Did Britney Spears’s grandfather MURDER his WIFE?
On a humid spring day in 1966, in the Deep South of the United States, a desperate woman walked to the grave of her infant son carrying a 12-gauge shotgun.
Angling the butt of the gun in the dirt with the barrel pointed upwards towards her, she reportedly removed her shoe and pressed the trigger with her toe and fell to the ground, where she remained until she was discovered the next morning.
Her husband, June Austin, told coroners that she’d already attempted suicide three times. A court decided that this was a final successful attempt.
This, apparently, was the tragic fate of Emma Jean Spears, commonly referred to as simply Jean — the grandmother of pop superstar Britney Jean Spears, after whom she is named and to whom she bears a striking resemblance.
Emma Jean Spears, commonly referred to as simply Jean — the grandmother of pop superstar Britney Jean Spear
The popstar’s grandfather, June Austin, told coroners that his wife already attempted suicide three times
But explosive revelations this week allege that Jean might not have killed herself at all. Rather, the suggestion is that she was murdered — by none other than husband June, Britney’s grandfather.
An investigation by the New York Magazine quotes members of Britney’s family saying they question whether Jean killed herself. As we shall see, when a reporter asks one of them whether it was June Austin who pulled the trigger, the reply suggested that he did.
The investigation paints a dark portrait of the Spears family tree — and seems to shed a chilling light on the way women have been treated in the family.
It also implies that the tyranny with which its patriarch June Austin treated his family has been passed on to his son Jamie who, in turn, is accused in court of tyrannising his daughter Britney.
As the world now knows, for 13 years, Jamie Spears, 70, held Britney in a ‘conservatorship’, effectively imprisoning her in one of the most severe and unusual legal guardianships in the U.S.
Britney Spears pictured with her grandfather, June, and Aretha Franklin
In 2007, aged just 25, Britney suffered one of the most tragic and public mental breakdowns in showbusiness history, shaving her head and attacking a photographer’s car with an umbrella.
The following year, with police and TV helicopters overhead, the troubled star was wheeled out of her Los Angeles home strapped to a stretcher, having been locked with her year-old son in her bathroom, ‘under the influence of an unknown substance’.
It was shortly after these alarming episodes that her father Jamie became her legal guardian in what was known as an emergency ‘temporary conservatorship’.
That supposedly temporary arrangement lasted more than a decade, giving Britney no control over her finances or personal life until a court decision last year overturned this.
In 2007, aged just 25, Britney suffered one of the most tragic and public mental breakdowns in showbusiness history, shaving her head and attacking a photographer’s car with an umbrella
Throughout this time the princess of pop was unable to choose her own meals, receive visitors, drive or even use contraception without her father’s permission.
She told the court she could not do so much as ‘buy a stick of gum’ without disclosing it. The idea that the father of this sweet-natured all-American girl had held her captive was deeply sinister. With the New York Magazine investigation, we have perhaps received an explanation of why Jamie Spears exerted such dictatorial control over his daughter.
To understand the background, we have to go back to 1930 when June Austin — Britney’s grandfather — was born near Kentwood deep in the redneck country of Louisiana. It was there he met Britney’s grandmother and they married when she was just 16.
According to the magazine, he had ‘a mean streak’.
He did not meet his son Jamie until the little boy was one because June was in the air force. When he was around he ruled his family with an iron fist. Jamie was 13 when his mother Jean died in such violent circumstances.
The troubled star was wheeled out of her Los Angeles home strapped to a stretcher, having been locked with her year-old son in her bathroom
It also implies that the tyranny with which its patriarch June Austin treated his family has been passed on to his son Jamie(pictured) who, in turn, is accused in court of tyrannising his daughter Britney
According to her family, she had been bullied relentlessly by June and was mourning the death of her three-day-old baby, Jamie’s younger brother, on the day of her death. Little Jamie was a formidable sportsman, excelling particularly in American football, the game closest to his old man’s heart. Soon he became the Louisiana quarterback of the year.
But June was a relentless coach, pushing his son to ‘exhaustion’ in training and making his presence keenly felt in the stands at home games. (Years later Jamie would come to regard his own daughter, during her Las Vegas residencies, as ‘a racehorse’.)
When, as a teenager, Jamie was badly injured in a car accident in which his best friend died, his father’s response was to berate him. A month later Jamie was back on the field, where he won that year’s championship.
Just eight months after Jean’s death, June married Jo Ann Blackwell, who came from a well-respected Kentwood family. She later claimed he had beaten her and ‘committed numerous acts of cruelty’ towards her.
According to her children, June even had Jo Ann locked up against her will at psychiatric hospital Mandeville, the kind of place he referred to as a ‘nut house’. Like Britney, decades later, Jo Ann was interrogated by the court as to her fitness as a mother. Citing her ‘nervous breakdown’, the court awarded custody to June. ‘These Spears men are something awful’, John Mark Spears, Britney’s uncle and the son of Jo Ann, told the New York Post.
‘He ruined Emma Jean and he ruined my mama. He shipped them both off to Mandeville from time to time. So I’m not too surprised about what Jamie’s done to Britney.’
Britney was born in 1981, five years after Jamie met her mother, Lynne Bridges.
Financially reckless, instead of paying their taxes Britney’s parents spent their money on their daughter’s music lessons and showbiz competitions, determined that she would become a star.
