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John Lennon’s diaries, metal-rimmed eyeglasses, and cigarette case, stolen from Yoko Ono in NYC, are recovered by police in Germany

Nancy Bilyeau
Getty Images
Getty Images

It was quite a moment for Yoko Ono, who became “very emotional” after German officials flew to New York City to show the widow of John Lennon the items they’d recovered belonging to the late singer, which included three diaries, his signature metal-rimmed eyeglasses, handwritten sheet music, and cigarette cases with cigarettes still in them. Up to 100 items had been stolen from Ono in 2006, with a former driver being suspected of the crime.

She identified the items as belonging to her husband. “We noticed clearly how much these things mean to her and how happy she would be to have them back,” said prosecutor Susann Wettley in an interview in the Daily Mail.

A 58-year-old German businessman of Turkish origin was arrested in Berlin on November 20, 2017, in connection with the theft. A man who once worked for Yoko Ono is also wanted by police but is now living in Turkey and is “unattainable for us at the present time,” said the Berlin prosecutor.


The New York Post reported that the man in Turkey is named Koral Karsan, and he is a former driver of Yoko Ono’s who was imprisoned in 2007 for 60 days for trying to extort $2 million from Ono. Karsan, who served in the Turkish military before taking a job with her, allegedly threatened to air “embarrassing” family photos after years of employment. He confessed to his crimes in court.

John Lennon singing “Give Peace A Chance,” by Roy Kerwood. Author: Roy Kerwood CC BY 2.5
John Lennon singing “Give Peace A Chance,” by Roy Kerwood. Author: Roy Kerwood CC BY 2.5

The stolen items were discovered after Auctionata, a German auction house, went bankrupt earlier this year. Lawyers going through the stock as part of the bankruptcy proceeding found the Lennon belongings and notified German authorities in July. Two weeks later, the items were confiscated and the police began to investigate.

“This was a spectacular, unusual criminal case,” police spokeswoman Winfrid Wenzel told reporters, according to the Associated Press.

When the police arrested the businessman and searched his car, they found more items stolen from Lennon. A briefcase full of them was reportedly hidden under a spare tire. It is unclear when they will be returned to Yoko Ono.

Yoko Ono at the Museum of Contemporary Art of the University of São Paulo, Brazil. Author: Marcela Cataldi Cipolla -CC BY 3.0
Yoko Ono at the Museum of Contemporary Art of the University of São Paulo, Brazil. Author: Marcela Cataldi Cipolla -CC BY 3.0

The story begins with the 2006 theft. The items also include a recording of a Beatles concert from 1965, a school exercise book from 1952, documents for the copyright of Lennon’s “I’m the Greatest” and handwritten scores for “Woman” and “Just Like Starting Over.” The items were in the possession of Auctionata since 2014 but ever offered online.

The three leather-bound diaries are of special interest. They were from the years 1975, 1979, and 1980. Media reports say that the last entry was made on the morning of his death, December 8, 1980. That day photographer Annie Leibovitz came to the home of Lennon and Ono, in the Dakota Apartments in New York City, for a photo shoot for Rolling Stone. The couple then went to a recording studio. When they returned to the Dakota, Lennon stepped out of his limo with his wife and headed for the archway. Mark David Chapman emerged from the shadows and fired five shots at Lennon. Police who arrived, seeing the severity of his wounds, carried him in their car to nearby Roosevelt Hospital, but there he was pronounced dead on arrival. Ono, when told, became hysterical and then went into a state of shock.

John Lennon’s stamp collection Author Philafrenzy – Own workCC BY-SA 4.0
John Lennon’s stamp collection Author Philafrenzy – Own work
CC BY-SA 4.0

The international outpouring of grief over his violent death rocked the world. Three Beatles fans committed suicide, prompting Yoko Ono to plead with other fans not to.

Strawberry Fields is a living memorial to John Lennon, across the street from the Dakota in Central Park. It was officially dedicated on October 9, 1985, the 45th anniversary of Lennon’s birth.  A mosaic was created by Italian craftsmen and given as a gift by the city of Naples. Based on a Greco-Roman design, it bears the words of Lennon’s music.

Related story from us: One of the last autographs John Lennon signed was on December 8, 1980, the day he died, and it was at the request of his murderer

On Tuesday, Nov. 21, the day after the arrest of the businessman in Germany for the theft, Strawberry Fields in New York City was filled with people as it always is: one man played “Imagine” on his guitar, a group laid flowers, and others sat on nearby benches and soaked in the peaceful atmosphere.