In Brief

How did John Lennon die?

This weekend marks 38 years since the death of the Beatles star

On 8 December 1980, Beatles star John Lennon was murdered outside his home in New York City by a fan, plunging the music world into shock and mourning.

Shortly before 11pm, 25-year-old Mark David Chapman approached Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono as they entered their Manhattan apartment building, The Dakota. Hours earlier, Lennon had signed an autograph for Chapman as he left home to attend a recording session. Chapman then remained outside the building waiting Lennon’s return and shot the musician four times at close range with a .38 calibre revolver.

Despite attempts to perform first aid at the scene, he was pronounced dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital. He was 40 years old.

The Beatles, the band he formed with Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, were one of the most popular music groups of the 20th century and sold millions of albums across the UK and around the world. For weeks after Lennon’s murder, mourning fans kept vigil outside his apartment. 

After the shooting, Chapman remained nearby and waited for police to arrive, calmly reading a copy of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye

He pleaded guilty to murder and received a life sentence with a minimum of 20 years. 

“There was no feeling towards his son or his wife or himself. I was obsessed on one thing and that was shooting him so I could be somebody,” Chapman would later say during a parole hearing, according to the The Daily Telegraph.  

Lennon was born in Woolton, a Liverpool suburb and started The Beatles at just 16 years of age. After the band broke up in 1970, Lennon continued to make music as a solo artist and with his wife, Yoko Ono. Lennon was murdered weeks after the release of their album Double Fantasy.

Chapman remains incarcerated at the Wende Correctional Facility in New York. He has been denied parole ten times, most recently in August, according to The Guardian. Ono has said she would fear for her life and for the life of Lennon’s two sons, Julian and Sean, if Chapman were to be released.

“You admittedly carefully planned and executed the murder of a world-famous person for no reason other than to gain notoriety,” the parole panel said at the hearing.

“The fact that you chose someone who was not only a world-renowned person and beloved by millions, regardless of the pain and suffering you would cause his family, friends and so many others, you demonstrated a callous disregard for the sanctity of human life and the suffering of others.”

Chapman's next opportunity to apply for parole will be in 2020.

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