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They Hate Him: International Odyssey

A belated happy 2018 to you all.  As of late, I've been having technical difficulties responding to your comments, and commenting on Blogger to begin with.  Trust me, I'm working on it.
In his 1992 autobiography Who Killed Martin Luther King?, James Ray gave a rather detailed description of what he did after the assassination.  He drove his Mustang without incident to Mississippi.  He said that he learned about Dr. King’s shooting over the car’s AM radio, as local stations had begun to broadcast the news.*

From there, he drove into Alabama.  As an escaped convict, Ray had already become hypersensitive to police scrutiny.  That’s the reason he gave for heading away from the police presence surrounding S. Main St. moments after the shooting.  When he heard the news of the assassination, along with the description of the white Mustang, he immediately feared that John Law might have linked him to King’s death.  So, while in Alabama, he pitched what he thought would be the most incriminating thing that he could think of: a camera and other photographic equipment.

He then said he drove to Atlanta, and abandoned the car at Capitol Homes, an apartment complex.** He then took a Greyhound bus to Windsor, ON, a sixteen-hour journey that included a two-hour layover in Cincinnati.  From Windsor, he traveled to Toronto, where he used several aliases (Eric S. Galt, Paul Bridgeman, and Ramon George Sneyd) to rent an apartment and carry out other business.  He supported himself with money he had earned the previous year as a smuggler, and gained additional income by mugging pimps..  Through a quirky loophole, Ray managed to declare Canadian citizenship and get a passport.  As he described it:
On April 16 I visited Kennedy Travel Bureau in Toronto.  Introducing myself as Ramon George Sneyd, I asked the agent, Lillian Spencer, how to get a Canadian passport.  She gave me the same story I’d heard before.  I’d need someone who’d known me for two years to corroborate my claim of Canadian citizenship.  But she also mentioned a loophole: if a guarantor wasn’t available, Canada would issue a passport on the strength of the applicant’s claim of citizenship.  To explain why I couldn’t produce a guarantor in Toronto, when I supposedly had been born there, I said that for several years I’d been selling used cars in Sudbury, Ontario, and had lost contact with my Toronto friends.

For the moment, let’s forget about the phrase “strength of the applicant’s claim of citizenship,” seeing that Ray has no documents, speaks with an accent not native to the Great White North, and gives officials a dog-ate-my-guarantor excuse.  The point now is -that Ray flew from Toronto to London on 6 May 1968 as Canadian citizen George Sneyd.  Within twenty-four hours after landing on the seventh, he flew to Lisbon, hoping to find passage into the Portugese colony of Angola, where he imagined he could become a mercenary soldier. 

He flew back to London on 17 May 1968.  Spooked by a Life magazine story linking Galt and other aliases to his actual identity, Ray thought that it would only be a matter of time before British authorities closed in on him.  So on 8 June 1968, less than forty-eight hours after an assassin’s bullet felled US Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, he tried to board a plane to Brussels. But British officials intercepted Ray before he even got to the gate. 

Checking in for the 11:50am flight to Belgium, James made one blunder after another.  For starters he allowed a customs agent, Kenneth Human, to see a second passport sticking out of his jacket pocket.  The passport was nearly identical to the other, except that the surname on it was Sneya, not Sneyd.   Human turned Ray over to Scotland Yard Det. Sgt. Phillip Burch, who then searched Ray and found a .38 revolver on him.*** Burch arrested Ray for trying to sneak a gun onto a flight.  For a couple of hours Ray stood behind bars at the Cannon Row Police Station, where authorities fingerprinted and photographed him. 

It didn’t take long for the London authorities to identify Sneyd as Ray, and thus connect him to the slaying of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.  Scotland Yard Superintendent Thomas Butler quickly announced:

...questioning the Defendant with reference to the passports and a pistol and cautioning him with reference to his rights . . . contacted the American authorities and subsequently turned the Defendant, was subsequently turned over to the American authorities [sic].

As stated, Butler’s depiction of proceedings would violate both US and UK law.  In order for Uncle Sam to gain custody of Ray legally, American authorities would have to file a formal expedition request, and subsequently prove probable cause of guilt in court. 

Okay, so if Ray was an escaped convict, there should be ample evidence that he violated that law and could thus be prosecuted. The problem is that the expedition treaty then in effect since 1931 said that the US could only prosecute him for crimes that show sufficient cause.  Sending him back on the escape charge alone would therefore prohibit US authorities from ever trying him in the Martin Luther King assassination. They would have to show sufficient cause of that crime as well.

And there, they had a bit of a problem.
*I’m going to state up front that Ray is not (how can I say this?) the world’s most reliable source. There are numerous times that his story will conflict with just about any other version of events.  Some of his assertions are dubious, especially those characterizing his own ideation during these events.  But independent sources corroborate some of his more critical claims.

Thus, I feel compelled to qualify whatever testimony Ray offers.  Here, since the only source of what Ray did after the assassination comes from Ray himself, we’re kinda at his mercy when trying to figure out how he escaped one of the biggest dragnets in American history.  In other words, even though a questionable source, he is really the only, and thus best, source on this and other issues.

**Officials indeed recovered a white Mustang at Capitol Homes about a week after the assassination, and determined that it was Ray’s vehicle.  The qualification here stems from confusion as to whether this was actually Ray’s car or if it belonged to someone else.  There’s reason to suspect that there were two other white Mustangs involved in the assassination, and that the one in Atlanta was not the one Ray drove.  More about that later.

***Ray had the revolver on his person from the time he left Toronto to the time of his arrest at Heathrow.  In other words, he managed to board no less than three flights with it.  Yet, gun possession was outlawed on international and most domestic flights by 1968, and Ray should have known this.  Worse, the six-shot firearm contained five live rounds at the time Burch confiscated it.

Also, some give the spelling of the Detective Sergeant’s last name as Birch.  The most common spelling appears in the above text.  Both spellings refer to the same individual.    

This post first appeared on The X Spot, please read the originial post: here

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They Hate Him: International Odyssey


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