The truth about one of Britain’s most infamous race murders has never been revealed. At around midnight on May 17 1959, a white gang ambushed 32-year- old Antiguan carpenter Kelso Cochrane on a Notting Hill slum street. After a brief scuffle one of them plunged a knife into his heart. The impact was as profound as the aftershock of Stephen Lawrence’s murder more than forty years later. The previous summer Notting Hill had been convulsed by race riots. The fascists Sir Oswald Mosley and Colin Jordan were agitating in the area. So the news of an innocent back man stabbed in west London reverberated from Whitehall to the Caribbean. And when the police failed to catch the killer, many black people believed it would have been different if the victim had been white.
Murder in Notting Hill by journalist MARK OLDEN is a tale of crumbling tenements transformed into a millionaires’ playground, of the district’s fading white working class, and of a veil finally being lifted on the past. Part whodunnit, part social history, it reveals startling new evidence about the murder.
Mark Olden is a TV Producer and Journalist based in London.
Murder in Notting Hill is published on November 25 2011 by Zero Books (available now on Amazon).
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WHAT THEY SAY:
“Mark Olden, a London journalist, displays a terrier-like devotion in locating elderly Notting Dale inhabitants for interview and trawling public archives for information. In pages of atmospheric reportage he brings 1950s Notting Dale vividly to life, with its boozers, nightclubs and cinemas frequented by the likes of Colin MacInnes… Any lingering hope of justice has now apparently gone. In the meantime, we can read this superb work of social history, in all its gritty actuality.”
Ian Thomson, Review, The Spectator
“In the story of race and justice in this country, the murder of Kelso Cochrane is like an unhealed wound. Today’s readers will see many similarities with what happened in relation to Stephen Lawrence — the missed opportunities in the investigation, the denial of the race motive, the obvious official discomfort and confusion — but this is a tragedy in its own right, and all the more dreadful in a time when racism was often overt and tolerated. Mark Olden has written a first-rate, highly readable account of the known facts, but he has also gone farther, tracking down surviving witnesses and, with due care and caution after all these years, shedding new light on the case. For anyone interested in justice in modern Britain this is an important book.”
Brian Cathcart, author The Case of Stephen Lawrence
“Highly recommended…[a] fascinating portrait of time and place.”
Robert Elms, BBC London
“Some crimes echo down over the years, not just because of the pain or death they cause, but because of the social wounds and patterns of injustice they reveal. This murder is one. Mark Olden has done a fine job of combining investigative reporting and suspenseful storytelling about a crime whose legacy has not gone away.”
Adam Hochschild, author King Leopold’s Ghost
“Not only is this a meticulous and important work of investigative journalism, but it is also, and perhaps more crucially, a compelling analysis of the conditions in which extreme right-wing politics and racism thrived to such an extent that a ‘stranger’ of the wrong colour could be killed with impunity…A story not only of a particular time and place but a salutary reminder of the need to remain vigilant unless such conditions occur again.”
Professor Roger Bromley, Emeritus Professor of Cultural Studies, University of Nottingham
“Mark Olden’s Murder in Notting Hill not only finally reveals who killed Kelso Cochrane, it also captures what it must have been like in the old Wild West 11 as well as Absolute Beginners itself. By juxtaposing the present rom-com property porn incarnation of the area with the seedy dangerous slum of the late 50s, Mark Olden has come up with the best book about Notting Hill since the Colin MacInnes classic. ”
Tom Vague, Notting Hill community historian.
“In his new re-investigation of the 1959 murder in Notting Hill of a black man, Kelso Cochrane, author Mark Olden brilliantly describes a postwar world where feral young white men, drunk on beer, high on bravado, terrified at the emergence of a community they did not recognize or understand, made a statement of their own with regular bouts of ‘nigger hunting’.”
Hugh Muir, The Guardian feature, The Importance of the Notting Hill Carnival
“The story that emerges from Olden’s book is compelling…Murder in Notting Hill is an excellent read is highly recommended.”
Harmit Athwal, Institute of Race Relations