The Forgotten Terrorist


The Forgotten Terrorist

Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, Second Edition

Mel Ayton
Foreword by Alan Dershowitz
With a new afterword by the author

400 pages
17 photographs, 1 chronology, 4 appendixes, index


May 2019


$21.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

May 2019


$21.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1968 seems like it should be an open-and-shut case. Many people crowded in the small room at Los Angeles’s famed Ambassador Hotel that fateful night saw Sirhan Sirhan pull the trigger. Sirhan was also convicted of the crime and still languishes in jail with a life sentence. However, conspiracy theorists have jumped on inconsistencies in the eyewitness testimony and alleged anomalies in the forensic evidence to suggest that Sirhan was only one shooter in a larger conspiracy, a patsy for the real killers, or even a hypnotized assassin who did not know what he was doing (a popular plot in Cold War–era fiction, such as The Manchurian Candidate).

Mel Ayton profiles Sirhan and presents a wealth of evidence about his fanatical Palestinian nationalism and his hatred for RFK that motivated the killing. Ayton unearths neglected eyewitness accounts and overlooked forensic evidence and examines Sirhan’s extensive personal notebooks. He revisits the trial proceedings and convincingly shows Sirhan was in fact the lone assassin whose politically motivated act was a forerunner of present-day terrorism. The Forgotten Terrorist is the definitive book on the assassination that rocked the nation during the turbulent summer of 1968. 

This second edition features a new afterword containing interviews and new evidence, as well as a new examination of the RFK assassination acoustics evidence by technical analyst Michael O’Dell.

Author Bio

Mel Ayton is the author of numerous books, including Plotting to Kill the President: Assassination Attempts from Washington to Hoover (Potomac Books, 2017) and Hunting the President: Threats, Plots, and Assassination Attempts—From FDR to Obama. He has been a history consultant for the BBC, the National Geographic Channel, and the Discovery Channel. Alan Dershowitz is Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard University and a distinguished criminal defense lawyer.


“Mel Ayton [is] one of the few analysts who has fully grasped the crime’s Middle East connection. . . . Far from being a ‘maniacally absurd’ crime, as Newsweek concluded, the Robert Kennedy assassination was in fact an eminently political act. It was the first ‘blowback’ attack the United States suffered as a result of its Middle East policies.”—Stephen Kinzer, Guardian

“The exquisite detail contained in Mel Ayton’s well-written, wonderfully researched work makes it must-reading for anyone interested in this case. . . . Nobody knows more about the issues revolving around the RFK murder case than Mel Ayton. Nobody.”—Dan E. Moldea, author of The Killing of Robert Kennedy: An Investigation of Motive, Means, and Opportunity

“Mel Ayton [is] a writer I’ve found to be a valuable debunker of unwarranted conspiracy theorizing. He reminds us with copious quotations in (his articles) how repeatedly and explicitly Sirhan made clear why he targeted R.F.K.: because Sirhan hated the state of Israel and hated R.F.K.’s support for Israel.”—Ron Rosenbaum, The Observer

“Important and extensively documented. . . . The chapter on ‘The Unaffiliated Terrorist’ is especially pertinent to understanding current lone wolf terrorists, as it discusses leading forensic psychology theories to explain Sirhan’s possible mental state and motivations.”—Joshua Sinai, Perspectives on Terrorism

“Students will find this an intriguing story to read, and in an advanced level of seminar devoted to analyzing the use of evidence, very instructive. Ayton is an excellent writer, and his text bristles and probes, leading the reader on a fascinating, if ultimately depressing journey detailing the assassin’s many obsessions and final fatal decision to silence Sen. Kennedy during the deeply troubled 1968 presidential election season. . . . Mel Ayton presents a compelling examination of the convicted assassin’s motivations, his state of mind, and the mountain of evidence used to denounce and imprison him.”—Craig Hendricks, History Teacher

“Mel Ayton, the author of this easy-to-read, information-packed study . . . has produced a significant book with original and detailed information and analyses regarding Sirhan’s life, motivation, and psychology. . . . Those who despair of the country ever freeing itself from the debilitating morass of the conspiracy mind-set should take heart. It is books like this splendid one . . . that will hasten the day.”—Patricia Lambert, author of False Witness: The Real Story of Jim Garrison’s Investigation and Oliver Stone’s Film

“Mel Ayton has a well-deserved reputation for doing the near-impossible: writing about controversial history (including conspiracy theories) in a sober but imaginative way, combining reliable accounts with intellectually stimulating arguments. I highly recommend his work.”—Rick Shenkman, publisher, History News Network

“The Forgotten Terrorist is superlative, especially in regard to Sirhan’s political obsessions and background. The greatest riddle in any of these high-profile assassinations is motive. Thanks to Mel Ayton, the RFK killing can now be removed from that list of mysteries. I now recommend this book as the first and last book to read on the case.”—Gus Russo, author of The Outfit and Supermob

“Mel Ayton has accomplished something that no one writing about the RFK assassination has ever achieved before. By combining a judicious review of the forensic and eyewitness evidence with a firm grasp of the historical context, Ayton has finally made sense of the 1968 killing. The Forgotten Terrorist is a long overdue reminder that assassination is political murder.”—Max Holland, author of The Kennedy Assassination Tapes

Table of Contents

Time Line
1. The Ambassador Hotel
2. RFK and Israel
3. Sirhan and Palestine
4. The Shooting
5. The Trial
6. Controversies: The Physical Evidence
7. Controversies: The Witnesses
8. Distorted Truths
9. The Manchurian Candidate Assassin
10. Sirhan's Obsessions
11. The Unaffiliated Terrorist
12. Why Did He Kill?
Afterword to the Second Edition
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C
Appendix D