Senator for New York from 1965 until 1968, Robert F Kennedy was the brother of the previously assassinated president, John F Kennedy. Commonly referred to by his initials RFK alone, Robert was an American politician from Massachusetts.
On 5th June, 1968, shortly after giving a victory speech to celebrate his win in the California Primary in a Los Angeles Ambassador Hotel, the 42-year-old senator was greeting workers while being escorted through the pantry of the hotel, when a gunman opened fire using a .22 caliber gun. He was shot and seriously wounded, and was immediately taken to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan where he underwent emergency brain surgery.
The gunman was a 24 year old Palestinian immigrant called Sirhan Sirhan, who is reported to have yelled out, “I did it for my country” as soon as the shooting had finished. He was immediately captured by Mr Kennedy’s bodyguards and then arrested.
The favourite in the running to be named as the Democrat candidate in the next election, Robert’s death was announced the following day, after surgery failed to save him. It is believed that had he been saved, he would have suffered massive brain damage. It is also widely thought that it was Robert F Kennedy’s support for Israel that led to the attack being planned in the first place.
As with the assassination of John F Kennedy, conspiracy theories surround the conviction of the killer, Sirhan Sirhan. These range from conflicting reports of events, the trajectory of the bullets shot, and the number of bullet holes found compared with the round of bullets in the fired gun.
Sirhan Sirhan was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1969 following a four month trial. The sentence was commuted to life in prison, which he is still serving.
Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.