Today marks the tenth anniversary of the Admiral Duncan nail bomb attack on April 30th 1999 in Soho.
It was one of three nail bomb attacks and killed three people, while 80 were injured. While the incidents in Brixton and Brick Lane were targeted directly towards ethnic minorities, the Admiral Duncan bombing was a vicious attack intended to kill gay people. The bomb detonated in the busy pub at 6.37pm. The location was an obvious choice for bomber David Copeland due to its location in Old Compton Street, at the heart of London's gay community. Allegedly, it was the first gay pub chosen from an alphabetical list.
One witness described the scene as "absolute carnage", with several people blown out of the pub into the street. What made the situation even more frightening, was that no warning was given and many were anxious that another explosion was set to go off, causing panic in the streets. Many injured were treated on the roadside, while others fled the area.
At the time, many gay people had seen the area of Old Compton Street as a safe haven where they could socialise without fear of homophobic attacks. The explosion inevitably changed all this and highlighted the prejudice inherent in society that many had forgotten existed. Peter Tatchell summed this view up after the attack, saying: "This outrage has destroyed that cosy assumption."
Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Alan Fry, head of the Metropolitan Police's anti-terrorist branch, said that when officers arrived at the scene they were confronted by utter devastation. He said: "It was an horrendous scene. It was a complete wreck."
The device exploded at the start of a bank holiday weekend so the Old Compton Street area had been heaving with people. It was a pre-mediated attack in which the aim was to hurt and kill as many gay people as possible.
Copeland, a former BNP member and neo-Nazi, was so fuelled by hate that he did not consider integration in any of his attacks. In this, where he thought he would be attacking specific groups because the areas he targeted were known to be either gay areas, or ethnic areas, he faltered. In all three attacks, he injured whites and straight people.
One of these was Andrea Dykes, 27, who was four months pregnant. She was was instantly killed while enjoying pre-theatre drinks at the Admiral Pub and her husband was one of those seriously injured. Their friend, Nik Moorem, 31, was also killed and the best man at their wedding, John Light, 32, later died in hospital.
There is now a memorial and a plaque in the pub to commemorate those injured and killed in the blast.
The explosions were set off by David Copeland, then 22, whose objective was to wage a war against ethnic minorities and gay people in Britain. He was arrested at his flat in Sunnybank Road, Farnborough, where police found Nazi flags and a poster of Adolf Hitler in the middle of a collage of photos of bomb victims. He is currently serving six life sentences in Broadmoor Hospital at Crowthorne.
In March 2007, the High Court ruled Copeland could not be released before 2049, when he will be 73. The initial sentence ordered him to spend at least 30 years behind bars but this was extended due to what the High Court judge described as the case’s “exceptional gravity”.
One year on from the tragedy, in 2000, a memorial service was held at St Anne's church nearby to mark the anniversary of the bomb, an event which has been carried out ever since. A trio of cherry trees were planted on the church grounds in dedication to Andrea Dykes, John Light and Nik Moorem. The trees symbolised the three local London communities: Soho, Brick Lane, and Brixton, which were left in chaos by the three nail bombings. Today, the Admiral Duncan will remember the tenth anniversary of the bombing.
There will be a two-minute silence at 6.37 pm at St Anne's Gardens, which will stay open until 7.30pm for those wishing to pay their respects. The Rector of St Anne's Chruch will also say a few words for families and friends.