Sunday, 14 December 2014


His murder marked the day on which, for many, the music died. His name, Lennon, has become synonymous with legend. 
When John Lennon was gunned down in the street 34 years ago this month as he strolled hand-in-hand with Yoko Ono just yards from their Manhattan apartment, his murderer Mark Chapman became possibly the world’s most reviled man.
Then a puffy-faced, deluded religious fanatic and fantasist who harbored a seething grudge against the musician for claiming that The Beatles were ‘more popular than Jesus’, he showed no remorse as he fired four bullets into Lennon’s back at close range, then calmly read a book as the singer bled to death, cradled by a screaming Ono.
Chapman’s seeming lack of compassion or emotion, however, matter little to one woman, Gloria Hiroko Chapman, the Japanese wife he married just 18 months before he shot Lennon. 
She has steadfastly stood by him and remains utterly in her husband’s thrall, convinced that, in his own way, he is repentant and deserves forgiveness.

Now, in her first interview, she finally reveals the real reason why her husband murdered Lennon. And how she makes conjugal visits to her husband at Wende prison in Alden, New York, where he is serving a life sentence and has been repeatedly refused parole.
Chapman’s wife tells how:
  • She and Chapman spend 44 hours together once a year, holed up in a private caravan in the prison grounds, where the couple spend their time making pizzas, watching Wheel Of Fortune on television and making love.
    Gloria has given her first interview to Mail On Sunday and MailOnline after she decided to stand by her husband
  • She and Chapman have both written to Yoko Ono seeking her forgiveness and believe that Lennon and Chapman will be ‘reunited in Heaven’. She also believes Sir Paul McCartney would ‘get on well’ with Chapman and urges him to visit him in prison.
  • She missed the murderous signs when Chapman made repeated visits from their Hawaii home to New York to stalk the Beatle and study his daily movements.
  • Her husband fills his days by working at three jobs in the prison, in a bid to keep suicidal thoughts at bay. And despite being denied parole eight times, Chapman still dreams of walking on the beach in Hawaii where he proposed to his wife.

Speaking out: Gloria, left, has given her first interview to the Mail On Sunday and MailOnline after she decided to stand by her husband. Chapman, pictured right in his police mugshot the day after he shot Lennon dead

Such is Gloria’s devotion to her killer husband that just six weeks ago, she posed proudly by his side in prison. Standing in front of an alpine mural, in the first published informal photograph of Chapman since his conviction in 1981, the killer’s pasty-faced demeanour and puppy-fat jowls have long gone.
Instead, tanned though gaunt, he gazes confidently into the camera, his arms curled protectively around his smiling wife. It is clear from his arrogant stance that his overweening pomposity remains unchanged.
There was, he frankly admits, no religious or moral motive for the cold-blooded murder. Instead, chillingly, he confesses that he slaughtered the world’s most famous pop star simply to cement his own place in history. 
He did it, he told his wife: ‘Because the bright light of fame, of infamy, notoriety was there. I couldn’t resist it.’
Lennon’s murder, he admits, was no random, spontaneous moment of madness, but ‘a serious, well thought out crime. No question about it. I could have chosen to turn it around and I didn’t choose to do that.’
Loyal: Gloria has steadfastly stood by him and remains utterly in her husband’s thrall, convinced that, in his own way, he is repentant and deserves forgiveness
But despite his apparent lack of remorse, loyal wife Gloria still insists that, deep down, he regrets the shooting. He is, she claims, ‘finally at peace’.
‘If Mark could say anything to John and Yoko now, he would say: “I’m sorry I caused such pain,” she says, clutching a well-thumbed Bible to her chest. ‘He would say: “I hope you have forgiven me,”’ she insists, nodding vigorously with the zeal of a religious fundamentalist.

‘John was a nice person but Mark wasn’t thinking about that, that day, and put himself first. That was his mistake.’
Gloria, now a 63-year-old hospital worker in Hawaii, has always shied away from speaking about the man of whom she says she is ‘more in love with than ever’. 
A shy, slight, greying woman who lives a quietly reclusive life, she spends her time reading religious tracts.

