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Malcolm X diary in sale mystery

David Usborne
Thursday 20 May 1999 00:02 BST

THE FAMILY of Malcolm X, the black civil rights leader, wants to know how the diary that was in his jacket pocket on the evening he was assassinated in a Harlem ballroom in 1965 has ended up in the hands of a private collector. The anonymous owner plans to sell it at auction next week.

Bound in fake red leather, the diary is riddled with bullet holes and stained with the Muslim leader's blood. It was an important exhibit in the trial of the three men convicted of the killing. Its pages contain names and numbers of associates as well as appointments that Malcolm X never lived to keep. The diary is expected to fetch up to $50,000 when it goes under the hammer at the Butterfield & Butterfield auction house in San Francisco on 27 May.

New York City officials are now investigating how the diary fell into the hands of a private collector who sold it to the person now offering it for auction.

The personal effects of a murder victim are usually returned to family members when they are no longer of use to prosecutors. A spokesman for the late widow of Malcolm X, Betty Shabazz, said the family, is "shocked that something that represents so intimate a part of their father's last moment would find its way to an auction house".

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