“Countless people from across Leeds were left horrified on Monday night when a blue plaque to commemorate David Oluwale was ripped from its city centre location in Leeds just hours after being unveiled in what police have deemed a hate crime.
Yet in another cruel twist, a temporary replacement plaque installed just yesterday has now also been damaged, leaving residents fuming over the callous and cowardly act.”
We often hear how the police are ‘too busy’ to visit homes after a burglary, instead they just ring the victim days later to give them a crime number to pass-on to their insurers. Minor assaults and criminal damage are often dealt with in the same way. Yet a news story this week regarding minor theft and vandalism has been the focus of much media hysteria and led the police to launch a ‘hate crime’ investigation.
The incident that has got the right-on brigade and plod into such a tizzy involves the theft of a blue metal plaque on Leeds bridge, and shows just how ridiculous hate crime laws in this country have become. The main plaques are cast aluminium 18 inches in diameter with lettering in relief.
They are usually fixed to old buildings or places where someone or something significant took place. For instance there is a blue plaque on the wall of the East Bar (east entrance to Leeds), or to famous historic figures who lived in Leeds.
This particular plaque followed the dedication of a new bridge, now named the David Oluwale bridge, which was recently lowered into place across the River Aire. The original commemorative plaque had been unveiled by Leeds Civic Trust last Monday, in memory of David Oluwale, who first moved to Leeds from Nigeria in 1949.
It was unveiled on April 25, 2022 during a special ceremony organised by Leeds Civic Trust and attended by the great-and-good of Leeds. However within a matter of hours, it had been ripped from the wall with a crowbar, and presumably tossed into the murky depths of the River Aire, along with the usual shopping trolleys and other rubbish. A temporary replacement David Oluwale plaque was ordered and installed on Leeds bridge. This plaque was ripped in half just hours after being installed.
So who was David Oluwale?
Oluwale was born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1930. In August 1949, at the age of 19, he had hidden on board SS Temple Bar, a cargo ship headed for Hull. He was arrested on docking at Hull and served 28 days in Armley Gaol after being charged as a stowaway under the Merchant Shipping Act. He was not deported as he had British passport.
After his release he travelled to Leeds, and by all accounts drifted into unemployment and homelessness and suffered from ‘mental health issues’. Due to his behaviour and the fact that he was sleeping rough on the streets in the city centre, he often came to the attention of the police. He was later described by Judge Mr. Justice Hinchcliffe as ‘a dirty, filthy, violent vagrant’.
According to his Wikipedia biography, Oluwale had a long history of criminality and mental illness. In 1953 he was charged with disorderly conduct and assault following a police raid on a nightclub. He was given a 28-day prison sentence. In prison he suffered from hallucinations and was transferred to Menston Asylum where he was detained for 8-years. After his release he moved between London, Sheffield and Leeds and was often in trouble with the police. In 1965 he spent another 2-years in a mental hospital.
Oluwale drowned in the River Aire near Leeds Bridge – it is not known if he fell, or was thrown – after witnesses described seeing him being chased alongside the river by uniformed police on the night he is believed to have drowned. His body was recovered from the river between Knostrop Weir and Skelton Grange Power Station on May 4 1969.
Police Inspector Geoffrey Ellerker and Police Sergeant Kenneth Kitching were both cleared of manslaughter, perjury and GBH. Both were found guilty of ABH. The pair ultimately become the first British police officers prosecuted for their involvement in the death of a Black person.
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