Could new book 'Bombshell: The Night Bobby Kennedy Killed Marilyn Monroe' written by Lavenham's Douglas Thompson and LA detective Mike Rothmiller reveal truth about death of iconic actress?
It is the fourth of August 1962. The world’s most dazzling and desirable movie star is embroiled in a furious row with her lover - in turn one of the most powerful men in America.
That night she is found dead sprawled naked on her bed. An overdose of sedatives, either suicide or accidental, is the official verdict.
The death of Marilyn Monroe sends shockwaves around the world. Years later another theory surfaces ... that she was murdered.
To one man that came to be the inescapable conclusion. Now after staying silent for 40 years - surviving a near-fatal assassination attempt along the way - he has made his evidence public after seeking out a Suffolk-based writer to help him tell his story.
Ex-detective Mike Rothmiller has long believed he has proof the star - whose lovers included US President John F Kennedy and his brother Bobby - was killed, and the murder covered up by the Los Angeles Police Department.
His bombshell conclusion is that Marilyn was poisoned by Bobby Kennedy, at the time the US Attorney General.
It is based on secret police files, the actress’s diary, and interviews including an astonishing confession from actor Peter Lawford - the Kennedys’ brother-in-law who was there on the night she died.
Marilyn, her diary reveals, was enraged that the Kennedys were treating her “like a whore” and was threatening to spill the beans.
Was she killed to silence her and save the country’s political royalty from embarrassment?
Mike Rothmiller is no ordinary ex-detective. He went on to a highly distinguished career in law enforcement as an adviser to the US government conceiving and directing global intelligence operations targeting crime groups, terrorism and political corruption.
He is also the writer of 23 bestselling non-fiction books, a Pulitzer Prize nominee for a book on American presidents, and has been a TV reporter and host.
When the Monroe murder story broke in 1975 Douglas Thompson was American West Coast correspondent for the Daily Mail.
It was a massive story. The journalist and author has been intrigued by Marilyn’s fate ever since and carried on investigating long after the initial sensation had died down.
“For me as a Fleet Street correspondent the revelation, published not much more than a dozen years after Marilyn Monroe’s death, was tomorrow’s big headline,” says Douglas, who has lived for more than 10 years with his wife Lesley in Lavenham.
“For Mike Rothmiller, who had been an officer with the LAPD for three years, it was more proof Hollywood’s most marketable and dazzling star was killed, an act covered-up by the people he worked for.
“The article provoked a reluctant, media-driven internal police investigation which, once again, concluded her death was suicide. In time, Mike Rothmiller knew that the official conclusion was, once again, absurd.”
Unknown to each other the journalist and the detective, both haunted by the story, continued to add to their separate dossiers - Douglas by speaking to dozens of stars who had worked with or knew Marilyn, and Mike with landmark official and unofficial interviews.
Mike began piecing together the evidence when he was assigned to the LAPD’s Organised Crime Intelligence Division (OCID).
Because he was young he was put on desk duties in the department’s information store and found himself working alone in a windowless building crammed with cabinets full of tens of thousands of confidential files.
It was incendiary stuff. The secrets of the rich and famous, mobsters and stars, stashed away for future reference.
“He realised he was among all the files on people like Marilyn Monroe and Kennedy, details on which stars were homosexual, the kind of thing that could have been used for blackmail,” said Douglas.
“He wasn’t able to photocopy anything so he just took notes. By seeing everything and writing everything down Mike came to understand that Marilyn had been murdered, and started to investigate it. He put it all together and investigated the cover up.”
Peter Lawford was a go-between for the Kennedys and Marilyn. A few months before her death he arranged for her to appear at a televised gala to celebrate JFK’s birthday.
Shimmying into the spotlight in a flesh-coloured skin-tight glittering gown she half-sang, half-breathed her now legendary version of “happy birthday Mr President” witnessed by thousands of guests and a huge TV audience.
