Serial 232

[Editor’s note: This document was released both as a State Department cable as part of its 1981 FOIA release, and as Serial 232 of the FBI’s RYMUR release.]

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[Listing of agencies receiving informational copies on pdf]

0 231658Z NOV 78
FM AMEMBASSY PORT OF SPAIN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC NIACT IMMEDIATE 3274
AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN NIACT IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN NIACT IMMEDIATE
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E.O. 11652: NA
TAGS: CASC, OREP (RYAN, LEO), TD
SUBJECT: MEMBERS OF THE PEOPLES’ TEMPLE IN PORT OF SPAIN
REFERENCE: (A) PORT OF SPAIN 3343; (B) PORT OF SPAIN 3371

1. Touchette, Janaro, and Swinney came to Embassy this morning and stated that they had learned from telephone contact with PT members in Georgetown that certain of their relations were among those known to be deceased at Jonestown. Charles E. Touchette, DPOB [date and place of birth] 9/28/30, Indiana, passport no. E 390890 issued 3/14/74 in San Francisco, had spoken with his son Michael who is in Georgetown at Lamaha Gardens and had learned from him that his wife, Joyce Swinney Touchette, DPOB 5/14/33, Indiana; son, Albert Ardell Touchette, DPOB 9/13/54, Indiana; and daughter, Michele Elaine, DPOB 7/21/58, Indiana, were among the known dead. Touchette stated that he had no money and had no plan for disposition of the remains.

2. Helen Swinney, DPOB 12/21/13, Texas, passport information unavailable, was also aware that her son, Timothy

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Maurice Swinney, DPOB 9/28/38, Indiana, was also known to be deceased. Her husband, Cleave L. Swinney, was believed to have been at Jonestown, but she could offer no identifying particulars other than that he wore dentures and was born 4/5/11 in Missouri. She also indicated that she had no funds and could offer no suggestions concerning disposition of Timothy’s remains.

3. Richard Mario Janaro, DPOB 2/3/27, New York, passport no. E 2366 807, issued San Francisco, 12/16/74, expressed concern regarding welfare/whereabouts of his children, Mauri K. Janaro, DPOB 11/22/62, California; and Daren Richard Janaro, DPOB 5/1/64, California, who were known to have been at Jonestown. Janaro’s wife, Claire, reportedly still in Georgetown at the Tower Hotel.

4. Touchette stated that he has been associated with PT since 1974 and has spent most of that time in Jonestown. He left the commune in early October for Georgetown and departed Georgetown with Swinney, Janaro, and British citizen Philip Blakey on board “Albatross III,” on a buying trip to Trinidad. All three were emphatic that Jonestown had approximately 1,000 (one thousand) residents and they were unaware of any exodus in past month. Touchette further stated that his wife had the administrative responsibility of logging passports, and he remembers her say approximately three months ago that there were 954 residents of Jonestown. She reportedly did a statistical analysis of the members by age and sex and Touchette recalls that there were over 300 young people (under 16). They could offer no explanation as to disparity in figures and the number reported dead, although they felt that a large number may have escaped into the jungle and attempted to make their

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way to Matthews Ridge. Touchette suggested that search elements contact an Amerindian named [deleted] who is reportedly well known to residents of Port Kaituma. [Deleted name] is reportedly an expert tracker who is very familiar with the area around Jonestown. Touchette also suggested that a search be made of the livestock buildings and the food warehouse. He claims that a six month supply of staples was maintained there and detailed inventories were kept in the building. He felt that if a large number had escaped, there may well be an apparent depletion of the food stocks. Finally, he suggested that a simple count of the beds in Jonestown would support the fact that the community had nearly 1,000 inhabitants.

5. Touchette also suggested that the commune’s pavillion [pavilion] would have been filled to capacity if all of the residents had been assembled for the show which had been arranged for Congressman Ryan on Friday. He stated this would have been a clear indication whether a sizeable [sizable] number had left or been removed from Jonestown prior to Ryan’s arrival as passed assemblies had overflowed the pavillion’s capacity.

6. Touchette, Janaro, and Swinney appeared to be articulate, intelligent, and cooperative. They expect to remain in Port of Spain at least until Saturday and have expressed a willingness to cooperate in any way possible.

7. On Wednesday Trinidadian customs officials reportedly made a complete search of the “Albatross III,” a 350 ton vessel registered in Panama and owned or leased by the Peoples’ Temple, but results of the search were negative. Although it is expected that Blakey will sail with the vessel when it apart for Barbados on Saturday, Touchette,

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[Distribution information from part 1 duplicated]

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Janaro, and Swinney stated that they had not decided whether they were also leave or remain in Port of Spain pending further developments.

8. For Bridgetown: Ambassador Fox is at the airport here awaiting departure and has not seen this message. Please pass it to him upon his arrival.

Fox [Richard J. Fox, Jr., American Ambassador to Trinidad]

Originally posted on December 2nd, 2018.

Last modified on June 25th, 2022.
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