Bob Marley
Bob Marley

The claim is several years old, but a 2019 post to the Instagram page Submit Conspiracy Theories recently gained renewed attention.

The page is a place for followers of the account Conspiracy Theories to post conspiracy theory memes, according to its profile page.

Reggae superstar Bob Marley was actually assassinated by a CIA agent named “Bill Oxley,” the conspiracy theory claims. Oxley allegedly confessed on his deathbed.

The claim has been debunked.

Marley died of cancer

An obituary published by The Guardian the day after Marley’s untimely death on May 11, 1981, reported his death from cancer. He was 36.

Some questioned how Marley, a Black man, contracted fatal melanoma that spread from his toe to his brain. Though melanoma is more common in those with fairer skin, hidden melanomas in areas of the body that don’t receive a lot of sun exposure are more common in people with darker skin, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

Moreover, Marley’s case of acral melanoma is described in an article in Cancer Research U.K.’s science blog as a rare, fast-growing cancer that would have been difficult to treat with the technology available in the 1980s.

The conspiracy theory

Adding fuel to the conspiracy theory was a prior attempt on Marley’s life. Before his cancer diagnosis, Marley was shot in the chest for supporting Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley, according to The Guardian.

A separate post to the Instagram page @_libertylou outlines the details of an alleged confession from an ex-CIA agent. The @_libertylou account is tied to QAnon “Deep State” conspiracy theories, according to its profile page.

The post suggested Marley was targeted for his Rastafarian beliefs. Though it doesn’t label Oxley as the “CIA agent” who assassinated Marley, the claim is almost identical to the source on defunct news website Your News Wire. 

To get close enough to Marley to inject him with a cancer-causing substance, an elaborate setup was planned involving the CIA agent’s son, according to @_libertylou.

“The day of the (Smile Jamaica Concert) event, a ‘USA photographer’ who wanted to meet Marley got access,” the post reads. “He told Marley how excited he was to film the event, and even brought him a pair of shoes. Bob tried on the shoe and screamed out ‘OUCH’! They found a pointed copper/metal in the top part of the shoe. They immediately thought it was radioactive or poisoned.”

The Smile Jamaica concert was held on Dec. 5, 1976, according to the official website for Bob Marley.

The post described how doctors discovered Marley’s cancer five months later during a visit to the hospital after a soccer player stepped on his toe. “They later found out the ‘photographer’ was the CIA agent’s son,” the claim ends.

Did an ex-CIA agent make a deathbed confession?

The source of the claim is a now-archived article on the website titled “CIA Agent Confesses On Deathbed: ‘I Killed Bob Marley.’” In May, Your News Wire creator Sean Adl-Tabatabai offered fact-checker Lead Stories a statement on the shutdown of the site.

“When I closed YourNewsWire down in late 2019 and moved to NewsPunch, the focus on what we would cover editorially changed and it was decided that we would no longer cover unreliable conspiracies whilst also being much more responsible in fact-checking content before publishing,” Adl-Tabatabai said.

The archived article claimed that Oxley, “a 79-year-old retired officer of the CIA,” confessed to 17 assassinations between 1974-85 after being told he had weeks to live.

“As far as the agency was concerned, Bob Marley was too successful, too famous, too influential… A Jamaican Rastaman who started using his funds and fame to support causes around the world that were in direct conflict with the CIA… To be honest, he signed his own death warrant.”

The strategy to inject Marley with a cancer-causing agent is the same described in the @_libertylou Instagram post, except Oxley, not his son, posed as the photographer.

No such agent

The existence of “Bill Oxley” and whether someone with that name was a CIA agent cannot be corroborated, USA TODAY confirmed. Reporters for fact-check sites Snopes and 4News also found no record of Oxley. 

Though fabricated, Oxley’s “confession” in Your News Wire produced numerous internet memes and conspiracy theories. A 2018 reprint of the story in Nigerian newspaper Vanguard was shared by rappers Busta Rhymes and T.I. on their Instagram accounts.

Our rating: False

We rate this claim FALSE because it is not supported by our research. The site where the claim was first posted, Your News Wire, shut down in 2019. None of the information in the article is verifiable and the existence of “Bill Oxley” cannot be confirmed.