People 11/1991


Who killed the commie rock star?


THE BODY of US-born communist rock star Dean Reed was dragged from an East German lake in 1986 - beginning a five-year mystery that remains unsolved.

Was he murdered by the East German secret police? Or was it, as the secret police claimed, a tragic accident?

And why does the homicide squad policeman who investigated the death still say Reed commited suicide?

Despite the coroner's verdict of "no suspicious circumstances", the controversy still rages - who killed Dean Reed?

Reed had been the biggest film and recording artist behind the Iron Curtain for 20 years - a politburo pin-up boy whe could do no wrong.

Then, on the eve of shooting his new movie, Reed went missing - and five days later the Colorado country boy-turned-socialist superstar was found dead at the bottom of a lake.

Reed's ex-wife claimed he was dosed with powerful drugs by the Stasi, the East German secret police, who wanted him out of the way because he was disillusioned with the East and planned to return to America.

Rumours of suicide abounded, with Reed's erratic behaviour and depression offered as proof.

What is certain is that the East German authorities did their best to hush up the myterious circumstances of Reed's death. The truth is, after 20 years as a golden boy, in death he was an embarrassment.

Reed had landed in the laps of the communists when, already a committed socialist, he performed at a world peace conference in Helsinki in 1965. He was "discovered" by a Soviet delegate and invited to perform in Moscow.

It was the beginning of his love affair with the Eastern bloc. He began touring regularly - the USSR, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and later, Chile, Cuba, Nicaragua and Palestine, where he performed for Yasser Arafat.

Reed was big on charisma and political conviction and light on talent, but he was the closest thing to a genuine American showbiz star the reds could get.

At the height of his popularity, he was mobbed in the streets. He was a friend of East German president Eric Honecker and lived in luxury, earning sums considered astronomical in the communist state.

In 1971 he met his first East German wife Wiebke at a film festival in Leipzig. She was married to a fashion photographer, but within a year the pair had settled in East Berlin. When they decided to marry in 1973, it was president Honecker who gave his approval.

But in 1978 Reed returned from a tour and told Wiebke he'd found someone else.

"Dean was the great romantic," says Wiebke, who now works for the Berlin orchestra.

"Living in East Germany, he saw the reality - but he didn't want to see it. He was very naive. I think he was used by the regime, but he believed in it. The way he lived in East Germany it was very easy for him to say socialism was the best life."

The novelty of a US star in the heart of communism started fading in the early '80s. As the Cold War thawed and western music became more available, Reed's record sales slumped and film roles dried up.

His second marriage was failing miserably and a new movie was his last chance at redeeming his career.

By mid-1986 Dean Reed had begun telling friends that he longed to return to America. But he may have already burned his bridges back to the US the year before, when he returned to his birthplace for an interview with 60 Minutes.

He confessed his atheism and love of socialism - not something that would endear him to commie-phobic America.

His decline continued, and on the night of his death Reed stormed out of his house after an argument with his second wife, heading for the house of his agent.

He never arrived. His car was found days later parked at a nearby lake, then after a search of the lake his body was recovered. The cause of death was listed as accidental drowning, but doubts persist today.

Rumours abounded that the Stasi had arranged his murder to prevent the embarrassment of his re-defection to the west. They also feared, it was said, that Reed had sensitive information gleaned over the years from friends in high places.

Wiebke also had her suspicions. She believed the Stasi was feeding Reed a drug called Faustan, the East German equivalent of Valium, which the secret police used to lull and soften detainees before interrogation.

But the man in charge of the investigation into Reed's death, Thomas Sindermann, then a captain in the murder squad of the Kriminal Polizei (KP) insists Reed committed suicide.

Sindermann, who became a private investigator after the fall of the Berlin Wall, is adamant that Reed was "mentally complicated," he says today. "He [Reed] made sure he did not leave the water alive.

It is not easy to drown yourself, but in this business I've had a lot to do with suicide and have learned that if people have the will to go under, they achieve it."

Stasi officers were first at the scene to recover Reed's body, but the KP was brought in to "confirm the first impression that there was no crime involved," says Sindermann.

"And that was my opinion for the whole time. Firstly, there was his personality. We knew what a kind of person he was... there was no indication anyone had laid a hand on him. Who killed Dean Reed?

Dean Reed killed himself."

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Letzte Änderung: 2009-08-26