In March 1998 they filed for bankruptcy. But just three months later, their 16-year-old daughter’s debut single Baby One More Time, topped the charts in 22 countries and became one of the best-selling singles of all time.
The New York Magazine investigation paints a dark portrait of the Spears family tree — and seems to shed a chilling light on the way women have been treated in the family
What follows is well documented: The midriff-baring girl-next-door became a multi-platinum selling recording artist, releasing now poignantly titled songs such as Overprotected and I’m A Slave 4 U.
Then came the mental breakdowns. ‘She used to talk about how she couldn’t believe she was named after her grandmother who killed herself,’ Britney’s uncle William Spears said in 2008. ‘Now we are worried the same will happen to her.’ Locked in the shackles of the conservatorship, Britney lost custody of her young sons, Sean Preston and Jayden James, for years after her fitness to be a mother was called into question.
But in April 2019, a legal expert claiming to have worked on Britney’s conservatorship said she had been forced into mental institutions.
He’d resigned in protest at her ‘disturbing’ treatment.
‘She has been in the mental facility since mid-January,’ he told a podcast show.
‘There is no end in sight for this stay at the facility. She did not want to go. From what I understand this was not a decision she made at all.’
Father Jamie became her legal guardian in what was known as an emergency ‘temporary conservatorship’ (pictured: sister Lynne Spears and father Jamie Spears)
Britney later said she was forced to take lithium, a mood stabiliser which she said made her feel ‘drunk’.
Which is what makes the allegations against her grandfather June this week all the more disconcerting.
In 2008, when Britney was hospitalised against her will for the second time, June, by now a 78-year-old widower, was actually sympathetic. ‘She shouldn’t go in the nut house,’ he said of the little granddaughter he once bounced on his knee.
‘Sometimes you come out worse than you go in.’
It was in the same year that Jo Ann died in poverty — her final days having been spent on strong medication and oblivious to the world around her.
‘My mum was like a debutante, she came from a good family and was considered a catch,’ her daughter Leigh Ann Spears Wrather, who is also Britney’s aunt and Jamie’s half-sister, said last year. ‘But Daddy — I hate even calling him that — drove her crazy,’ she said of June.
The midriff-baring girl-next-door became a multi-platinum selling recording artist, releasing now poignantly titled songs such as Overprotected and I’m A Slave 4 U
‘He institutionalised her at Mandeville a few times and put her on lithium. When I heard that Britney was put on lithium for a while I almost couldn’t believe it, but it made sense.
‘Typical for this family and how they treat their women. They are mean and they will destroy you if they can’t control you.’
Leigh Ann also claimed June sexually and physically assaulted her, and that she ran away from home aged 16 after being abused from the age of 11. She said they would go to church where June was the Deacon.
On the way home he would make her perform a sex act on him. ‘I hope he’s burning in hell,’ she said.
So what of the question of how Britney’s grandmother died? Both John Mark and Leigh Ann question whether Jean Spears actually killed herself, or whether June, who died in 2012, was behind it. ‘No one knows what happened because no one was there,’ Leigh Ann said.
‘But you can bet my daddy pulled the trigger one way or the other even if he wasn’t there.’
This week, a New York Magazine journalist asked a family member in Kentwood about the notion that June ‘pulled the trigger’. ‘He drove her to death?’, asked the reporter.
‘No, literally,’ said the family member, who asked not to be named.
For a long time the world wondered what Jamie’s motives for the conservatorship were.
Britney told the court she could not do so much as ‘buy a stick of gum’ without disclosing it
Since his daughter was ‘freed’, he has made a point of living in an RV trailer outside Kentwood next to a warehouse of Britney’s old possessions and tour memorabilia. Even at the height of her fame, he never craved opulence.
But if his primary motive wasn’t money, then what was it? As the traumatic details of the family history reveal, the motive was control. ‘The main thing I remember when I started was my dad’s control,’ Britney said in a recording released in August — a rare direct statement on her torrid family affairs.
The princess of pop was unable to choose her own meals, receive visitors, drive or even use contraception without her father’s permission
Since his daughter was ‘freed’, Jamie has made a point of living in an RV trailer outside Kentwood next to a warehouse of Britney’s old possessions and tour memorabilia
During her conservatorship court battle to break free of Jamie, Britney told the judge: ‘I cried on the phone for an hour and he loved every minute of it
‘He loved to control everything he did. I remember the first day [of the conservatorship] he said: “I’m Britney Spears and I’m calling the shots”.’
She added that, just as Jamie had been brutally pushed by his own father, he meted out the same treatment to his son: ‘My brother was a football player and my dad was really, really hard on him when he was younger.’
During her conservatorship court battle to break free of Jamie, Britney told the judge: ‘I cried on the phone for an hour and he loved every minute of it.
‘The control he had over someone as powerful as me — he loved the control to hurt his own daughter, one hundred thousand per cent. He loved it.’
Jamie refused to answer any of New York Magazine’s requests for comment, so his views on the allegations against himself and his father remain unknown.
Britney herself hasn’t made a direct comment on the article either, but two days after its publication she posted on Instagram: ‘Good news, good news!!! Still breathing . . . it’s funny the same two people who gave me life are the same exact two people who took it away.’
As for her future? We can look to the words of her aunt, Leigh Ann. ‘I think Britney will survive’, she said this week.
‘She’s a beautiful person with a beautiful soul.’