She only agreed to speak for the first time after praying for guidance with Chapman in a prison phone call. In the end, the decision was his.
The conjugal visits, she insists, are the highlight of the year for both her and Chapman. On those occasions the couple spend their 44 hours together in a tiny trailer which has a kitchen, bathroom and a bedroom fitted with a single bed.
‘The first thing I do is kiss Mark. They allow us to do that. We are a loving couple. On the visits, I bring the food and Mark and I make a homemade pizza. We lay out all the ingredients – peppers, tomatoes, onions and cheeses because Mark likes crunchy snacks but he doesn’t eat unhealthy things. There is a television and we watch lots of episodes of Wheel Of Fortune.
Asked about their intimate relationship during their conjugal visits, Gloria smiles coyly and, giggling, she says: ‘Oh... I... well it’s great… of course, its great.’
She goes on: ‘It is very limited what we can do there but at twilight we like to sit outside and sometimes watch inmates play baseball through a hole in the fence. We do talk about Lennon at times. There is nothing I can’t discuss with Mark. We spoke about him during my last visit in October. And we prayed for Yoko.’
Gloria bears a remarkable resemblance to Lennon’s tragic widow, Yoko Ono. ‘I’m Mark’s wife and I can identify myself with her more than anybody,’ she says. 
‘I feel for her. One thing we prayed for is that she finds Jesus Christ in her life and to find forgiveness for Mark. I hope some day I could meet her and express that.
‘Mark and I both wrote letters to her. He isn’t angry or upset that she has pleaded with judges not to release him. I think he understands.’
Chapman, she insists, works hard within the prison to stave off suicidal thoughts. 
‘He has pretty much three jobs. Twice a week he repairs wheelchairs at the prison hospital and he also works as a porter and a clerk. He didn’t want a television but keeps up with world events through the other prisoners.
His loss of weight, she says, is because he no longer eats sugar, blaming his addiction to sweet confectionary for playing a role in his mental illness.
The couple have also frequently discussed the remaining Beatles, believing they will forgive Chapman. 
When Sir Paul McCartney recently described Chapman as ‘the jerk of all jerks’ for whom his song-writing partner Lennon was ‘a random victim’, Gloria was outraged.
‘Paul McCartney has a right to say what he wants,’ she says defensively, ‘but if he was to meet Mark, I think he would like him. Mark is a very likeable and loving person. He always puts other people’s needs before his own and would welcome a visit from Mr McCartney.’
She doesn’t believe Chapman listens to The Beatles music any longer, although she reveals that Here, There And Everywhere, from the band’s 1966 Revolver album, was ‘our song together’. 
These days, Chapman’s favourite pastime is listening to Christian music. ‘But when I go to stores, I hear The Beatles tunes. I don’t get the chills when I hear it, but I do feel sad. I was always a Beatles fan.’
In spite of his brutal crime, she remains convinced that her husband is a devoutly religious man who deserves to be forgiven, even speculating that Lennon could have turned to Jesus in his dying moments.
Gifts: A small handmade religious decoration made by Chapman in prison in Alden, New York, for his wife
‘John has gone so I know Mark prays for his wife Yoko and for people in pain,’ she says. ‘When you leave the Earth, you go to one of two places: Heaven or Hell. I believe John Lennon read the Gospel when he was young and in his last breath he could have turned his heart to Jesus. If someone is dying of a gunshot wound, they still have time to reach out to Jesus at the very end.’
Bizarrely, she also insists: ‘I hope I can meet John in Heaven.’
Gloria insists she feels no shame or embarrassment for remaining loyal to one of the world’s most infamous murderers. 
Shy and suffering from a limp – the legacy of childhood polio – she sips green tea in a Chinese restaurant and smiles softly as she talks of her love for and belief in the convicted killer.
Gloria was 26 when she met Chapman in March 1978. She had worked for the then 22-year-old Chapman, organising his travel and married the then night security man – who had already attempted suicide once – in 1979.
By then, he was already a religious zealot and fundamentalist who, though a former Beatles fan, had turned against Lennon. 
At his evangelical group he sang the words: ‘Imagine there’s no John Lennon,’ to the tune of Lennon’s hit song Imagine. 
At his trial in 1981, Chapman claimed that he told his wife he had a gun and that he intended to shoot Lennon. He even blamed her for not stopping him.

‘I laid out the gun and I laid out all five bullets,’ he told the jury. ‘She had never seen a gun before.
‘And then I said this is what I am going to do. My God, I still have a deep-seated resentment that she didn’t go to somebody, even the police, and say: “Look, my husband’s bought a gun and says he is going to shoot John Lennon.”’
Today, Gloria’s memory is of a somewhat different exchange.
‘I know I have been accused of that, yes,’ she admits. ‘I didn’t know what to do. He totally convinced me that he had got rid of the gun. But I was totally deceived, so I don’t feel guilty. I can’t live those kind of regrets. I have to go forward or it could make me sick.’
When she heard of the murder, she says, she was ‘in total shock’.
But she is convinced her husband bitterly regrets the murder. ‘He feels terribly sorry but is making the most of his notoriety to tell people about the Lord. 
'Mark’s eyes weren’t on Jesus [that day], they were on himself. He wanted to be somebody but was a nobody. It’s really sad he chose to worship himself.
‘We had been given a plaque with the Ten Commandments on it as a wedding gift and Mark saw that in our home every day. He saw: “Thou shalt not kill.” He said that that one commandment kept jumping out at him, but he chose to disobey.

