Serial 1303-13

[Editor’s note: One of the subjects of this serial whose name is deleted is Temple member Helen Swinney, who was on board the Temple boat, the Albatross III, on November 18, 1978. The deleted information from the memorandum – designated by brackets – which is known to the editor has been indicated by red type. In addition, many of the FBI interviews summarized in the FD-302s also deleted the verb following the deleted name; most oftentimes, that word was “advised”.]


Federal Bureau of Investigation

Date of transcription 12/12/78

An individual, who identified herself as [name deleted] [Helen Beatrice Swinney] was contacted as she departed Pan Am flight 228 at the John F. Kennedy International Airport. [Mrs. Swinney] was advised of the identity of Special Agent (SA) [name deleted], Federal Bureau of Investigation, and SA [name deleted], US Secret Service.

It should be noted from the beginning of the interview [name deleted] that she was very emotionally upset. [Mrs. Swinney] she became acquainted with the Peoples Temple (PT) in (one half line deleted). At this time, she met Jim Jones and was attracted to his teachings because he lived what he taught. [2 lines deleted] [Mrs. Swinney] indicated that she had worked on such projects as the [line deleted]. She indicated that her husband was [line deleted] indicated that at that time both of them had received [several words deleted]. She continued by advising that in [several words deleted] she and her husband left [Indianapolis] for California with the PT. Her first residence was in Ukiah, California, later moving to Redwood Valley, California. She indicated that the purchase property at that time. [2 lines deleted] She indicated that this venture was strictly done on her own and that she did receive some money [several lines deleted] recalled that

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she moved to Jonestown, Guyana in August 1976. [Mrs. Swinney] one of her first jobs at the Jonestown settlement was working in the [words deleted]. She continued by advising that she did and became involved in [words deleted] for the settlement. Later she became involved with the operation of [3 lines deleted]

In regards to questioning concerning weapons, [Mrs. Swinney] not acknowledge any information regarding weapons except to say that she had observed one weapon. Neither would she indicate that any weapons were stored or shipped [several words deleted]. She indicated that she had no information regarding firearms training received by PT members and she indicated personally that she was afraid of weapons.

[Mrs. Swinney] not acknowledge any information regarding threats to harm public officials or political figures in the US as a result of the developments that have occurred with the PT. She did advise that Jones would become very upset about church defectors. She indicated that Jones often remarked that these individuals would get their just reward.

[Mrs. Swinney] she has never heard of a contingency plan. She would not acknowledge any information regarding a retaliation against any persons attempting to arrest or capture Jim Jones. She would not acknowledge the term “hit squad” or a list of persons to be assassinated existed.

When questioned about the planning commission, [Mrs. Swinney] there was such a commission, but was very vague as to its function or role in the PT.

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She could provide only one name as a member of the planning commission, a Carolyn Layton.

In regards to a security force at the PT in Jonestown, [Mrs. Swinney] not acknowledge their existence. She did advise that Jones was guarded at all times. She advised that maybe this is what we meant by a security force. She advised that neither Jones nor his bodyguards were armed with weapons. When questioned about the term “Angels”, she denied any knowledge of the term. [Mrs. Swinney] an individual by the name of Tom Grubbs, a teacher in Jonestown, had developed a box that children were locked into. She indicated that the purpose of the box was to discipline children that had been problems. She advised that there probably were brainwashing techniques utilized at the PT and that she in fact may have been brainwashed herself. She recalled the alerts, at which time Jones would often summon everyone to the pavilion for a meeting. She indicated that they often were kept up all night and that she did not agree with this.

[Mrs. Swinney] vague regarding the basketball team in the Jonestown settlement. She provided only two names as being members of this team. Those names supplied were Stephen [Stephan] Jones and Jimmy Jones [Jr]. She advised that she never observed the basketball team play a game. She would not acknowledge any relationship between the basketball team and the security force, once again indicating that she did not know anything about a security force.

When questioned about possible bribery or influence peddling by members of the PT to officials at the American Embassy, [Mrs. Swinney] had no knowledge regarding this matter.

