A 32-year-old black man from Antigua named Kelso Cochrane was brutally murdered in a racist attack in the early hours of 17 May 1959.
After receiving treatment at Paddington Hospital for a fractured thumb, Kelso Cochrane was walking home shortly after midnight when a gang of white youths surrounded him, called him derogatory names, beat him up and stabbed him through the heart outside of the Earl of Warwick pub on Golborne Road, Kensington. He was only a few hundred yards from the flat he shared with his fiancee in Notting Hill. The youths ran off when three men went to help him.
These men took him to the hospital, where he died an hour later.
First racially movitaved killing after Windrush
Kelso Cochrane’s murder is marked as the first racially motivated killing after the Windrush generation migrated to Britain but the police at the time treated it as a robbery gone wrong and general hooliganism.
Arrests were made but both suspects were released hours later. Mr Cochrane’s murderers were never caught. This reverberated through North Kensington’s Caribbean community and Britain at large.
The man leading the investigation, Detective Superintendent Ian Forbes-Leith, told a newspaper at the time: “We are satisfied that it was the work of a group of about six anti-law white teenagers who had only one motive in view – robbery or attempted robbery.”
Much was made in the press of the fact that Kelso’s wallet was empty, but his fiancee Olivia was clear in her statement that he had emptied it before leaving home that evening.
The Sunday People newspaper also claimed Kelso had been drinking, even though the pathologist ruled this out.
Hostility towards the Windrush migrants
Britain had welcomed the Caribbean migration in the wake of the war, yet hostility bubbled beneath the surface. Many recent arrivals settled in North Kensington, an area famous for low rents and unscrupulous landlords. Here, fascist politician Oswald Mosley focussed his energies, arguing for the repatriation of Caribbean people and urged the local white working-class population to “Keep Britain White”.
In 1958-59 under the banner of “Keep Britain White” attacks on the Black communities of Notting Hill, began with the intention to drive them out of their homes. These attacks resulted in the Notting Hill riots and in the murder of Kelso Cochrane less than a year later.
More than 1,200 people, both black and white, attended Kelso’s funeral. It was like a state occasion.