Filmmaker bid to dig up ‘truth’ about Lawrence of Arabia’s death

A filmmaker must excavate the site of Lawrence of Arabia’s fatal motorcycle accident in hopes of uncovering evidence that could prove he was murdered.

The World War I hero was riding his beloved Brough Superior bicycle near his Dorset home in 1935, when he is said to have fled to avoid two schoolboys on their bicycles.

Lawrence, whose full name was Thomas Edward Lawrence, was thrown from the machine and died of a head injury six days later.

Rumors that a black car was driving in its path led some people to believe that the crash was not an accident and was covered up.

Now filmmaker Mark Griffin leads a team of archaeologists, a historian and a forensic crash investigator to excavate the crash site near Bovington Camp in Dorset.

The director’s new biopic, Lawrence After Arabia, just released, questions whether the British army officer died as a result of foul play.

A filmmaker must excavate the site of Lawrence of Arabia's fatal motorcycle accident in hopes of uncovering evidence that could prove he was murdered.  The World War I hero was riding his beloved Brough Superior bicycle (pictured) near his Dorset home in 1935, when he is said to have fled to avoid two schoolboys on their bicycles

A filmmaker must excavate the site of Lawrence of Arabia’s fatal motorcycle accident in hopes of uncovering evidence that could prove he was murdered. The World War I hero was riding his beloved Brough Superior bicycle (pictured) near his Dorset home in 1935, when he is said to have fled to avoid two schoolboys on their bicycles

Mark Griffin is pictured on the spot where Lawrence of Arabia died.  He leads a team of archaeologists and a forensic crash investigator to excavate the crash site, near Bovington Camp in Dorset.

Mark Griffin is pictured on the spot where Lawrence of Arabia died.  He leads a team of archaeologists and a forensic crash investigator to excavate the crash site near Bovington Camp in Dorset

Mark Griffin is pictured on the spot where Lawrence of Arabia died. He leads a team of archaeologists and a forensic crash investigator to excavate the crash site near Bovington Camp in Dorset

Mr Griffin believes the hero of the Arab Revolt in 1917 may have been murdered at the behest of British intelligence after powerful figures opposed Sir Winton Churchill’s alleged wish to appoint him head of domestic intelligence.

The new excavation team hopes to find metal remains of the Brough engine, and possibly the mysterious car that would have been involved, to prove that Lawrence was murdered.

Specialized equipment will be used to scan the ground for debris left over from the crash.

Investigators hope to revisit archival evidence from the inquest and police reports, as well as examine photos of damage to Lawrence’s motorcycle.

Mr Griffin has previously accused the National Trust, which owns Lawrence’s home, Clouds Hill, near Bovington, of censorship after he was banned from filming there.

They refused repeated requests to shoot at the cottage because the film “perpetuated the conspiracies surrounding his death.”

But Mr. Griffin believes he can find new evidence that can prove the naysayers wrong once and for all.

He said: ‘Calling it a conspiracy theory is derogatory – it’s actually an alternative explanation, suggested by the evidence, that goes against the official story.

“We hope to build a revisionist history of TE Lawrence that I think is more reflective of his life than the history that people know.

Lawrence was seriously injured near Bovington Camp, in Dorset on May 13, 1935. He died on May 19

Lawrence was seriously injured near Bovington Camp, in Dorset on May 13, 1935. He died on May 19

Lawrence was seriously injured near Bovington Camp, in Dorset on May 13, 1935. He died on May 19

Mr Griffin's new biopic, Lawrence After Arabia, just released, questions whether the British Army officer was killed as a result of foul play

Mr Griffin's new biopic, Lawrence After Arabia, just released, questions whether the British Army officer was killed as a result of foul play

Mr Griffin’s new biopic, Lawrence After Arabia, just released, questions whether the British Army officer was killed as a result of foul play

“What we could be dealing with here is Britain’s first state-sponsored murder.

“The specific stretch of road we’re looking at hasn’t been touched since 1943 when the US military changed the layout of the road network.

News of Lawrence's crash was reported in the Daily Mail

News of Lawrence's crash was reported in the Daily Mail

News of Lawrence’s crash was reported in the Daily Mail

‘Since then it’s been left as a gravel path in the woods.

“Firstly, metal detectors and geo-survey equipment will be used to determine any damage to the road at depth.

‘We also think there are pieces of metal that were not found at the time. If we find something, we’ll dig.

‘A forensic accident investigator will then try to find out what happened on the road.

“Then we have George Brough, designer of Lawrence’s bike, the Brough Superior, who found black paint chips on the handlebars and engine.

“He was not allowed to present that evidence during the judicial investigation.”

Eyewitness Corporal Earnest Catchpole gave a statement at the inquest after his death and said he saw a black car at the scene.

However, the seven-member jury determined the cause of death was an accident based on a report by coroner Ralph Neville-Jones.

The last surviving brother of Frank Fletcher, one of two boys who had to evade Lawrence, still lives just a few miles from Clouds Hill.

Dennis Fletcher, now 89, said his family was haunted for decades by rumors of Lawrence’s death.

He said, “Since 1935, people have just been going over the same old terrain looking for someone to blame, but whatever they’re trying to find isn’t there.

“There was no black car or chains across the street. If they really want to know how Lawrence died, they should read the coroner’s report.

“They want to make money with it, but my family never got any money.

Investigators hope to revisit archival evidence from the inquest and police reports, as well as examine photos of damage to Lawrence's motorcycle

Investigators hope to revisit archival evidence from the inquest and police reports, as well as examine photos of damage to Lawrence's motorcycle

Investigators hope to revisit archival evidence from the inquest and police reports, as well as examine photos of damage to Lawrence’s motorcycle

“My brother was only 14 at the time of the accident. As the publicity wore on, he joined the military to escape it.

“It was a terrible time for this family. My mother got tired of reporters showing up at home.

‘After the war, Frank van Wareham moved to London to get away from it all. He never wanted to talk about it.

“When the movie Lawrence of Arabia came out in the 1960s, it all started again. I’ve had enough of the same old story.’

Who was Lawrence of Arabia?

TE Lawrence, pictured, was born in 1888 in North Wales and died in 1935 at the age of 46 after a motorcycle accident

TE Lawrence, pictured, was born in 1888 in North Wales and died in 1935 at the age of 46 after a motorcycle accident

TE Lawrence, pictured, was born in 1888 in North Wales and died in 1935 at the age of 46 after a motorcycle accident

Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, was a charismatic British intelligence officer who fought alongside guerrillas in the Middle East during World War I.

Lawrence was born in North Wales in 1888, enlisted in the military in 1914, and was posted to Cairo, Egypt in December as a liaison and map officer – having worked as an archaeologist and photographer, he was familiar with the region.

After nearly two years in Cairo, he embarked on dangerous missions in enemy territory in Arabia, following the Arab uprising against Ottoman Turkey in June 1916.

In 1935, Lawrence was involved in a motorcycle accident near his home in Dorset, and died in hospital on May 19, aged 46.

His story reached a new worldwide audience through the hugely successful 1962 film Lawrence Of Arabia, which won multiple Oscars, starring Peter O’Toole.

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