50 Years On: Remembering David Oluwale

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the death of a Nigerian man named David Oluwale who was found drowned in the River Aire in Leeds after fleeing two police officers.

Oluwale left Nigeria for England as a stowaway on a ship bound for the port city of Hull, but was discovered and immediately jailed for his misdemeanour. Leeds became his main place of residence during his remaining years in Britain.

In 1953 David Oluwale was involved in an altercation with police and it was said, suffered a truncheon blow to his head. Charged with disorderly conduct, he was again sent to prison, later diagnosed as a schizophrenic and dispatched to an asylum outside of Leeds; he was not seen for eight years. Antipsychotic drugs and electric shock treatment administred during his time at the asylum meant that David Oluwale was unable to remain in employment upon his release. He was soon homeless, becoming a rough sleeper. Two police officers made him the regular target of their systematic mental and physical abuse and it was from these two men that Oluwale was seen running on 18 April towards the River Aire. His body was found two weeks later. 

The case bulit around this tragic death led to the first prosecution of British police for involvement in the death of an African/African-Caribbean/Asian person.  

David Oluwale is being remembered in a series of events in Leeds throughout the month of April. These include an exhibition by artist Rasheed Araeen, music performances. poetry readings and a walk around places associated with the Nigerian-British man. Max Farrar of the David Oluwale Memorial Association said: "We had these tragic circumstances of how he was systematically abused and died and then we see a transition to a more inclusive, hopeful city. Lessons have been learned and Leeds has improved provisions for all the problems that David endured."