- WASHINGTON (AP) -- New testimony released Friday about the autopsy on John
F. Kennedy says a second set of pictures was taken of Kennedy's wounds
-- pictures never made public.
- The existence of additional photographs
-- believed taken by White House photographer Robert L. Knudsen during
or after the autopsy at the National Naval Medical Centre in Bethesda,
Md. -- raised new questions about how the autopsy was conducted, a subject
of intense debate for 35 years.
- But the new evidence sheds no light on
the whereabouts of the second set of pictures.
- Kennedy was killed Nov. 22, 1963. The
following year, a commission chaired by then-Chief Justice Earl Warren
concluded the killer was Lee Harvey Oswald and that he acted alone and
was not part of a conspiracy.
- That conclusion has been challenged ever
- "One of the many tragedies of the
assassination of President Kennedy has been the incompleteness of the autopsy
record and the suspicion caused by the shroud of secrecy that has surrounded
the records that do exist," said the Assassination Records Review
Board, which made the new testimony public.
- The board, created by Congress to collect
all pertinent records concerning Kennedy's murder, said the doctors who
conducted the autopsy may have had the best of intentions -- protecting
the privacy of the Kennedy family.
- But "the legacy of such secrecy
ultimately has caused distrust and suspicion," the board said.
- One set of autopsy photographs, now at
the National Archives, has been known to exist for years, and some of the
pictures have been widely published. But the new testimony documents the
existence of another set. In 1997, the review board located Saundra K.
Spencer, who worked at the Naval Photographic Centre in 1963. She was shown
the archives' autopsy photos and concluded they were not the pictures she
had helped process.
- Those she had worked with, she said,
had "no blood or opening cavities."
- They were "quite reverent in how
they handled it," she said.
- She theorized that a second photographer
took pictures of a cleaned-up corpse and speculated that was done at the
request of the Kennedy family in case autopsy pictures had to be made public.
"The only thing I can think of is that a second set of autopsy pictures
was shot for public release, if necessary."
- The film was brought in, she said, by
an agent she believed was with the FBI. "When he gave us the material
to process, he said that they had been shot at Bethesda and they were autopsy
- She was told, she said: "Process
them and try not to observe too much, don't peruse."
- Knudsen's widow, Gloria, told the review
board that her husband told her that photographing the dead president was
"the hardest thing he had ever had to do in his life."
- He appeared before the House Select Committee
on Assassinations, which in the late 1970s reopened the official investigation
into the killings of both Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., and his
widow said he later told her that four or five of the pictures the committee
showed him did not represent what he saw or photographed that night and
that one of them had been altered.
- "His son Bob said that his father
told him that 'hair had been drawn in' on one photo to conceal a missing
portion of the top-back of President Kennedy's head," according to
a review board memo about a meeting with Knudsen's family.