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A.K.A.: "The London Nailbomber"
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Supremacist - Nail-bombing campaign against gays and ethnic minorities
Number of victims: 3
Date of murder: April 30, 1999
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: May 15, 1976
Victims profile: Andrea Dykes, 27 (pregnant); Nick Moore, 31, and John Light, 32
Method of murder: Homemade nail bombs
Location: London, England, United Kingdom
Status: Sentenced to six concurrent terms of life imprisonment on June 30, 2000

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On 2 May 1999, London police charged white supremacist David Copeland with murder in a nail-bombing campaign against gays and ethnic minorities that killed three people and wounded at least 116.

Officials said 22-year-old David Copeland operated alone and was not linked to neo-Nazi groups that claimed responsibility.

The disgrintled engineer was captured on closed-circuit TV in the neighborhood where the first blast occurred. He was arrested at his home in Cove, southwest of London, where police seized explosive material.

Copeland has been charged with the deaths of three people in the worst explosion -- a nail-bombing at a gay pub in central London -- and with similar attacks April 17 and April 24 in London districts with large ethnic minorities.


David John Copeland (born May 15, 1976) is a former member of the British neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, who became known as the "London Nail Bomber" after a 13-day bombing campaign in April 1999 aimed at London's black, Bangladeshi and gay communities.

Copeland placed homemade nail bombs at targets in London, each containing up to 1,500 four-inch nails, on three occasions before he was arrested. Firstly, on 17 April outside a supermarket in Electric Avenue, Brixton, an area of South London with a large black population; then on 24 April in Brick Lane in the East End of London, which has a large South Asian community; and finally on 30 April in the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho's Old Compton Street, the heart of London's gay community. The bombs killed three, including a pregnant woman, and injured 129, four of whom lost limbs. No warnings were given.

Although Copeland was diagnosed by five psychiatrists as having paranoid schizophrenia and a consultant concluded he had a personality disorder, his plea of diminished responsibility was not accepted by the prosecution, which was under pressure not to concede to his pleas of guilty to manslaughter. He was convicted of murder on June 30, 2000, and was sentenced to six concurrent terms of life imprisonment. The trial judge spoke of his doubt whether it would ever be safe for Copeland to be released.

Early life

Copeland was born in Isleworth, in the London Borough of Hounslow, but for most of his childhood he lived in Yateley, Hampshire. He attended Yateley School and passed seven GCSEs on leaving in 1992.

He apparently resented the fact that he was small for his age, and was given the nickname "Mr. Angry.

After his arrest in 1999, he told psychiatrists that he had started having sadistic dreams when he was about 12, including dreams or fantasies that he had been reincarnated as an SS officer with access to women as slaves. He left school in 1992 to be an apprentice engineer, and became involved in petty crime, drinking, and taking drugs, including heroin. He also took part in acts of football hooliganism with Portsmouth Football Club's notorious hooligan firm - the 657 Crew.

In court, it was reported that Copeland never had a girlfriend, and this caused him to fear that people might think he was a homosexual.

In May 1997, at the age of 21, he joined the British National Party, a right wing, anti-immigration party. Copeland acted as a steward at some BNP meetings, in the course of which he came into contact with the BNP leadership and was photographed standing next to John Tyndall, the then leader of the BNP. It was during this period that Copeland read The Turner Diaries, and first learned how to make bombs using fireworks with alarm clocks as timers after downloading a so-called terrorists' handbook from the internet.

In 1998, Copeland left the BNP as it rejected political violence. He then joined the smaller, violent and openly Neo Nazi, National Socialist Movement, becoming its regional leader for Hampshire just weeks before the start of his bombing campaign. It was around this time that he visited his family doctor and was prescribed anti-depressants after telling the doctor he felt he was "losing his mind".


Copeland's first attack, on Saturday, April 17, 1999, was in Electric Avenue, Brixton.

Copeland made his bomb using explosives from fireworks. He taped it inside a sports bag before priming it and planting it outside the Iceland supermarket, on the corner of Electric Avenue. The market traders became suspicious, and moved it several times before it detonated just as the police arrived, at 5:25 in the evening. Fifty people were injured, many of them seriously because of the four-inch nails Copeland had packed around the bomb. One victim was a 23-month-old toddler who had a nail driven through his skull into his brain, though he is reported to have made a full recovery.

Copeland's second bomb, on the following Saturday, April 24, was aimed at Brick Lane, the centre of the Bengali area in the east end of London. There is a famous Brick Lane street market on Sundays, but Copeland mistakenly tried to plant the bomb on Saturday, when the street was less busy. Unwilling to change the timer on the bomb, he left it instead in Hanbury Street, where it exploded. Thirteen people were injured, but there were no fatalities.

