IT was 50 years ago today that Robert Francis Kennedy, brother of the assassinated president John Fitzgerald Kennedy, died of his wounds after being shot in the head the previous day.

In circumstances that are still debated fiercely to this day, senator Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan, a 24-year-old Palestinian with Jordanian citizenship. He allegedly targeted Bobby Kennedy, as he was known, because of his support for Israel.

Kennedy was on the campaign trail to become president of the USA in that year’s elections. He had just won the Democratic primary contest for California and South Dakota and was gaining ground in the race to win the party’s nomination for the presidency when he was killed.


ON the evening of Tuesday, June 4, 1968, Kennedy was at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles to greet his supporters after winning the two primaries. The California victory, in particular, was crucial to his candidacy as he was lagging behind his Democratic opponent, vice-President Hubert Humphrey, in terms of the numbers of committed delegates.

As he made his way through a kitchen to carry out press interviews, Kennedy was confronted by Sirhan Sirhan who shot the New York senator three times at point-blank range with a .22 revolver. It was 12.15am on Wednesday June 5.

Five other people were hit as the assassin emptied eight chambers before he was subdued by Kennedy’s private bodyguard William Barry and the former football player Rosey Grier, among others.

The other people wounded were Paul Schrade, a union official who was the most seriously hurt; Ira Goldstein of the Continental News Service; William Wiesel, unit manager for the ABC network; Democrat activist Elizabeth Evans; and 17-year-old Irwin Stroll, a campaigner for Kennedy. They all survived.

Sirhan was then arrested by LA Police. He was carrying a printed schedule of where Kennedy was speaking in June, which would prove crucial at his trial as it indicated premeditated murder. He was sentenced to death for his crime but California later abolished the death sentence and he remains in prison to this day.


AS he lay on the floor bleeding heavily, busboy Juan Romero, who had been the last man to shake Kennedy’s hand, prayed beside the devoutly Catholic senator and wrapped rosary beads around Kennedy’s hand. His wife Ethel, who was three months pregnant, went to his side and photographs showed her extreme distress. Legendary Scottish photographer Harry Benson took some of those pictures.

The stricken senator was rushed to the Central Receiving Hospital of LA where he was found to be still alive, but barely. He was then transferred to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan in LA.

A team of six surgeons removed all but a fragment of a bullet from Kennedy’s brain in an operation that lasted more than three hours. A second and less serious bullet remained lodged in the back of his neck.

He had suffered serious and ultimately fatal damage to the brain. His wife Ethel and other members of the Kennedy family were at his bedside when Bobby died at 1.44 am on Thursday, June 6, 1968.


COMING less than five years after President John F Kennedy’s assassination and just two months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, the murder of Bobby Kennedy shocked the world.

He had been a famous public figure for many years, serving as attorney general when his brother was in power.

America went into mourning, and many mentioned the Kennedy family ‘curse’ that would continue to affect the clan. Two of Bobby’s eleven children died young, and his nephew John F Kennedy junior was killed along with his wife Carolyn and sister-in-law Lauren Bessette in a plane crash in 1999.

Had Bobby Kennedy lived, his campaigning against poverty might well have won him the presidency. Instead, it went to Richard Nixon.