BBC to examine 1989 racist murder of man on Cowgate in Edinburgh for Black History Month


The BBC are looking into the shocking murder of the 28-year-old student


By Joe Smith
Saturday October 3, 2020


A newspaper clipping reporting on a 1997 vigil commemorating the tenth anniversary of Mr Sheekh’s death


The BBC are to examine the racist murder of a black student on Edinburgh’s Cowgate as part of Black History Month.

Axmed Abuukar Sheekh had come to Britain in 1987 after being arrested for his opposition to Somalia’s military regime. He was initially detained for three months in a prison ship in Essex, England.

With his immigration status still unconfirmed, he started at Stevenson College, in west Edinburgh, which actively supported asylum seekers. Sheekh hoped to study medicine or science at Edinburgh University.

On 16th January 1989, Sheekh and his female cousin Abdirizak Yusuf were attacked by a gang of eight to ten fascist “football casuals”, on Edinburgh’s Cowgate.
“Screaming racist abuse, the thugs repeatedly punched, kicked and stabbed the two black students on the head, arms and body,” reports Edinburgh University’s Race.Ed website
Mr Sheekh told Ms Yusuf to run from the group and dragged himself to a phone box where he collapsed, dying later in the city’s Royal Infirmary.

Three men were arrested but only two were brought to trial. At the eight-day hearing, all charges were dropped against one man while the other, Terence Reilly, was was acquitted of murder and found guilty only of possessing a knife and of assault. He was sentenced to just 21 months by an all-white jury.

This caused outrage among Edinburgh’s BAME community and campaigners furious that the establishment refused to accept Scotland had a problem with racism.

An article by the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism said: “The trial of the two white youths (part of the 10-strong gang which attacked Ahmed and a friend, who was also stabbed) proved how strongly entrenched the belief that Scotland was a ‘non-racist country’ and how hard the authorities would work that this facade remained intact.”

The shocking murder and the police’s refusal to consider a racism element in the murder caused the Lothian Black Forum (LBF) to launch a wave of protests.

Throughout 1989, the LBF held public meetings, with hundreds of Edinburgh residents in attendance, calling for the police to recognise the death of Axmed Sheekh as a racist murder.

In 2012 following the change in double jeopardy laws and momentum from the conviction and jailing of the killers of Stephen Lawrence, campaigners called on the Solicitor General to look at his case again, but the case was never re-opened.

Now, the BBC are looking again at Axmed Sheekh’s story with presenter Mark Stephen speaking to embers of the Lothian Black Forum, friends and supporters who stood up against racism and fought for justice for Axmed and his family.

The programme comes after a summer of protests in Edinburgh by the Black Lives Matter movement brought racism in Scotland to the fore once more.

During those protests many called for justice for Sheku Bayoh, a 31-year-old father-of-two who was killed in police custody in May 2015.

As a result of the actions of protesters in Edinburgh and beyond, the statue commemorating slave owner Henry Dundas was given a new plaque describing his involvement with prolonging the slave trade.



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