Serial 1217 – 9


Federal Bureau of Investigation

Date of transcription 12/5/78

Helen Beatrice Swinney, Fabiennes Guest House, Port of Spain, Trinidad, after being advised of the identity of the interviewing Agents and of the nature of the interview, furnished the following information:

Mrs. Swinney advised she has been a member of the People’s Temple (PT) since 1965. Sometime during August, 1976, she traveled from San Francisco, California to Jonestown, Guyana with a group of PT members to work in an agricultural project at the Jonestown PT camp. During her stay at the Jonestown camp, Mrs. Swinney worked assisting in storage and inventory at the camp’s warehouse until August 28, 1977, when she traveled to Georgetown for medical reasons and remained there until approximately November 1, 1978. While at Georgetown, she worked in the kitchen at the “Lamaha” House, the PTs facility in Georgetown.

On November 1, 1978, Mrs. Swinney traveled from Georgetown, Guyana to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad on board the “Albatross III”, a supply vessel utilized by the PT in Guyana. Her reason for traveling aboard the vessel to Trinidad was to act as purchasing agent in acquiring various supplies including machinery spare parts for the agricultural camp at Jonestown. She advised that the vessel arrived in Trinidad approximately five days later. Mrs. Swinney has not left Trinidad since her arrival on November 5, 1978.

Mrs. Swinney advised that she had no knowledge that any trouble of any type would occur during Congressman Ryan’s visit to Guyana. She stated she had no knowledge whatsoever of the acquisition, licensing or shipping of weapons by PT members, or any knowledge regarding any firearms training by PT members in the United States or Guyana.

Mrs. Swinney indicated that she had no knowledge of threats to harm any public official or current or former members of the PT as result of attempts to expose the PT, infiltrate the PT or induce a member to leave the PT.

SJ 89-123

She also advised she had no knowledge of any caching of weapons or monies, or any information concerning contingency plans except that she had heard that the PT had one weapon, type unknown to her, the purpose of the weapon was to slaughter animals. She understood this weapon was licensed by the Guyanese Government.

Mrs. Swinney had no information regarding the inner core members, “the inner circle”, “the Angels” or “staff” of the PT, however, she stated that while in San Francisco she along with other PT members, signed blank pieces of paper, the purpose of which were unknown to her.

While Mrs. Swinney was in the Jonestown camp she witnessed PT members undergo a loyalty test which consisted of drinking something out of a cup which members had been told was poison but drank it at Jim Jones’ instructions. She did not personally participate in the loyalty test described. According to Mrs. Swinney, Jim Jones often told PT members that “anything worth living for is worth dying for”, however, she never thought that those words and their loyalty tests would ever entail mass suicide of PT members.

Mrs. Swinney was upset throughout the interview and at this point she became so emotionally upset that interview had to be terminated.

During interview of Mrs. Swinney, it was determined from the United States consulate in Port of Spain the following members of her family were at the Jonestown camp at the time of the incident.

Husband: Cleave L. Swinney
Date of Birth: April 4, 1911
Place of Birth: Missouri
Son: Timothy Maurice Swinney
Date of Birth: September 28, 1938
Place of Birth: Indiana
Daughter: Joyce Swinney Touchette
Date of Birth: May 14, 1933
Place of Birth: Indiana

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Grandson: Albert Ardell Touchette
Date of Birth: September 13, 1954
Place of Birth: Indiana
Granddaughter: Michelle Elaine Touchette
Date of Birth: July 21, 1958
Place of Birth: Indiana

The following description of Mrs. Swinney was obtained from observation and interview.

Name: Helen Beatrice Swinney
Date of Birth: October 21, 1913
Place of Birth: Llano, Texas
Height: 5’6″
Weight: 110 pounds
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Reddish-brown
United States passport E 1982382