Richard Kirkman (1949-1987)

Richard Stephen Kirkman was born on 29 April (or 29 March) 1949 in Surbiton, Surrey, England. His passions included cricket, railways, and justice for homeless people. He undertook management and business studies at university, though most of his working life was with homeless people. He was a prominent member of Char, the campaign for single homeless people, both nationally and within Greater Manchester. He always carried a book in his bag which contained the current timetables of every train service in Britain. He died aged 38 years on 4 May 1987 in Stockport, Greater Manchester.

Richard was killed while working at a hostel, stabbed repeatedly by a young male resident. The attacker was subsequently caught by police officers when they searched the young man’s girlfriend’s flat in Hulme, Manchester, and found him hiding on the balcony. Richard was a large, well-built man and in reporting his death, the local newspaper called him a “gentle giant”.

An Inquest into the death was held on 29 May 1987. The young man was later tried, found guilty and sentenced to prison. The hostel was at 220 Wellington Road South, Stockport, now used as offices.

A non-religious memorial service was held at the St Thomas Centre, Ardwick Green North, in Manchester for his many friends and colleagues. The funeral was held later near Southampton, where his parents lived, with the reception held at the Hampshire county cricket grounds.

A story Richard liked to tell:

“One day while I was working in Stockport I found myself in a record shop in the rougher end of town. Various folk were lingering there, slowly flicking through the album covers, a few there just for the warmth. A bell rings and the door opens – in walks a tall police sergeant in full uniform. Everyone there is suddenly looking down very hard, pretending not to notice him. Slowly, he walks through the shop, past everyone in turn. People bristle, their pulses racing. With so many people to choose from, who is he after today? He walks on, up to the counter. Just as the assistant is about to speak, the sergeant puts a fiver on the counter. ‘Baker Street,’ he says. Such a relief all round. Brilliant!” Richard said.

In 1988 a charity was set up by his family, The Richard Kirkman Trust, (registration 327972) which makes donations from the income from its investments for good causes in the Hampshire area. Previously his friends had paid for a bench for waiting passengers at Stockport railway station in his name.

A year after he died he was mentioned in a debate in the House of Lords concerning the death of social workers at work. “There have been too many similar cases of violent attacks on social workers and others. Last year Richard Kirkman was stabbed to death at a hostel for homeless people in Stockport, Cheshire.”(1)

A decade later he was mentioned again in a BBC report on trade union concerns about violence against social and community workers, although the date of his attack was incorrectly given as 1983.(2)




Richard was a good friend of mine, and I was surprised about how little I could find that had been written about his life, so I started with this.


Stockport Express Advertiser, Thursday 7 May 1987, front page

Murder of a Gentle Man

A “gentle giant” who spent his life trying to help people was murdered in a “savage and frenzied” knife attack on Monday.

Richard Kirkman, warden of a Wellington Road North halfway hostel and chairman of Stockport Action for Benefits, was found by one of the residents in a pool of blood just after 10pm.

He had suffered more than 25 stab wounds mainly to the chest. Detectives leading the enquiry say it was a particularly “frenzied and sustained attack of savage intensity”.

The body of Mr Kirkman, in his late 30s, was found in the pantry of the hostel, owned by the Stonham Housing Association, where he had worked for the last eight years.

Police were trying to find the murder weapon which they believe to be a knife, possibly a kitchen knife, which is believed to have a 10-inch blade.

Police want to interview a heavily tattooed man called …, who was seen near the hostel on Monday between 12.30 and 1.30pm carrying a rucksack and also, it is believed, a sheath knife with an 8-10 inch blade.

Police say he is potentially dangerous and should not be approached.

Mr Kirkman, a 6ft gentle giant who weighed 18 stone, was described by friends as a quiet man. He lived in a flat near to the hostel in Wellington Road North, Heaton Norris.

For the past 18 months he had been involved with Stockport Action for Benefits, trying to help the homeless and was in charge of the hostel which tried to rehabilitate offenders back into society.

Mr Patrick Cornwell, National President of the housing charity CHAR (Campaign for the Homeless and Rootless) said, “He was a wonderful man. I’d known him for 14 years.

“Everyone who knew him respected his enormous commitment to helping homeless people. I’m devastated.”

Councillor Ian Roberts, who had known Mr Kirkman for 18 months, said, “I only saw him last week. He was a great bloke who spent his life trying to help those less fortunate than himself.

“He deserved better than this. For the last year and a half he’d been trying to bring the plight of the homeless to the attention of Stockport Council. I can only hope that the work which Richard started will get some recognition.”

