John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial review – Paul McCartney’s ambush by reporters is wildly odd

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This look at the Beatle’s shooting and the legal investigation does justice to a profoundly strange moment – thanks to incredible archive footage

If the fundamental measure of a documentary series is how many first-hand witnesses it can recruit, John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial is unimpeachable. This three-parter has almost everyone you could ask for, apart from Yoko Ono, as it reviews the day Lennon was shot dead by Mark Chapman, in New York on 8 December 1980, and the legal investigation that followed. What it can’t control is how much of interest those people have to say – because, however much we might expect the killing of a Beatle to be a fascinating story with a hive of secrets beneath the surface, this is a sad but simple tale.

By far the strongest episode of the three is the first, concerning the killing itself. Chapman shot Lennon after watching him leave the apartment block where he lived, the Dakota building overlooking Central Park, then waiting for him to return after a trip to the recording studio. Murder Without a Trial talks to the Dakota’s security guard, who speaks for the first time, and the building’s porter. It also talks to a taxi driver who witnessed the attack, the radio journalist who conducted Lennon’s last interview earlier in the day, the producer who had overseen Lennon’s last work, the NYPD’s first and second responders and to two nurses and a doctor who failed to revive Lennon in hospital.

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