Sunday, 14 February 2016

Michael X: the murderer who used to visit our neighbours

Michael X and a couple of idiots
I was about nine, and we were living on the top two floors of a house in Ridgway Place in Wimbledon. When I drove down it a few years ago, the houses had all been glossily refurbished to within an inch of their lives: they now go for between £3m and £5m. In the '60s, as far as I  remember, most of them were split into flats and maisonettes, and most people rented (well, we did, anyway). After we'd been there a while, a black family moved into a flat in the house next door - a bit of a novelty for Wimbledon back then.

I don't remember any particular sense of alarm, but I imagine (perhaps unfairly) the respectable working/lower-middle class family who rented the bottom two floors of the house we were in might have raised a collective eyebrow. However, there were no burning crosses out front or angry slogans daubed on on our neighbours' communal front door in red paint, and, as far as I'm aware, nobody posted excreta through their letter-box.

Our neighbours' two children - a girl and a boy aged around five or six - had a pet rabbit, which they invited me in to see one day. All I remember is that the kids were charming, that their mother was welcoming and fed me cake and fizzy pop, and that their father - a big, good-looking man in a dark-green jumper - stood in the background glaring at me angrily and muttering until I felt so uncomfortable I made some excuse and left.  I suppose this minor incident made an impression on me because, although I'd seen lots of black people in London, I'm not sure I'd ever socialised with any of them. When I told my mother where I'd been, and that the father hadn't seemed to cotton to me, she made some comment along the lines that I probably shouldn't accept another invitation, but that it was fine to invite the kids to our place. As nine-year olds aren't all that keen on hanging out with junior tics, I'm sorry to say that a return invitation was never issued.

Fast-forward ten years or so. I was home from university when my mother passed me the newspaper she was reading and tapped a photograph of Michael X. "He used to visit the black people next door to us in Ridgway Place." "Oh - is that why you didn't want me to visit them?" She explained that, while she didn't have a clue who their regular visitor was, he had looked like "a very nasty piece of work indeed."

For younger readers, Michael de Freitas (as he was christened) was a Trinidadian "civil right leader" and black activist who rose to fame in London in the politically febrile '60s. He changed his name to Abdul Malik and liked to be known as Michael X as a homage to his hero, Malcolm X. He wasn't very black (his father was Portuguese), so his mother encouraged him to pass for white, and he was known for a while as Red Mike. After he emigrated to London in 1957, he became a thug for the notorious slum landlord, Peter Rachman. He then discovered that he was, after all, black, and became an "activist". In 1965, he founded the Racial Adjustment Action Society (RAAS), and the Observer wet its little liberal panties with excitement and called him "the authentic voice of black bitterness." Sexy or what! In 1967 he helped organise the first outdoor incarnation of the Notting Hill Carnival (thanks, Mike). Later that year, he was jailed for 12 months under the newly-introduced Race Relations Act (snork!), having advocated killing any white man who "lay hands" on a black woman, and having accused white men of not having souls. In 1969 he became the leader of a "black power" commune in the Holloway Road, to which John Lennon and his lovely, talented wife donated money (or, rather, a bagful of their hair which was then auctioned - sounds disgusting). Malik and some pals tried to extort money from a Jewish businessman by kidnapping, beating and humiliating him ("the slave collar affair"). The commune's house burnt down, and Malik was arrested for attempted extortion. John Lennon paid his bail (God, that man was a fool).

Malik fled back to Trinidad, where he set up another black power commune, albeit more isolated than the last one. It burned down in 1972, and police investigating the fire discovered the bodies of two murdered commune members, one of whom was the daughter of a British MP: it was later revealed that Malik had hacked at her neck with a machete after forcing her into an open grave. Malik fled to Guyana, but was arrested, brought back, tried and found guilty. Despite John Lennon paying for a radical lawyer to plead for clemency (on what possible grounds?), Abdul Malik was hanged in 1975. Good.

I've subsequently wondered who the people next door to us actually were - and whether their children turned into happy, well-adjusted adults despite the evidently racist attitude of their father and at least one of their visitors. Hope so.

Anyway, it just goes to show that, on the whole,  a boy won't go far wrong if he listens to his mum.

1 comment:

  1. Cross and Blackwell17 February 2016 at 10:22

    Michael X looks about as Black as French Vanilla ice cream.

    I think that a flavouring of evil Aryan genes were included in that malodorous and mendacious Marxist.