By Nick Pope

As a broadcaster and writer well-known for his media interviews and articles on conspiracy theories, Nick Pope is often asked about the assassination of JFK. In the run-up to the 50th anniversary of JFK's death, Nick Pope's position statement on the issue is as follows:

The assassination of JFK was a defining moment in American history and marked the birth of the modern conspiracy theory era. The Warren Commission, set up to investigate the killing, concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald killed the President and that he acted alone. The evidence was overwhelming, in particular, the so-called "backyard photos", which showed Oswald posing with the murder weapon. Even the House Select Committee on Assassinations (which did later support the idea of a conspiracy - albeit on dubious evidence) concluded that the photos were genuine, as did Oswald's wife, who took them. However, almost immediately, some people began to question the official version of events.

The Warren Commission was not without its flaws (exactly the same can be said of the 9/11 Commission), but this does not render their fundamental findings unsound. Despite a multitude of claims and theories, no compelling evidence has been brought forward to call into question the conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shots and that he acted alone. More to the point, no competing theory is supported by nearly as much evidence as the official conclusion.

Most of the conspiracy theories concerning JFK's death can be eliminated by the simple application of the 'means, motive and opportunity' test. These conspiracy theories range from being merely self-contradictory and illogical, to being demonstrably false and patently absurd. That's not to say that people who believe in conspiracy theories are crazy. To this day, vast numbers of ordinary people believe in JFK conspiracy theories, alongside ones relating to the moon landings or to 9/11. Distrust of government is a big factor in all of this.

Often, with the untimely death of a famous person, people look for some sort of deeper meaning. The death of Diana, Princess of Wales, is a good example. It's as if people are unable to accept the fact that one of the most famous and beautiful women in the world died in so mundane and pointless a way: a car being driven at high speed; a driver who had been drinking; a passenger who was wearing no seatbelt. So it is with JFK. People look for a more complex story, even though modern history, sadly, is full of instances where a single, deranged individual shoots a famous person (e.g. John Lennon) or large numbers of people (e.g. the Sandy Hook school massacre), for reasons that may never be fully known. The motivations for such acts are the subject of much debate and controversy. There is unlikely to be a single, neat answer, but the root cause usually involves a combination of mental illness, a perceived grievance and a desire to do something that will make the world pay attention to an individual who was previously ignored or disliked.

The assassination of JFK is an excellent example of a principle known as "Occam's Razor": when examining competing theories, the one that makes the fewest assumptions is most likely to be the correct one. The simplest explanation that fits the facts in relation to the assassination of JFK is that Lee Harvey Oswald really was the lone gunman. It may not be as interesting as the various conspiracy theories, but it's almost certainly the definitive explanation.