The call that cancelled the ‘Kennedy Curse’: How ex-MP Jonathan Aitken unknowingly saved the lives of JFK’s daughter Caroline Kennedy and Sir Hugh Fraser by picking up the phone… SECONDS before IRA bomb exploded beneath their car

  • The daughter of assassinated US President John F. Kennedy, was a student in London when she survived blast
  • The bomb went off on October 23, 1974, and was intended for Conservative MP Sir Hugh Fraser 
  • Sir Hugh left the house to give Ms Kennedy a lift but then went back inside when fellow MP Aitken called him
  • Shortly afterwards, the bomb exploded, killing Sir Hugh’s neighbour Gordon Hamilton Fairley instantly 
  • Ms Kennedy, who was then aged 16, has gone on to become successful diplomat and writer
  • She is now tipped to serve as US ambassador to Australia under President Joe Biden
  • Speaking to the Daily Mail on Friday, Mr Aitken recalled how the blast left Ms Kennedy ‘badly shaken’ 

On October 23, 1974, the then 16-year-old Caroline Kennedy narrowly avoided the fate that had befallen both her father and uncle – thanks only to a well-timed phone call.

The daughter of assassinated US President John F. Kennedy, who is now a diplomat, was a student in London when she came within a whisker of succumbing to the so-called ‘Kennedy Curse’.

While in the capital, she was staying with the historian Lady Antonia Fraser and her Tory MP husband Sir Hugh Fraser – who were friends of the Kennedy family – at their home near Holland Park.

On the morning of the 23rd, Sir Hugh was set to drive to the House of Commons and drop Caroline off at Sotheby’s auction house – where she was studying an arts course – on the way.

Just after he walked out of the door, Sir Hugh’s fellow Tory MP Jonathan Aitken called him, prompting the politician to duck back into the house to answer the phone.

As he was speaking, a powerful bomb which had been laid by the IRA and intended for Sir Hugh exploded under the car, killing friend and neighbour Professor Gordon Hamilton Fairley, who had been walking his dog.

Caroline, who was still upstairs, was thrown onto her bed by its force. A photo taken shortly afterwards showed her observing the scene from the Frasers’ balcony.

Now aged 63, Ms Kennedy is set to become current President Joe Biden’s ambassador to Australia.

Speaking to the Daily Mail on Friday ahead of her expected appointment, Mr Aitken recalled how the blast left Ms Kennedy ‘badly shaken’.

He added: ‘I spoke to her recently and she was still immensely grateful that I had saved her life. I wish her all the best.’


On October 23, 1974, the then 16-year-old Caroline Kennedy narrowly avoided the fate that had befallen both her father and uncle – thanks only to a well-timed phone call made by Tory MP Jonathan Aitken (right, in 1971). Above left: Ms Kennedy is led away by a policeman shortly after the bomb blast which nearly killed her

Ms Kennedy, the daughter of assassinated US President John F Kennedy, was staying with the historian Lady Antonia Fraser and her Tory MP husband Sir Hugh Fraser – who were friends of the Kennedy family – at their home near Holland Park. On the morning of the 23rd, Sir Hugh was set to drive to the House of Commons and drop Caroline off at Sotheby’s auction house – where she was studying an arts course – on the way. Just after he walked out of the door, Sir Hugh’s fellow Tory MP Jonathan Aitken called him, prompting the politician to duck back into the house to answer the phone. As he was speaking, a powerful bomb which had been laid by the IRA and intended for Sir Hugh exploded under the car. Above: The aftermath of the explosion

Ms Kennedy was aged just five when her father was shot dead in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Among those who helped her cope with her father’s death was his brother, fellow politician Robert.

However, less than five years later – on June 5, 1968 – Robert was also shot by an assassin and died the next day.

The bomb killed Sir Hugh’s friend and neighbour Gordon Hamilton Fairley, who was a cancer professor 

His killer, Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan, was recommended for parole this year after more than 50 years behind bars.

Weeks after Robert’s death, Ms Kennedy and her brother John Jr witnessed their mother Jackie’s marriage to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

Ms Kennedy’s own narrow escape came when she was in England studying for a year.