Copeland's third and final bomb was planted and exploded on the evening of April 30, in the crowded Admiral Duncan pub in Old Compton Street, the centre of London's gay village. Andrea Dykes, 27, who was four months pregnant with her first child, died along with her friends and hosts for the evening, Nick Moore, 31, and John Light, 32, who was to be the baby's godfather. Andrea's husband, Julian, was seriously injured. The four friends from Essex had met up in the Admiral Duncan to celebrate Andrea's pregnancy, when the bomb exploded after being taped inside a sports bag and left near the bar. Seventy-nine people were injured, many of them seriously. Four of the survivors had to have limbs amputated.

Capture and conviction

The Anti-Terrorist Branch of the Metropolitan Police Service identified Copeland from CCTV footage of Brixton. The image was given wide publicity on April 29 which caused Copeland to bring forward his bombing of the Admiral Duncan to Friday evening. Paul Mifsud, a work colleague of Copeland, recognized him and alerted the police about an hour and 20 minutes before the bombing.

Copeland was arrested that night once the police obtained his address, a rented room in Farnborough, Hampshire. He admitted carrying out the three bombings as soon as he was arrested. His mental state was assessed at Broadmoor Hospital, but remained a matter of dispute at his trial.

The jury convicted him of three murders and three offences of planting bombs, and he was sentenced to six life sentences on June 30, 2000. The trial judge spoke of his doubt that it would ever be safe to release Copeland. Almost seven years later, on 2 March 2007, the High Court decided that Copeland should remain in prison for at least 50 years, effectively ruling out his release until at least 2049 at the age of 73. He is currently confined in Broadmoor Hospital.


Copeland maintained he had worked alone and had not discussed his plans with anyone. During police interviews, he admitted holding neo-Nazi views, and talked of his desire to spread fear and to trigger a race war. He told police "My main intent was to spread fear, resentment and hatred throughout this country, it was to cause a racial war." He also stated "There'd be a backlash from the ethnic minorities, I'd just be the spark that would set fire to this country." After his arrest, Copeland wrote to BBC correspondent Graeme McLagan: "I bomb the blacks, Pakis, degenerates. I would have bombed the Jews as well if I'd got a chance."

When asked by the police why he had targeted Black and Asian ethnic minorities he replied: "Because I don't like them, I want them out of this country, I believe in the master race."

On 29 September 2002, the News of the World revealed that Copeland had sent a letter full of racially offensive words to two members of the gang linked to the 1993 murder of black London teenager Stephen Lawrence following their conviction and imprisonment for attacking a black policeman. He had been allowed to send a letter to the pair despite being supervised by staff at Broadmoor while he typed out the letter on a computer and having his letter vetted before it was sent in the post.


David Copeland: a quiet introvert, obsessed with Hitler and bombs

Nick Hopkins and Sarah Hall examine the events leading to the capture of London nail bomber David Copeland, who was today found guilty of the murders of Andrea Dykes, John Light and Nik Moore

Friday 30 June 2000

David Copeland's terrifying campaign ended on a quiet night in a Hampshire town as the dead and maimed were still being counted from the wreckage of the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho.

Officers from Scotland Yard's Flying Squad knocked on the door of a house in Sunnybank Road, Cove. Copeland opened the front door, rubbed his eyes and mumbled: "Yeah, they were all down to me. I did them on my own."

Any doubts the officers had disappeared when Copeland led them to his bedroom. Two red-and-black Nazi flags were hanging on a wall, alongside a macabre collage of photos and newspaper stories. The theme was bomb blasts.

Copeland was eager to give detectives a graphic account of how he had made and planted the three devices. But there was one issue he could not explain. Why?

He was born in Isleworth on May 15, 1976. Described as introverted but not aggressive by his classmates, Copeland studied at Yateley comprehensive and passed seven GSCEs. After leaving school at 16, Copeland drifted into a few jobs, experimented with drink and drugs and had a few minor brushes with the police.

After his arrest, Copeland claimed he had been having sadistic dreams from the age of 12. He had thought about killing his classmates and had wanted to be reincarnated as an SS officer. In May 1997, he joined the British National Party. A year later, Copeland joined the National Socialist Movement. In 1998, he was prescribed anti-depressants and told his GP he was "losing his mind." Nobody doubts Copeland was suffering from some form of mental illness, but the severity of the condition was contested.

Five psychiatrists concluded he had been a paranoid schizophrenic for several years. But this was challenged by prosecutors, who were under pressure not to concede to his pleas of guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Another consultant psychiatrist concluded that Copeland did have a personality disorder but it was not serious enough for him to avoid a murder charge.

