Plaque for Leeds racism victim David Oluwale stolen hours after unveiling

David Oluwale plaque stolen
The plaque was stolen hours after an unveiling ceremony. Credit: Leeds Civic Trust

Campaigners have condemned the "abhorrent and cowardly theft" of a memorial to a man who was chased to his death by racist police officers.

The plaque – in memory of David Oluwale – was removed just hours after it was unveiled close to the spot where he died in the River Aire in Leeds.

The Leeds Civic Trust tweeted: "We are aware of the abhorrent and cowardly theft and removal of David Oluwale's blue plaque overnight, just a few hours after its unveiling.

"The people responsible bring shame on our city and we will not be deterred from commemorating David's life and legacy."

The plaque tells the story of David Oluwale's death.

The David Oluwale Memorial Association added: "It’s appalling, but it demonstrates their weakness.

"Racist graffiti, theft and criminal damage are the tools of people with no following, no solutions, motivated only by malice."

Mr Oluwale, who was 39 and from Nigeria, was last seen fleeing police in April 1969 and he was later found drowned in the Aire.

The plaque, which is close to a bridge that was recently installed in his name, carried the inscription: "A British citizen, he came to Leeds from Nigeria in 1949 in search of a better life. Hounded to his death near Leeds Bridge, two policemen were imprisoned for their crimes."

The theft of the plaque is being investigated by West Yorkshire Police.

The council said that the death of Mr Oluwale left a "lasting imprint" on the city.

The story of David Oluwale

David Oluwale was born in Nigera in 1930, before emigrating to England in August 1949.

He hid on a cargo ship destined for Hull and was jailed for being a stowaway.

Upon release, Leeds became his home and he worked in industries helping rebuild the post-war city.

Mr Oluwale spent his final two years homeless in Leeds city centre, routinely mentally and physically abused by police officers Insp Geoffrey Ellerker and Sgt Kenneth Kitching.

He was chased by the officers towards the River Aire in the early hours of 18 April 1969. His body was found in the water two weeks later.

The officers were later jailed for a series of assaults, but justice and civil rights campaigners said their trial presented a deliberately negative portrait of Mr Oluwale as a "social nuisance".