Terrorists from paramilitary organisation the IRA (Irish Republican Army) had targeted Sir Hugh after his previous calls for a crackdown on the group.

In an article written a year after his family faced a kidnap threat in 1972, Fraser had said that IRA terrorists deserved the ‘firing squad’.

Professor Fairley, a world-renowned cancer professor, lived next-door to the Frasers. He had just left his home to walk his poodles Binny and Emmy-Lou when he paused opposite Sir Hugh’s green Jaguar.

Apparently having spotted the bomb, the father-of-four peered under the car just as the device exploded. The doctor died instantly and Binny was also killed.

Professor Fairley’s body was sent spinning into the air and then landed in the Frasers’ garden.

The Daily Mail’s coverage of the crime noted how the bomb would go on to claim ‘numerous other victims… many of them children’ – a reference to the fact that he was a specialist in the use of cancer drugs and had several existing patients.

Professor Fairley, a world-renowned cancer professor, lived next-door to the Frasers. He had just left his home to walk his poodles Binny and Emmy-Lou when he paused opposite Sir Hugh’s green Jaguar. Apparently having spotted the bomb, the father-of-four peered under the car just as the device exploded. The doctor died instantly and Binny was also killed

A colleague said at the time of his death: ‘I just can’t think of anyone who can replace him’.

Mr Aitken, who was then the Conservative MP for East Thanet, had called Sir Hugh to talk about party matters.

The windows of the Frasers’ home, we all as those of their neighbours, were shattered by the blast.

Sir Hugh was blown off his chair by the explosion but instantly realised that Mr Aitken had saved his life.

He said afterwards: ‘All I can say is thank God I was telephoned. If not, we would certainly all have died.’

Soon after the tragedy, Sir Hugh went in search of his dog Figaro, which had run out of the house in the confusion.

The dog was found by a journalist who returned him to Sir Hugh. The politician told them: ‘Someone has tried to kill me. Caroline is safe, I just have a slight cut. They got my car. They got my car.

‘It’s dreadful, absolutely dreadful. The thing just blew up and the damage is appalling.’

Terrorists from paramilitary organisation the IRA (Irish Republican Army) had targeted Sir Hugh (pictured above with Lady Antonia Fraser before their marriage) after his previous calls for a crackdown on the group

The Frasers’ Filipino housekeeper Tessia Oandasan was left bruised and bleeding by the blast.

Ms Kennedy, who was ‘badly shaken’, was taken to the nearby home of Lady Pamela Harlech – a friend of the Kennedy family.

Speaking of the phone call, Mr Aitken said at the time: ‘As I had just woken up, I wasn’t exactly alert, but I do remember that the call ended somewhat abruptly. Hugh must have said something like, “I must go now.”

He added: ‘I had no idea that a bomb had gone off until newspapers began to ring me up.’

However, despite what had happened, the Metropolitan Police then refused Jackie Kennedy’s demand that they provide an armed guard for her daughter for the rest of her time in London.

The force insisted that armed officers were only assigned to diplomats on a special risk list, such as the Prime Minister and senior members of the Royal Family.

Professor Fairley’s body was sent spinning into the air and then landed in the Frasers’ garden. The Daily Mail’s coverage of the crime noted how the bomb would go on to claim ‘numerous other victims… many of them children’ – a reference to the fact that he was a specialist in the use of cancer drugs and had several existing patients

The Daily Mail’s coverage also revealed that Sir Hugh was blown off his chair by the explosion but instantly realised that Mr Aitken had saved his life. He said afterwards: ‘All I can say is thank God I was telephoned. If not, we would certainly all have died’

Despite what had happened, the Metropolitan Police then refused Jackie Kennedy’s demand that they provide an armed guard for her daughter for the rest of her time in London

As the daughter of a US President, Ms Kennedy had qualified for armed protection in the US until she turned 16.

Nine months after the traumatic event, Caroline was back in the US and got a job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art after graduating from college.

Despite also suffering the death of her brother John in a plane crash in 1999, she has since had a successful career as a diplomat and writer.

She served as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Japan. In July, it was reported that she was going to be appointed as Mr Biden’s ambassador to Australia.

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