'Jimi Hendrix: A Perfect Murder?': Meet Kathy Etchingham, ex-girlfriend who suspected foul play in his death
Etchingham has spent nearly her whole life serving to Hendrix's legacy, including conducting her own investigation into his death
September 18, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of one of the biggest legends in rock music: Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix was only 27 when he was declared dead, having been found by his then-girlfriend German figure skater Monika Dannemann unresponsive in her flat. Hendrix was one of four musicians to have tragically passed away at 27 between 1969 and 1971 — including Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, and Jim Morrison — sparking the beginning of the infamous "27 Club".
Dannemann had claimed that she and Hendrix had gone to sleep only that morning after spending the whole night talking. When she woke up later in the day, she claims to have left to buy cigarettes and when she returned, found that Hendrix had thrown up in his sleep and was not responding to her. She then called an ambulance and claimed to have ridden in the ambulance to the hospital, where Hendrix was later declared dead.
Of course, there are other versions of what happened that fateful day that have come up since Hendrix's death. Reelz's new special, 'Jimi Hendrix: A Perfect Murder?' delves into the conspiracy theories surrounding Hendrix's death and brings first-person accounts of a few people who knew Hendrix quite well. One of those involved in the special is Kathy Etchingham, who noted inconsistencies in Dannemann's accounts and began her own investigation into Hendrix's death.
Etchingham was Hendrix's former girlfriend, having dated him for three years before Hendrix met Dannemann. According to her personal web page, Etchingham was the inspiration for many of Hendrix's compositions including 'The Wind Cries Mary' (penned after an argument between Hendrix and Etchingham, Mary is Etchingham's middle name), 'Foxy Lady' (during one of the first performances of this number Hendrix pointed her out from the stage), as the Katherina in '1983... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)' and in 'Send My Love to Linda' (the original lyrics of which were "Send My Love to Kathy", until Etchingham objected to being named).
In the early 90s, Etchingham spent three years investigating the circumstances of Hendrix's death. Etchingham tracked down the ambulance drivers who had taken Hendrix to the hospital. They revealed a different version of events to her — that when they got to Dannemann's flat it was empty and that Hendrix was dressed, with red wine spilled all over his shirt and trousers (a large amount of red wine was found in his lungs, but only a limited amount of alcohol was found in his blood and urine tests).
The ambulance drivers also suggested that Hendrix had no pulse when they found him, going against Dannemann's claims that Hendrix was still breathing and had a pulse when he reached the hospital.
Etchingham came to the conclusion that Dannemann had a larger role to play in Hendrix's death. She found out that Dannemann had, in fact, many fights with Hendrix the night before he died and that the German figure skater may have secretly given Hendrix sleeping pills to keep him in her flat. Dannemann wrote in her own book, 'The Inner World of Jimi Hendrix' that it was Etchingham who introduced Hendrix to the lifestyle that claimed his life.
When Etchingham sued Dannemann in 1996, she was found to be in contempt of court for repeating the offense. Two days later, Dannemann was found dead in an apparent suicide.
Based on Etchingham's report, the Scotland Yard reopened the investigation into Hendrix's death in 1993. The investigation eventually proved inconclusive, when the then-Attorney General Sir Nicholas Lyell decided that proceeding with the investigation would not serve the public, due in part to the excessive time that had passed since Hendrix's death.
Etchingham has spent nearly her whole life serving Hendrix's legacy. In the late 1990s, she successfully campaigned to have Jimi recognized with his own blue plaque outside the flat they lived in. She also helped to recreate Hendrix's bedroom as it was in the Handel & Hendrix Museum in London. She has also written a memoir called 'Through Gypsy Eyes', after another Hendrix song that she claims to have inspired.
In her book she wrote, "I want him to be remembered for what he was – not this tragic figure he has been turned into by nit-pickers and people who used to stalk us and collect photographs and 'evidence' of what we were doing on a certain day. He could be grumpy, and he could be terrible in the studio, getting exactly what he wanted – but he was fun, he was charming. I want people to remember the man I knew."
'Jimi Hendrix: A Perfect Murder?' airs on Reelz on Saturday, September 19, at 8/7c.