Murder in Notting Hill

Murder in Notting Hill

A search for the truth about a distant unsolved murder.


At around midnight on May 17 1959, a white gang ambushed Antiguan carpenter Kelso Cochrane on a Notting Hill slum street. One of them plunged a knife into his heart. 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 is a tale of crumbling tenements transformed into a millionaires playground, of the districts fading white working class, and of a veil finally being lifted on the past.


Ranging in time from the 1950s to the present day and drawing on numerous interviews with witnesses and suspects, as well as books, official files and newspaper accounts, it combines a history of the area with determined detective work and atmospheric reportage... In doggedly pursuing this task and by vividly recreating a tragic and pivotal event in British social history, Olden merits our thanks. This is a well-written and important book and deserves to be widely read. ~ Adam Carter, Searchlight magazine

Olden constructs a pacy, cross-cutting account of the murder and its aftermath, richly evoking the colours and tensions of the period... Closer to the present day, Olden recounts poignant journeys to visit old men eking out their pensions in sad decrepitude, reminscing about the good old days of criminal gangstership, and, finally, revealing to him Notting Hills "worst kept secret", the identity of the murderer. The author concludes that investigative mistakes, as well as a reluctance to inflame racial tensions any further meant that "Cochrane had little chance of ever getting justice". This book is at least a belated shadow of some. ~ The Guardian, Stephen Poole

Murder in Notting Hill was featured in BBC Radio Four, with Jonathan Freedland taking the long view of the Stephen Lawrence case, comparing it to the racist murder of Kelso Cochrane in Notting Hill in 1959

~ BBC Radio Four, The Long View

Olden reconstructs the events of 1959 and locates who he feels to be the culprit; the finished article is a resourceful investigative undertaking which goes beyond true crimes sensationalist remit to map the social and political resonances of what took place.

~ Joe Kennedy, The Quietus

Notting Hill is Oldens territory and he knows it well. He deftly describes its rise and fall; and, unlike much local history, he puts a human face to it. We see it through the eyes of the people who lived and worked there, grew up there, notably those to whom it was home in 1959. Thus Murder in Notting Hill is not just about a murder, its also about a time and place.

~ Anthony Frewin, Lobster magazine

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 his new re-investigation of the 1959 murder in the heart of 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 recognise 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'

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 and author: London Psychogeography, Rachman, Riots and Rillington Place

Highly recommended...[a] fascinating portrait of time and place.

~ Robert Elms, BBC London 94.9

 There seems to be a deep commitment behind this book to uncover who killed Kelso.... The story that emerges from Olden’s book is compelling... Murder in Notting Hill is an excellent read and is highly recommended.

~ Harmit Athwal, Institute of Race Relations

[Olden's] book is an unputdownable investigation and, like a good detective story, pursues a riveting forensic trail.

~ John Green, Morning Star

...A timely reminder that neither institutional racism, police corruption, nor the old bill being in the pockets of the media, are anything new in London.

~ Stewart Home

Olden presents a complex and compelling story.  One of the most interesting features of the book is the light it shed is the changes that working class people experienced at the time.

~ Ken Olende, Socialist Worker

This book is not simply a look back at the past, but a useful historical document that still has resonances for us today. 

~ John Green, Review 31

In a small way this book offers a piece of justice for a man whose name will never be forgotten.

~ Pendle Harte, The Hill magazine

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; Jill Dando: her Life and Death; Were You Still Up For Portillo?

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; Bury the Chains; To End All Wars

A fascinating story based on meticulous research which not only illuminates a dark period in Britain’s recent history, but is also a compelling read.

~ Matthew Collin, Author: Altered State; This is Serbia Calling; The Time of the Rebels

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
Mark Olden Mark Olden is a print and broadcast journalist. He's produced investigations for Channel 4 News and formerly worked at the BBC. He's written...
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