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The Assassination of Robert Kennedy


On 8th June 1968, a funeral mass was held for Robert Kennedy at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. In his eulogy, his grieving brother Edward asked that Kennedy be remembered as “a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it”.
Following the mass, Kennedy's body was transported by train to Washington DC, where he was buried near his brother, John, in Arlington National Cemetery.
Following Kennedy’s death, Sirhan was charged with his murder, as well as the attempted murders of the five other individuals wounded during the attack.
The gunman was not identified immediately, as he had no criminal record, and he was kept in maximum-security lock-up for his own safety. He continued to be calm, compliant and courteous, but seemed confused by his part in the crime which had been committed. It took the intervention of two of his brothers, who presented themselves at a police station in Pasadena, to effect the identification.
The gunman was 24-year-old Sirhan Bishar Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant who had lived in the United States for 12 years, and was residing with his family in Pasadena. Within an hour, investigative authorities were searching the family home, where they found a notebook in Sirhan’s bedroom, which contained specific remarks about Robert Kennedy, one of which read “RFK Must Die”. His family appeared utterly shocked by the events, and seemed to have no fore knowledge of the assassination plan. The investigation of Sirhan revealed an unhappy childhood, erratic employment history and changing religious allegiances, but no discernible political conviction beyond the anti-Kennedy sentiments found in his personal notebooks.
Having occurred so soon after the assassination of his brother, John, there was widespread belief that the attack was part of a deeper conspiracy. When it appeared that Sirhan’s motivation was Kennedy’s pro-Israeli stance, specifically his support for the June 1967 Six Day War, which saw the occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel, rumours began to surface of a clandestine extremist terrorist organisation whose aim was to undermine ‘The American Way’. The investigating authorities were determined that mistakes made by previous authorities, in the investigations of the assassinations of John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, would not be repeated, and a special task force, called Special Unit Senator, or SUS, was established, to concentrate on any conspiracy theories that might surface, with a view to addressing public unease.
Following Kennedy’s death, Sirhan was charged with his murder, as well as the attempted murders of the five other individuals wounded during the attack.
During the course of the investigation by the SUS, a number of conspiracy theories were proposed, investigated and discounted and, in October 1968, both the prosecution and defence agreed that the case against Sirhan would proceed on the basis that he had acted alone in commission of the crime.