Who is Philip Blakey? Was he a mercenary for the CIA in Angola in 1975?

At the age of 17, Philip Blakey was a self-described “British schoolboy” who joined Peoples Temple as the husband of Debbie Layton. He remained a member after the couple’s divorce, although he did not remain in California for long afterwards. Instead, he became one of Jonestown’s earliest pioneers in 1974. He appears in several photos from the album of Jonestown’s construction, which documents some of the work from that period.

In other words, in 1975, he was 22 years old and demonstrably in Guyana, and not, as a newspaper article from December 1978 claimed, “a mercenary and mercenary-recruiter for the CIA-backed UNITA forces in Angola.”

Philip survived November 18 by being on the boat, the Albatross, in the Caribbean with three other Temple members, Helen Swinney, Charlies Touchette and Richard Janaro. He was 25.

The source of the rumor was The Defender, Chicago’s black newspaper, in December 1978. The rumor might have eventually collapsed under its own weight, were it not for the 1980 statement of Joe Holsinger, a Ryan aide who claimed CIA involvement in his boss’ death all the way to his grave. The Defender – and Holsinger – also alleged that, beyond his CIA involvement, “Blakey, a British citizen, is the same man who arranged the lease and the money for the lease for the Jonestown settlement area with the government of Guyana in 1974.”

The rumor spread through scores of other venues – either quoting or repeated by Holsinger – including in the July 15, 1980 edition of the Washington D.C. Afro-American; The Portland Advocate, a black periodical in Portland, Oregon in 1981; and the foundational conspiracy document, The Black Hole of Guyana by John Judge, in 1985. Books which repeat the rumor include White Night by John Peer Nugent in 1979. More recent repetitions of the rumors include the February 9, 2017 article on the CIA and Jonestown from the Institute for the Study of Globalization and Covert Politics; “anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory on the September 27, 2017 edition of his Spitfire List; the December 3, 2017 edition of ListVerse by Marcus Lowth (item 8 of the 10 Things That Don’t Quite Add Up About The Jonestown”); and “Welcome to Jonestown,” by Rui Vazperdiz in October 2021.