‘But he takes full responsibility and knows what he did was wrong. He had mental problems, spiritual battles. But he could have said: “No, I’m not going to do it.” ’
When Chapman told her, in the winter of 1980, that he was making frequent trips to New York from their Hawaii home because he was working on writing a children’s book, Gloria insists she believed him.

Directly after the murder, on December 8, 1980 – just hours after Lennon had happily signed an album cover for Chapman – friends and family urged her to sever all contact with her husband.
‘I did consider divorcing him. My friends wanted me to. I was in turmoil because I still loved him. But I know God hates divorce, so that is why I decided not to. That was my answer and divorce wasn’t an issue.
‘I still loved him even though he would say: “Oh, just divorce me. Forget about me and get on with your life.” But 35 years later, we love each other more than ever.
‘Our love has grown and grown. He tells me to remember love and intimacy comes first, though we have disagreements like every regular couple.’
Since deciding to stand by Chapman, she insists, she has never regretted her decision. Visibly angered at any suggestions that she should have shunned the killer, she barks: ‘No. We have ups and downs, but we hang in there. Mark knows how lucky he is that I’ve stood by him.’
Prison, she insists, has not been a hardship for her husband. Though the couple speak frequently on the phone she lives, she says, for their annual visit.
Though not a naturally outgoing woman, Gloria admits that many of her friends have deserted her because of her continued devotion to Chapman.
‘Disappointingly, my close friends don’t come round. They don’t know how to react. Mark, too, had close friends in high school and it took him a while to forgive them for not being supportive. I do understand though, that people didn’t know what to do or say.
‘But my family has always been loving. They kind of just said “too bad”. They are very supportive.’
Both Gloria and Chapman harbour regrets that they have no children.
‘Early on, we wanted children. But I am 63 now so that would be a kind of a miracle. I don’t pray for children now, but early on I did. And Mark loves children. We are both very child-like ourselves. 
'When I last visited, there was a six-week-old baby there and Mark couldn’t take his eyes off her. If he was on the outside, it would be different, for sure. We would have a baby, a dog and a cat.’
Though Chapman is unlikely ever to be released, his wife still believes he has been given a second chance in life. 
‘In a different way, he has been given a second chance with the Lord, after turning his back on Jesus. Now that he is close to Jesus again, he has got his second chance that way.
‘I only hope that the world can open their hearts to Jesus and forgiveness. It is what keeps Mark positive and happy. He truly has found peace.’

Gloria says Sir Paul McCartney would ‘get on well’ with Chapman and urges him to visit the prison
Gloria talked in meandering mode for the three hours she spent with The Mail on Sunday and MailOnline. Fussy about her food, she ordered a bowl of hot and sour soup which she ate slowly, examining its contents.
Every few moments, she would refer to her well-thumbed Bible, occasionally opening it to read a chapter.
Before eating, she insisted that all those present pray with her as she thanked God for the food – in spite of what she called the ‘unusual circumstances’ she found herself in.
Though shy, she wasn’t afraid to refuse to answer – or ignore – questions she did not like. She refused to talk of Mark’s obsession with JD Salinger’s book, The Catcher In The Rye, the book her husband read in the minutes after he gunned down Lennon and which he continued to read as he calmly waited to be arrested by police.
And repeatedly she refused to explain why someone so seemingly rational, if a little eccentric, could justify standing by a killer. Instead, she simply waved her hand and said politely: ‘Thank you.’
In all likelihood, she is not financially well-off. She was keen to take home the remains of the meal for her dinner that evening. And she seemed to be dreading work later that night, explaining that inspectors were touring her department. She seemed fearful of losing her job.
Though Chapman remains one of America’s most hated criminals, she says her husband has never been attacked while in Wende or at Attica prison in Texas where he was held initially after his conviction. 
‘It hasn’t happened that I am aware of,’ she said warily. ‘But then maybe Mark is trying to protect me and wouldn’t want to tell me something like that.’ She insisted he was ‘well liked’ by fellow prisoners, though is cautious about whom he socialises with.
Agreeing that the murder had, bizarrely, brought them closer together, she admitted there had been times when Chapman had refused to see her. 

Exclusive: Gloria pictured with reporter James Robertson during her first interview where she made the admissions 


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