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[Mrs. Swinney] not provided any information regarding the assassination of Congressman Leo Ryan. Her only knowledge of this event, she explained, was when she read it in the paper in Trinidad. She advised that during the assassination on November 18, 1978, [one line deleted likely referring to her presence on the Albatross].

In regards to practice suicide thrills [drills] at the Jonestown settlement, [Mrs. Swinney] indeed there were practice sessions. She advised that she was present at one of these practice thrills and that the purpose was to prove your loyalty to Jim Jones. She acknowledged the term “revolutionary suicide[“], but was unable to explain in detail the meaning of this term. She did indicate that the purpose of all of these thrills was to “do it for socialism”. In regards to her opinion regarding the mass suicide on November 18, 1978, [Mrs. Swinney] many of the individuals were forced.

[Mrs. Swinney] denied the knowledge of any assassination squad and/for the identity of any of the members. When confronted with information regarding that she was a member of the assassination squad, she flatly denied this information. It should be noted at this time [Mrs. Swinney] was confronted on several occasions with the fact that she was not being truthful with interviewing agents. [Mrs. Swinney] not seem to be at the least bothered by this confrontation.

When questioned about the operation of the radio room in Jonestown, [Mrs. Swinney] not provide any information.

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In regard to written oaths signed by members of the church, she advised that indeed there was such a practice. She recalls having signed several blank pieces of paper herself. She indicated that she felt this was a bad practice, but never questioned it during her association with the PT. She would not acknowledge what the papers would or could have been used for.

When questioned regarding relocation plans for members of the PT in the event of a mass suicide, [Mrs. Swinney] denied any existence of such a plan. She did advise that a Jean Brown was coordinating activities at the PT in San Francisco, California.

[Mrs. Swinney] acknowledge that at one time a Soviet official visited the Jonestown settlement. She was not positive regarding any Cuban official as having been a visitor. She did advise that there were discussions in the past regarding relocating in the Soviet Union and/or Cuba.

When questioned about any public officials from the State of California having contact with the PT, [Mrs. Swinney] Lieutenant Governor DiMally [Mervyn Dymally] (phonetic) had visited the PT on several occasions.

[Mrs. Swinney] Paula Adams was a personal secretary to Jim Jones and that she may have been sexually involved with various individuals. [Mrs. Swinney] not provide any specific information regarding this situation.

[Mrs. Swinney] denied any information regarding a primitive nuclear device.

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When questioned about hut number 14 at the Jonestown sentiment, [Mrs. Swinney] not provide any information regarding this location.

[Mrs. Swinney] she was not at the Jonestown settlement in 1978 very much due to the fact that in January, 1978 [one line deleted]. She indicated that during the entire year she had to make several trips back and forth regarding this problem. She advised that when she was in Jonestown, she lived in cottage [word deleted]. She referred to the word cottage as a [word deleted].

[Mrs. Swinney] she had arrived in [location deleted] on November 5, 1978, [line of text deleted]. She indicated that she was with the following individuals:

[Several paragraphs identifying Charlie Touchette, Richard Janaro and Philip Blakey deleted.]

The following documents were supplied by [Mrs. Swinney]:

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1. Photographs of the bill of sale regarding the ownership of [several words related to the Albatross deleted]
2. Photocopy of the bank account maintained for [2 lines deleted]
3. One photo of [names deleted, likely of her husband Cleave and her son Timothy] reported to have died in Jonestown.

Also noted as being in the possession of [Mrs. Swinney] at the time of the interview were the following items:

1. A card with the following name: [2 lines deleted]
2. An invitation from the representative for [several lines deleted]
3. A Panama attorney to contact about the registration of [several lines likely related to the Albatross deleted]
4. A business card with the name [several lines deleted]

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5. Two phone numbers written on a piece of paper [Numbers deleted]
6. A card with the following names: [several lines deleted]

[Mrs. Swinney] provided the following information about herself:

[Information on physical description, occupation, education, and marital status deleted on balance of page 8 and top of page 9]

It is felt that the information provided [by Mrs. Swinney] was not completely truthful. It is felt [Mrs. Swinney] knows more than what she related to the interviewing patients. It is recommended that [Mrs. Swinney] be re-interviewed at a later date.

Originally posted on August 29th, 2019.

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