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Friday, July 15, 2011

Killer cops and a corrupt judge

Killer cops and a corrupt judge

David Oluwale was born on 8 September 1930, in Lagos, Nigeria. He belonged to the Yoruba tribe.

David Oluwale

The colonial rule was in decline when David was educated in a Christian grammar school. Leaving school he struggled as an apprentice tailor. There was high unemployment, food shortages, and prices soared. On 16 August 1949, David stowed away on board the Temple Star from Nigeria, for the 2 week journey to Hull. He hid amongst boxes of groundnuts in the hold of the ship, until the captain ordered smoke to be pumped into the hold to smoke out any hiding stowaways. Also on board was the Nigerian national football team on its first ever overseas tour.

Upon arriving at Hull docks, David was arrested and appeared before the magistrates at Hull police court. He was sentenced to 28 days imprisonment, and found himself in Armley Prison, Leeds, on his first day in the "Mother Country".

Geoffrey Ellerker, from Leeds, served in the RAF Police between January 1952-4. He was a Detective Sergeant in the CID at Ireland Wood police station, Leeds, upon promotion to a uniformed Inspector in April 1968, he was transferred to Millgarth Street police station in the city centre. Sergeant Ken Kitching worked under Ellerker. When Ellerker was arrested for perverting the course of justice in relation to a RTC, Inspector Puddefoot replaced him. Kitching continued to work under Puddefoot, until he was arrested and charged, along with Ellerker, for the assault and manslaughter of David Oluwale.

Inspector Geoffrey Ellerker and a police Sergeant were in the front seats of the unmarked police car, and Mr Justice Hinchcliffe sat in the rear, speeding on their way to a Lodge meeting, along Otley Road, when they knocked over and killed an old woman on the Zebra crossing between the Skyrack and Original Oak public houses. The skid marks measured 74 feet! This got changed to 47 feet in the investigation report.

I worked in the Skyrack. I recall seeing the backseat passenger getting out, and after words with Ellerker, the latter arranged for him to be driven off in a police car to the Lodge meeting. I did not know at that time that it was Mr Justice Hinchcliffe, until he gave me 5 years in April 1971 at Leeds Assizes, and I recognised him. In November 1971, Mr Justice Hinchcliffe directed the jury to find both Ellerker and Kitching not guilty of manslaughter!

As David Oluwale was a regular sight on the turf of the Leeds Mob, I did know him. And as I was out doing burglaries in the early hours of the morning, I saw some of the grief that Ellerker and Kitching gave him. In mid April 1969, I was on the green painted bridge over the River Aire, leaning on the guardrail and smoking a Players No6 tipped. My peace was disturbed by an altercation down on the river bank. The silver buttons and cap and helmet badges were clearly visible. These two were definitely larger than the small dark figure. I recall saying to myself 'jump in and swim for it', as the blows reigned down on him, but he just took it all before going down. The uniformed figures just booted the downed figure into the River Aire. I thought maybe he would regain consciousness and climb out. About 2 weeks later, I was informed that police frogmen had fished David Oluwale out of the River Aire down by the sewerage works.

Recently, I have read that this was the first and only Black death in police custody resulting in prosecution and sentence. The only problem with this is that he was not in custody at the time of his death. Unless that is, he was cautioned and arrested between the initial assault in the doorway of John Peters, and the second assault on the river bank. I don't want to put a damper on the Black Rights Movement. Still, the consolation prize is we now know that not only are we dealing with corruption in the police but also in the Judiciary. I am aware that Judge David Savill QC, the son in law of Mr Justice Hinchcliffe, did good works in trying to balance the wrongdoing.

Castle Grove Masonic Hall. Castle Grove, Moor Road, Headingley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 4BP. Set in a quiet backwater in Far Headingley, Leeds, Castle Grove is the meeting place for 15 Masonic Lodges.

