafia fraud case involving billions of dollars.
Scores of federal agents worldwide had investigated it, and Elvis was due to give evidence. The FBI was meant to be protecting Elvis when he died.
Despite this, Elvis’s death has never been officially investigated.
The first person I talked to as I tried to understand more about the mystery was Beecher Smith, who had been Elvis’s lawyer.
He told me that as part of the investigation, Elvis and his father were supposed to appear in front of a federal grand jury on August 16, 1977 — the day Elvis died.
My next port of call was George Klein, who had been at school with Elvis. He told me that just before his death, Elvis, who was a mess because of his hectic workload, had decided to take a year off and had sacked half his staff, including Colonel Parker.
When he sacked his band, tempers were running so high that they brought out a salacious book about him just two weeks before he died. It all got so nasty that Elvis was forced to employ a team of security people who were all ex-cops, headed by Dick Grob, a former police sergeant.
George told me Elvis was so serious about giving up work that he had rented a house in Hawaii and planned to get fit again.
To find out more, I went to see Grob. Though upset when talking about it all, he confirmed that Vernon, Elvis’s father, always believed his son was murdered.
When Elvis died, Grob had launched his own investigation, questioning everyone in the house as to where they were that night, and logging every call.
He claims records show someone phoned a newspaper from Graceland at 1am to alert them that there was a big story coming out that night — an hour before emergency services were called.
Then he made a truly extraordinary allegation. ‘Elvis died of a massive codeine overdose,’ he told me. ‘It doesn’t matter what other things they say he died of — that is what he really died of.’
I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I knew Elvis was allergic to codeine, an opiate painkiller. Could someone have tricked him into ingesting it?
Grob explained that the madness on the night Elvis died meant that nothing was properly investigated. ‘There was pandemonium in the streets, with distraught fans and journalists arriving from all over the world,’ he said. ‘There were about 200,000 people outside the gate.
‘If the police had said they suspected Elvis had been murdered, there would have been a lynching. The police tried to get a handle on things, but so much stuff was walking out the door. A lot of things disappeared that night and were sold later.
‘Someone even washed the carpet where Elvis had fallen. Imagine that — cleaning up before the police arrived? It could only have been someone really close to Elvis that could have ordered that.’
George Klein had told me that many suspicions were focused on Colonel Parker. Beecher Smith, meanwhile, said Parker had a lot to gain from Elvis’s death — only a day after the death, he had persuaded the singer’s father to sign over to him 50 per cent of The King’s posthumous earnings.
The news about Colonel Parker didn’t surprise me. I had never liked him. Yet though there were a lot of incentives for him to dispatch his protege, he wasn’t there that fateful night.
So how did Elvis die?
In Dick Grob’s opinion, it was organised by the Mob. He told me they did not want Elvis or his father to appear in court because of all the media interest it would create, so they must have got someone inside the house. ‘That’s what Vernon believed all along,’ said Dick. ‘Someone from inside let the killer into the house.’
This was explosive stuff, and I suspected I was on the right track because odd things started happening to me. First, a wheel fell off my truck while I was driving.
If I had been going faster, I could have been killed. A mechanic I saw afterwards said the nuts on the other wheels were also about to come off. Somebody had been messing with them.
Then, one night as I was walking my dog, I stood like a rabbit in the headlights while a young black girl, not more than 20, stuck her arm out of the window of a passing car and fired at least five very loud shots from a handgun, which hit some trees above me.
On another occasion, someone broke into my car, then someone tried to break into my house and stabbed one of my other dogs.
To this day, I suspect someone wanted me out of the way. I didn’t wait to find out who before I left town.
I know people will find it hard to believe these claims, but I knew the real Elvis, and after what’s happened to me I’m more convinced than ever that we are a long way from discovering the full truth about his death.
Adapted by Glenys Roberts from The Flip Side Of Paradise, a forthcoming book. © 2011 Suzanna Leigh