Councillor Ann Coffey, Labour’s Social Services spokesman was stunned by the news. “He was a man who changed things. He had done a lot of work to make Stockport council more understanding to the plight of the homeless.”

Detectives are anxious to trace anyone who has stayed in the hostel recently, and three men who were currently registered there. Det Chief Supt Jim Grant said, “I hope we can prick the consciences of these people he has helped in the past, to help us now.

“Police can be contacted in confidence on ….”

A spokesman for Stonham Housing Association said, “We are very shocked. We are working in co-operation with the police and are making arrangements for the house to be closed for the time being.”


Stockport Express Advertiser, Thursday 4 June 1987, page 10

Tributes to Richard

Campaigner for the homeless Richard Kirkman who was killed last month is being remembered by his family and friends at a commemorative gathering tomorrow (Friday).

Tributes will flow at St Thomas Centre in Ardwick Green, Manchester, for the “gentle giant” many people took to their hearts.

A trust fund is being set up to carry on Richard’s unstinting work for the homeless. Further details can be obtained by ringing Patrick on … or Lyn on …

11 thoughts on “Richard Kirkman (1949-1987)

  1. Mike Jempson

    I worked with Richard at The Well, a Cyrenian hostel in Tunbridge Wells in 1970-71. We faced many a violent confrontation there together and I was shocked to hear of his death some years later. He was indeed a sweet and gentle man, with a smile on his face, a rose glow on his cheeks and unruly sideburns!
    I have only just come across news of this Trust Fund and will make a donation. Oddly enough I worked in the Eastleigh area as a Labour Party press office during the bye-election in the early 1990s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tony Baldwinson Post author

      You could try:

      Charity Number 327972
      Date Registered 1988-11-08
      Telephone 02380274555
      Ashton House , 12 The Central Precinct , Winchester Road , Chandler’s Ford , EASTLEIGH, SO53 2GB

      But I’ve had no reply to previous enquiries, so maybe another homelessness charity in Stockport or Greater Manchester.


  2. John James

    I was listening to a record that reminded me of my time working in Manchester with NACRO. On a whim, I typed his name into Google. I’m shocked to discover he was murdered all those years ago. Richard and I ran the NACRO hostel together in Didsbury. He was a gentle, kind man who loved his cricket. A Hampshire supporter he teased me often about Derbyshire’s batting frailties. He was a good man with genuine concerns about the people he worked for. The world is a sadder place without him. What a tragedy. What an awful discovery I made today.


  3. Malcolm Clarke

    I knew Richard well. I was working in Manchester Housing Dept. at the time. I always think of him when I am on Stockport station. The seat and plaque placed there in his memory disappeared years ago when the station was refurbished. I have recently joined the Manchester Locomotive society, which has a room on Stockport station, and I have put out a message on their members loop to see if anyone can throw any light on what happened to the seat and plaque. Tony, thank you so much for creating this on-line memory of him. Malcolm Clarke


  4. Leonne Griggs

    I worked with Richard when I worked for Lance in the early 1970’s. I think I worked at the same hostel but before he did. He was very helpful to me as a newcomer and I looked up to him as being very knowledgable. So sad to hear that he died in this way. I saw the reports in the paper at the time. But came across this report recently and am glad to face the opportunity to comment. Leonne Griggs


  5. Malcolm Clarke

    I am so pleased to have found this. I worked with Richard on homelessness when I worked in Manchester Housing Department . We also shared the love of trains and cricket. This has prompted me to ask the Manchester Locomotive Society who meet on Stockport station if they have any idea what happened to the seat placed on the station in Richard’s memory. I think it was removed when the station was revamped. If it’s in storage somewhere it would at least be good to recover the plaque.
    Malcolm Clarke


  6. Steven.bate

    I was a resident in the hostel when this happened ,it’s still clear in my head like it was yesterday, I was eating my lunch at 1.30pm ( i remember the time because we were about to watch sparticus) when lawrence just clicked, he ran into the office and lost it with a big knife ,I nd another resident panicked not knowing what to do and went to run up the stairs to our rooms,I stopped at the office door to hear what was happening and thought shall I go in and try to stop what was going off but I think if I did there would of been 2 casualties that day I was only 16 when it happened and lawrence was around 25 and a ex marine ,he was covered in scars all over his face and neck from what happened to him in the millitary .This day has stuck with me all my life feeling guilty for not trying to stop it ,I hope you don’t mind me sharing my story if it doesn’t bode well please delete it .



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