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Remembering Rolan Adams

TRIBUTE: Rolan Adams was killed in a racially-motivated attack in 1991

TWO YEARS before the murder of Stephen Lawrence there was another teenager brutally killed by a gang of youths in southeast London in a racist attack.

Nathan Adams recalls that he and his older brother Rolan were “surrounded by a group of about 15 young men”, a week after Valentine’s Day on February 21, 1991 in Thamesmead.

The group approached the two brothers and started to attack them. “We were attacked, and that’s as simple as it was. There was no conversation,” Adams said.

The memories of that horrific day are clearly etched in his mind. He remembers how the events unfolded with unnerving clarity.

“They never said anything until after my brother got stabbed. Half of the group started to chase him, shouting out, ‘kill the n****r’ and all this crap like that. He told me to run, so I ran in a completely different direction to try and meet him on a different side.”

He added: “Rolan never managed to get to the other side, so I ran back to where I thought he might be, and I found him lying on the ground dying.”

Now 36, Adams says that he could not sleep properly for 15 years after Rolan’s murder.

Adams knew some of his brother’s killers; one of the young men in the group had played in the same football team as him.

Most black people in the area would have known about this gang, he said, because “these guys were terrorising black children – the whole estate was known for its racial abuse.”

The kind of behaviour that resulted in Rolan’s death “wasn’t just a one-off occurrence,” Nathan added.

The Adams brothers were also painted as having gang affiliations – claims that Rolan was killed because of a territorial dispute surfaced, which may have damaged the public’s capacity for sympathy.

Rolan’s brother said such accusations were “ridiculous” and “made no sense”, adding he had no doubt as to the motive. “It was a racist attack,” he said.

“The authorities did not have any respect for us, and they were trying to portray us in a light that was ridiculous.

“It seemed as if the whole world was against my family.”

The pain of the fateful day still remains. “It’s made me numb. Nothing can ever replace my brother. I always think back to that night, it’s something that will hound me for as long as I live.

“It’s not something you can comprehend until you experience something like it,” said Adams, offering his sympathy to the Lawrence family.

While the Lawrence family had to wait nearly two decades for two convictions, Mark Thornburrow was charged with Rolan’s stabbing and sentenced to life.



ANTHONY WALKER was 18 when he was murdered by Michael Barton and his cousin Paul Taylor in July 2005 in Liverpool. Walker was found dead with an ice pick in his head. Barton and Taylor were sentenced to a minimum of 17 and 23 years, respectively. During the pair’s sentencing, Mr Justice Leveson said: “This was a racist attack of a type poisonous to any civilised society.”


KELSO COCHRANE was murdered in May 1959 by a group of white youths in Notting Hill Gate, west London. Decades later, no one has been convicted of the 32-year-old carpenter’s murder. Cochrane came to Britain from Antigua at a time when the government was encouraging West Indians to fill gaps in the labour market. Documents revealed that police wanted to dismiss the claims that the murder was racially motivated.


CHRISTOPHER ALANEME was murdered in front of McDonald’s in Sheerness, a seaside town in Kent, in April 2006. He was fatally stabbed by Peter Connolly, then 31, who received a minimum of 15 years in prison. Alaneme who was a Nigerian, was chased by a group of men after one had directed a racist comment at the teenager.
Following the sentencing of her son’s killer, his mother, Agatha, said: “Christopher was a wonderful son, brother, grandson and friend who touched the lives of everyone that he met.”

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