The overtly sexy performance was a step too far. A few days later Lawford made a devastating call to tell her she was being cut off and must never try to contact the President again. Her relationship with Bobby, though, continued.
In her diary, Mike read the words: “Bobby is gentle. He listens to me. He’s nicer than John. Bobby loves me and wants to marry me. John hasn’t called. Bobby called. He’s coming to California. He wants to see me.”
But the relationship was not all roses. Fred Otash, who Mike interviewed, was a private eye who wire-tapped almost everyone in the Hollywood-Washington circle.
His bugged conversations captured angry exchanges between them, usually because Bobby had broken an arrangement to meet.
Various sources have shown that Bobby Kennedy was in Los Angeles on the day Marilyn died, although he and those around him swore he was not.
One of Marilyn’s last diary entries reads: “Peter says Robert will come tomorrow.” Soon afterwards she was dead.
On a visit to the Playboy Mansion in 1982 fate threw Mike a stroke of luck. He saw Peter Lawford slumped drunkenly in front of a TV set.
Seizing his chance the detective wrote “call me” on the back of his business card and slipped it into Lawford’s shirt pocket.
A week later the actor called and after being told Mike was investigating Marilyn’s death they arranged to meet in a park.
Wary, and suspecting Mike was with the CIA, he at first stuck to his original story that Marilyn called him the day she died.
Lawford said she sounded low and woozy, and asked him to say goodbye to the President for her and “goodbye to yourself because you’re a nice guy”.
He claimed he called the emergency services but when they got to her home she was already dead.
Mike bluffed he knew that was not true because the LAPD had bugged Lawford’s home. It worked.
Gradually a very different story came pouring up. Lawford and Bobby Kennedy had gone to Marilyn’s home that afternoon where a row flared up and Kennedy tried unsuccessfully to make her hand over her diary.
That evening, they returned. After another angry confrontation Marilyn was weeping on the sofa and Kennedy fetched her a glass of water.
Lawford saw him put something in the glass before giving it to her. He asked what it was. “Nothing,” Kennedy snapped.
Assuming it was a sedative, Lawford encouraged her to drink. Almost immediately she began losing consciousness. Within minutes she had stopped breathing.
There was a knock at the door. Two men came in. Kennedy exchanged glances with them, steered Lawford out of the house and told him to drive him to the airport.
Later, when investigators arrived, Marilyn’s body had been undressed and moved from the sofa onto her bed.
Telling the story took a heavy toll on Lawford. “His trembling hands wiped away the tears trickling down his cheeks,” Mike writes.
“During my years of interviewing victims and interrogating suspects I had only seen this type of response a few times. It was clear he had been carrying the burden of guilt for many years.”
“Do you think John and Bobby wanted her dead?” Mike asked. “He stared straight ahead and whispered: ‘Yes.’”
Weeks later Mike was targeted by a gunman on a motorbike who pulled up beside his unmarked car and opened fire with an automatic pistol. He was critically injured but survived.
In 2018, he sought out Douglas - whose 30-plus books include ‘The Dark Heart of Hollywood’ about how the Mafia operated in Tinseltown - and asked him to collaborate on a book.
Together they produced ‘Bombshell: The Night Bobby Kennedy Killed Marilyn Monroe’ which has just been published.
Douglas has no doubts of Mike Rothmiller’s credibility, or any fears that his claims are exaggerated because the ex-detective has always refused to speculate on what only “might” have happened.
“Mike sticks only to what he knows for certain. He believes that if this evidence went to court he would get a conviction,” he said.
Most of the key players in the mystery are now dead. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in 1968. Peter Lawford died in 1984, his body wrecked by substance abuse.
The LAPD police chiefs in charge at the time of Marilyn’s death are also gone as is Jack Clemmens, the first LAPD officer to arrive officially at the scene and who always believed that what he found was staged and those already there were lying.
Bombshell: The Night Bobby Kennedy Killed Marilyn Monroe is published by Ad Lib and is available from bookstores and online.