Anna Wohlin should have had a VIP pass the last time The Rolling Stones played London’s Hyde Park. The pretty young Swedish dancer was meant to be backstage in 1969 watching the band introduce their new guitarist – the replacement for founder member Brian Jones who’d been sacked a month before.
Anna never made it to that iconic gig, but unlike thousands of veteran fans she has no desire to be in the park tonight as the legendary rockers return, 44 years later.
For Anna was Brian Jones’ lover…and two days before the gig she’d dragged his lifeless body from the swimming pool of his Sussex farmhouse and tried in vain to revive him.
Yet, before the tragedy on July 3, 1969, she and Brian had planned to go to the Hyde Park concert together – so he could publicly show he had no hard feelings about leaving the Rolling Stones.
“Instead of being backstage with Brian I was in a hotel room nearby,” reveals Anna, now 66.
“I was broken…in total shock. Fans were gathering with candles and I wanted to go and say goodbye to Brian.
“But I was in no fit state. I didn’t realise then but I was a nuisance – a problem to the Stones management. They knew I knew what really happened on the night Brian died.”
The events following Brian’s death have gone down in the annals of pop history, with Anna’s role reduced to a mere footnote.
Rock legend has it Brian, 27, drowned under the influence of drugs and booze, after going off the rails when the Stones fired him.
Conspiracy theorists insist he was murdered – and police reviewed the case as recently as 2010 but did not reopen inquiries.
But in an exclusive interview with the Mirror, Anna has rekindled the riddle of the death and Brian’s rift with the band.
She sensationally claims the musician WAS killed, in a scuffle with disgruntled minder Frank Thorogood, said to have been fired by Jones that day – but the truth was covered up to protect the band’s image.
Her account is supported by Thorogood’s alleged death bed confession 20 years ago.
Anna says: “Brian is still portrayed as a bitter, worn-out and depressed man who was fired because of his drug habit…and who died because he was drunk or high.
“But my Brian was a wonderful, charismatic man who was happier than ever, had given up drugs and was looking forward to pursuing the musical career he wanted.
“We’d been blissfully happy together for three months and he and I had planned to go to watch the Hyde Park gig.
“Brian wasn’t bitter about Mick Taylor replacing him – he was quite relieved actually. He had wanted to leave the band for some time before they asked him to go.
“He didn’t like the direction the music was taking – he wanted to play blues – and he didn’t want to tour America any more.
“There were no hard feelings when he left though, and if people had seen us at the concert they would have known that.But it wasn’t to be. The night before I stayed at the Londonderry Hotel with Bill Wyman and ?his girlfriend Astrid Lundstrom.
“They thought it was a bad idea for me to go – I couldn’t think straight. I was in shock. Some friends stayed with me but I was torn – I wanted to be there…but with Brian – and he was gone.”
The gig became an iconic pop moment after the Stones turned it into a tribute to Brian.
Jagger, in his famous white dress, read poetry by Shelley before roadies released 2,500 white butterflies.
So was that a comfort to Anna?
She gives a long sigh. “Let’s say I have very mixed feelings. They had to do something, because Brian had died, and, yes, I think they were all in shock.
“But whether they had wanted to do it or not, I don’t know. They just had to.
“Before Brian died, Mick was nervous that Brian’s fans might boycott the concert in protest at his replacement.
“In the end, 500,000 people went. But it was a nice day, the concert was free and the fans went for Brian. So there had to be recognition from the band.”
After Brian died Anna wrote to Mick Jagger, accusing him of not caring enough about Brian’s death. He never replied.
She says she no longer bears any animosity towards him, but admits “It just felt so unfair he was alive and thriving…a reminder he and the other Stones were continuing as if nothing had happened – while Brian was gone forever.”
She says the Stones’ management urged her to return to Sweden a week after Brian’s death.
She left following the inquest which recorded a verdict of misadventure – even though tests found little evidence of drugs and the equivalent of just three and a half pints of beer.
Anna, who now runs a boutique in her home city Stockholm, explains: “I was intimidated into silence about what really happened – under sedation, in shock.”
After returning home she discovered she was expecting Brian’s child – but miscarried and became depressed.
She returned to England two months later to collect her belongings from the farm – only to find it had been cleared out and all her personal belongings and gifts from Brian had disappeared.
She says: “The Stones PR manager had promised to find me somewhere to live if I came back – but when I went to their offices no one would help.
"I felt betrayed so I went to a lawyer and to a journalist and tried to tell the truth about Brian’s death – but no one wanted to know.”
Anna got married, had a daughter and tried to move on. But she says it was only after divorcing three decades later that she finally began to grieve for Brian.
She says: “I decided to write my story, but people still didn’t believe it.
"I don’t know if Frank meant to kill Brian – maybe it was horseplay in the pool that went wrong. But I knew all along he did not die a natural death. I’m still sure of it.
“Now the Stones are back in Hyde Park and everyone is talking about 1969 and that free gig.
Anna pauses, then adds: “Imagine – a free Rolling Stones concert! I wonder what the tickets cost today?”
I tell her they start at £95 but some cost more than £300.
She sighs again.
“Everyone thinks I must be a Stones fan, but I’m not. I’ve never seen them in concert and haven’t paid them much attention over the years – I really don’t care.
“I fell in love with Brian when I was 16 and we got together five years later. He happened to play in that band – that’s all.
“Don’t get me wrong – I like the music and think it is amazing they have kept going so long. But Brian would have carried on making music too…I’m sure. He was the one who was most musical.”
Anna used to have terrible nightmares about finding Brian’s body at the bottom of the pool and screaming for help.
Now, she says, Brian “visits” her in her dreams, and she tries to remember the good times they shared. She says: “We were so happy. When Brian bought the farmhouse he said he wanted to live there the rest of his life. And he did. But it was too short.
“I didn’t visit his grave for a long time – but I’ve been twice now. It’s a beautiful stone with lovely flowers still brought by fans.
“One of the hardest things was that when Brian died he was my boyfriend – but suddenly he belonged to another world and other people – and I couldn’t really cope with that.
“Talking about him helps me reclaim him. My Brian, not the tragic legend.”
As fans gather tonight to watch the Rolling Stones they will remember Brian for his brilliant musicianship – and his former band mates will no doubt recall their tributes of 44 years ago.
“So many years have passed,” said Anna. “I don’t bear the Stones any bad feelings.
"They are icons and great professionals and they will all probably die on stage.
“Brian never got that chance…such a waste of a life. He died too young.”