THEY are some of the most iconic photographs in rock and roll history.
But controversy surrounds the original negatives from John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1969 Gibraltar wedding taken by British photographer David Nutter, it can be revealed.
Showing the Beatles singer celebrating his nuptials to his Japanese lover out of the glare of the public eye, the pictures have been published in thousands of publications around the world ever since.
Yet, the valuable negatives – estimated to be worth over €128,000 – vanished in the 1970s after Nutter, 77, lent them to a friend Anthony Fawcett to use in his book, John Lennon: One Day At A Time.
Included in the missing batch, taken on Nutter’s Nikon camera, are around a dozen never-before published photos of the wedding day, some shown for the first time in the Olive Press, last issue.
Music photographer Nutter – who had flown out for the wedding from London to Gibraltar on a commission from the Beatles record label Apple – has spent the best part of the last four decades trying to recoup his property.
The two separate investigations by British police and the FBI in America have so far failed to recover them.
Now however, in a sensational twist, the Olive Press can reveal that various anonymous ‘sellers’ have recently tried to sell back Nutter’s own images.
The London-born snapper, who now lives in New York, revealed that another photographer Brian Hamill, has also been suspiciously offered two strips of his original negatives taken of John Lennon.
New Yorker Hamill had also lent the original negatives to Fawcett – a British art critic, author and media consultant – for the same book.
“Now we are being offered our own photographs back for thousands of pounds,” Nutter told the Olive Press, last week.
“It is an outrage and it adds salt to the wounds that go back over 40 years,” he added.
He had ‘stupidly’ lent Fawcett the negatives after they became friends, while living in New York in the mid 1970s.
Fawcett had worked with Lennon and Yoko as their assistant for a while and was writing a book about Lennon’s life.
“He asked me if I could help with images for the book and I stupidly said ‘yes’ and lent him all the negatives.
“When I asked for them back a little while later, he told me his apartment had been repossessed… and everything had been taken.
“Even when I called in the police, I never got them back.”
Indeed, a 1983 letter from Southwark Police to Nutter, seen by the Olive Press, shows that officers questioned Fawcett at his home in south London.
Fawcett told the officers about his flat being repossessed in the Big Apple and that while most of his property was later returned, the photographs and negatives were not included.
“However, he (Fawcett) did say he knew someone in possession of the photographs and agreed to telephone Mr Nutter with the details,” the letter reads.
But according to Nutter, Fawcett never called him with the name.
When the Olive Press approached Fawcett about the negatives he replied: “These were in fact stolen from my New York apartment around 1976 along with everything else from my flat.
“Yoko Ono was extremely upset that these negatives were stolen , and has asked my help many times to try to get them back.”
A world-renowned Beatles memorabilia expert has estimated the set of pictures to be worth up to 150,000 euros.
Peter Miniaci claims that he, himself, was offered the negatives in 2005, when he received an email offering him ‘some rare John and Yoko wedding photos’.
“I was suspicious and asked if the sender had the rights to the images, to which it was claimed that ‘the photographer is dead’ so I didn’t need to worry about it,” he told the Olive Press.
“Right away the red flag went up. I rang May Pang [Lennon’s former PA] and she told me definitively David Nutter took those photos and he is alive and well in New York.”
He revealed that he later called the anonymous seller, who had a fake British accent, to try and track him down.
He said he wanted $30,000 for the contact sheets (which are not as valuable or good quality as the original negatives).
“Whoever offered me the contact sheets must know where the negatives are. If David decided to sell the whole lot of photos I’m confident, because the majority are unpublished, he could get $100,000 to 150,000 for them.”
Now living a hand to mouth existence in New York, he is desperate to get to the bottom of the mystery.
“I go crazy thinking about it,” he said. “I would write my initials in ink on every frame so I would know straight away know they were mine.
“And, in any case, who else could have taken them… nobody else was there in Gibraltar. I know they’re still around. How do I get them back?”
He continued: “It’s heartbreaking. I’ve sort of given up. I could have done very well with those images and people are always asking me for them and I don’t have them. I am living in poverty.
“I could have made a lot of money not that that was the important thing. Its just the idea of someone having my stuff. I want them back.”
As fellow photographer Hamill, who also lost negatives in the 1970s to Fawcett, said last night: “Me and David are two old guys who survived the sixties. Those photos for us could mean something for my daughter and granddaughter.“