The JFK assassination files: What we've learned

Thousands of never-before-seen documents about John F Kennedy's assassination have emerged, divulging new details of the investigation after his death.

The US President, commonly known as 'JFK', was shot dead on November 22, 1963, as his motorcade passed through Dallas, Texas. Officially, he was shot by lone gunman and ex-US marine Lee Harvey Oswald, who was himself shot two days later by nightclub owner Jack Ruby.

The 2,800 newly released documents make up only a small fraction of the near-35,000 in total - but they are already raising many new questions and giving way to new conspiracy theories.

As readers, historians and journalists comb through the new information, here are some of the most fascinating revelations so far.

British newspaper received an anonymous phone call 25 minutes before the assassination

A senior reporter at the Cambridge News, a paper in eastern England, received a tip that "some big news" was coming in the United States.

"The caller said only that the Cambridge News reporter should call the American embassy in London for some big news and then hung up," a memo from CIA chief of counterintelligence James Angleton to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover read, dated four days after Mr Kennedy's death.

"The important point is that the call was made, according to MI5 [Britain's domestic security agency] calculations, about 25 minutes before the President was shot. The Cambridge reporter had never received a call of this kind before, and MI5 state that he is known to them as a sound and loyal person with no security record."

Man in a bar made a bet Kennedy would be killed, one week before assassination

One week before Kennedy's death, a man made a $100 bet in a New Orleans bar that the President would be dead within three weeks.

A Secret Service agent interviewed a man named Robert C. Rawls, who admitted he was drunk at the time of the conversation and thought nothing of it until later.

The JFK assassination files: What we've learned
Photo credit: United States National Archives

"[Mr Rawls] advised that, at the time, he paid no attention to the man because he thought 'it was just drunk talk and a drunk will bet on anything'," the agent recalled.

"However, he said after the shooting of the President, it occurred to him that there may have been meaning to the remark."

Female escort questioned about 'sex parties' with Kennedy, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr

A "high-priced Hollywood call girl" was questioned about "sex parties involving Mr Kennedy, his brother-in-law, movied actor Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr" three years before Mr Kennedy's death.

The escort, named as Sue Young, told FBI agents she was contacted by Los Angeles private detective Fred Otash who asked about her "participation in sex parties".

She told Mr Otash she had "no knowledge" of the activities but he then asked her to "name any girls that might have been present".

After informing Los Angeles Agents, they spoke to Mr Otash - who indicated someone was "attempting to spy on senator Kennedy's hotel room", the memo reads.

Mr Otash also asked Ms Young if she could meet up with Mr Kennedy while wearing a recording device.

FBI had warning of assassin Lee Harvey Oswald's death

A memo written by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover says the FBI had warning of a potential death threat to assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, who was then in police custody.

Oswald was fatally shot by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby in full view of television cameras broadcasting live.

"There is nothing further on the Oswald case except that he is dead," Mr Hoover said.

A backyard photo of assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
A backyard photo of assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Photo credit: Reuters

"Last night we received a call in our Dallas office from a man talking in a calm voice and saying he was a member of a committee organised to kill Oswald.

"We at once notified the chief of police and he assured us Oswald would be given sufficient protection. This morning we called the chief of police again warning of the possibility of some effort against Oswald and again he assured us adequate protection would be given.

"However, this was not done."

Oswald was killed before he could be questioned about Mr Kennedy's death.

FBI concerned about conspiracy theories

In the same memo where Mr Hoover detailed ignored death threats to Oswald, Mr Hoover feared conspiracy theories would spread as a result.

"The thing I am concerned about," Mr Hoover said, "is having something issued so that we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin."

He was right - in the years to follow, dozens of conspiracy theories emerged, many still strongly supported.

Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby knew each other

Ruby knew Oswald, who he shot and killed.

The pair went to Cuba together to "cut sugar cane" weeks before Mr Kennedy's assassination. They were also overheard discussing "big bird" - but it's not known what their code language was referring to.

The gun nightclub owner Jack Ruby used to kill assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
The gun nightclub owner Jack Ruby used to kill assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Photo credit: Reuters

They were part of a group of 30 or 40 "hippie looking... mostly young" people, Florida Key West airport manager George Faraldo told investigators.

At one point he saw Oswald approach Ruby and ask: "Have you heard anything from the big bird yet?"

Cuba reacted with 'happy delight' after JFK's death

Shortly after the assassination, Cuban ambassador Cruz (first name unclear) and his staff reacted with "happy delight", a memo says.

But Mr Cruz soon after instructed his staff and Cuban consulates to "cease looking happy in public".

Cuba has insisted it had nothing to do with the assassination. Oswald lived in Russia, a Cuban ally, in the years leading up to Mr Kennedy's death.

It's suggested Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro wanted Mr Kennedy dead as revenge for the Cuban Missile Crisis and the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.

Soviet Union believed US Vice President was behind assassination

Soviets believed US Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson could have been behind the assassination.

The memo from Mr Hoover quotes a US intelligence source in Russia, who said the KGB - then the world's largest spy and state-security machine - was "in possession of data purporting to indicate Johnson was 'responsible for the assassination'".

"Officials of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union believed there was some well-organised conspiracy on the part of the 'ultraright' in the United States to effect a 'coup'," the note continued.

"They seemed convinced that the assassination was not the deed of one man but that it arose out of a carefully planned campaign in which several people played a part.

"[The Soviet Communist Party] seemed convinced that the assassination was not the deed of one man, but it arose out of a carefully planned campaign in which several people played a part."

More revelations to come?

Intelligence agencies lobbied against the disclosure of the documents, and tens of thousands are still withheld. However the White House says it will make those public too, but needs more time to process them all. It has set a deadline of April 2018.