1930, the year David Oluwale was born

Hunslet Steel Works, Leeds, 1930. Photo taken from Pepper Road. The steel works was built in 1889, and closed in 1934. The spire of Hunslet parish church can be seen between the two chimmneys.

National flag of Nigeria pre 1 October 1960

National flag of Nigeria following Independence from Britain 1 October 1960

The Bridal House 39 The Headrow, Leeds LS1 6PU, West Yorkshire UK. Sometimes David Oluwale slept in this doorway.


Jim Brown said...


I remember this case very well from numerous articles run in 'Private Eye' at the time.

I guess you may be referring to the book by Harmit Athwal 'The Hounding of David Oluwale'? It seems to me that you are a vital piece in the jigsaw of this whole sorry tale, having been present both at the scene of the car crash and witnessing the assault by the two police officers on David and prior to his body being found.

I'm very interested to know if you gave evidence at the trial, or the subsequent enquiry, or if the author approached you for information?



jailhouselawyer said...


I remember both incidents from being on the ground rather than reading in any paper or book.

It was only in the last couple of days, whilst doing an internet search to research for a work of "fiction" that a lawyer and me are writing on the 60s underworld in Leeds, that I came across references to Harmit's book and the play based upon it. As this was in 2007, and I was out and had a computer and internet access, I don't know how it went under my radar at the time.

As you say, I do have the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. I will try to get a copy of Kester Aspden's book Nationality: Wog – The Hounding Of David Oluwale and access to the archive material he discovered. All I know is that an outsider will miss what is obvious to someone with a background like mine.

My foster father's brother was a Freemason, and his son joined the police at the same time as Gary Galvin. Both had issues with the corruption and bad practices they witnessed. What hasn't been published to the best of my knowledge, is that Gavin Galvin raised his concerns over the David Oluwale affair first with Detective Constable Jock McLeod who was in the Scenes of Crimes Department (fingerprints and photographs). The rest, as they say, is history.

Usually, when concerns are raised with a senior officer they are told to get on with their job and leave well alone. Gavin Galvin, like me, is a truth seeker and we don't give up that easily. I think, but for the RTC and Ellerker being replaced by Inspector Puddefoot, it would have never come to light.

Unfortunately, my foster father's brother's son felt he had to resign and as a result we lost a straight cop. He passed the medical and got what he wanted to do drive police cars. I recall him telling me about the shout to a fight outside a pub. As he was about to jump out of the car, his Sergeant told him to wait until there was only one left standing and then go and arrest him! When he reported corruption it was suddenly discovered that because of his colour blindness he would be deskbound...

I was serving my 5 years at the time of the trial, and was not aware of it until a long time afterwards. Nor did I know about the subsequent enquiry. The author probably was not aware of my existence and that I knew something about the case.

Darby said...

I was about Ten years old when David Oluwale was ‘murdered’

My own experiences can’t be compared to his in terms of the tragic end result, but as someone who’s mixed-raced, (coincidently called David!) and who was raised in ‘care’ in the 60’s in an ‘all white’ environment, - I can certainly attest to the somewhat casual use of brutality and racism of the time.

It’s interesting to note (according to Wikipedia!) that Mr Oluwale didn’t seem to have any recorded ‘mental problems’ BEFORE he was jailed for the 28 days that led to him being sectioned.

Being ‘nutted off’ whilst in jail was always one of MY greatest fears when I was making my own little challenges against ‘the system’.

The fact that Mr Oluwale had a wife and children, and was employed before being incarcerated, suggests to me that any ‘perceived’ illness was as a direct result of the beatings, experimental drugs and electric shock treatment he was forced to endure for 8 years in one of our very fine mental institutions.

The ‘Wog’ in the title of the book reminds me of the CID copper who made the mistake of recording that amongst personal property seized from my address were a couple of ‘wog boxes’. Cutting a long story short, this ‘slip of the pen’ would eventually lead to the original charge being dropped.

Every cloud eh John?