With a primed bomb taped to the inside of a sports bag, Copeland had taken a taxi to Brixton on Saturday, April 17, 1999. He left the bag on the corner of Electric Avenue. It was spotted by nearby street traders, who wondered if it was a bomb.

Just as the police arrived at 5.25pm, the device exploded. Fifty people were injured.

Detectives began scanning CCTV coverage of Brixton. The following Saturday, a second explosion took place, this time in east London.

Copeland had left a bomb in a Head holdall in Hanbury Street but it was spotted by a member of the public who called the police. "He was dialling 999 from when the device went off," said a source. Thirteen people were injured.

Four days later, police identified a man in Brixton who had been carrying a Head sports bag. The CCTV images were given to the media on Thursday.

Copeland decided to bring forward his next attack by a day. The Admiral Duncan pub was full when walked in. He left at 6.05pm and heard the explosion as he walked back to his hotel. Three people died and four needed amputations. Twenty-six people suffered serious burns, another 53 were injured.

Eighty minutes before the bomb went off, Paul Mifsud rang a police hotline to say a work colleague resembled the man caught on camera.

By 9pm, officers had Copeland's and by midnight, they were planning a raid on his house.


'Hate-filled' nailbomber is jailed for life

By Andrew Buncombe, Terri Judd and Jason Bennetto - The Independent

Friday, 30 June 2000

The London nailbomber David Copeland was given six life sentences yesterday after a judge said the public needed to be protected from his "virulent hatred and pitiless contempt for a very long time".

A massive cheer erupted from the public seats in the Old Bailey as the jury delivered its verdict of guilty on three counts of murder. Many of the victims of his explosions, some sitting in wheelchairs, burst into tears and hugged one another.

Copeland, 24, a disaffected loner, sexually confused and driven by homophobia, Nazism and deep-seated racism, had told detectives that the three bombs he planted in London in April last year, which killed three people and injuring 139, were designed to start a race war across Britain.

His defence argued that although he admitted planting the bombs, he had been suffering from a mental illness that substantially impaired his responsibility at the time. The prosecution, however, refused to accept his plea of manslaughter by means of diminished responsibility.

After six hours' deliberation the jury agreed, returning with its verdicts of guilty for the murders of Andrea Dykes, 27, Nik Moore, 31, and John Light, 32.

The three friends had been in the Admiral Duncan, a gay pub in Soho, celebrating Mrs Dykes's recently announced pregnancy, when Copeland's third and final bomb exploded on 30 April.

His other bombs had been planted in Brixton and Brick Lane, respectively black and Bangladeshi communities.

The Recorder of London, Judge Michael Hyam, told Copeland anyone who had heard the facts of the case would be "appalled and horrified at the atrocity of the crimes".

"On your own admission you set out to kill, to maim and to cause terror in the community and that is what you did," he said. "As a result of your wicked intentions you have left three families bereaved and many people who were so severely injured by the explosions you caused that they are reminded every day, and perhaps many times every day, that you alone are accountable for ruining their lives."

It was clear, he said, that Copeland felt no remorse for his victims and nothing could excuse or justify his actions.

Sentencing Copeland to three life sentences for the murders and three for charges of causing explosions to which he had already pleaded guilty, he added: "The public must be protected from you and must be assured that if you are ever released it will not be for a very long time."

Copeland will be returned to Broadmoor top-security psychiatric hospital for treatment.

Copeland, from Cove, Hampshire, launched his campaign after constructing bombs from instructions downloaded from anarchist publications on the internet and with materials bought from DIY stores and high street shops.

While working as an engineer on the Jubilee line Tube project and living in a series of bedsits, he perfected the bomb-making techniques that he would later use to rock the capital over 14 days and terrify minority communities. After he was arrested he told police he had been planning to bomb Southall in west London, which has a large Asian population, the following week.

Last night, Scotland Yard and MI5 came under attack for being unaware of Copeland's membership of two far-right organisations, despite this being known to the country's leading anti-fascist organisation.

Nik Moore's father, Robert, 69, said after the verdict: "We have had 14 months of hell. I just Copeland rots in hell."

John Light's brother, Mike, 43, said: "The most important thing is Copeland never has the opportunity to do that again."

Copeland's father, Stephen, who was in court with another of his three sons, said he would be considering an appeal. Mr Copeland, 51, said: "You have got to support your son no matter what he has done, no matter how wrong it may have been."


Profile: Copeland the killer

BBC News

Friday, 30 June, 2000

David Copeland wanted his bombing campaign to ignite a race war across Britain.

But while he was fueled by right-wing extremism and has even been photographed with one of the most senior figures in its political movement, he acted alone.

The 24-year-old's first two bombs were aimed at the black community in Brixton, south London, and the Asian community in Brick Lane, east London. The final one was planted at the busy Admiral Duncan pub in Soho, central London, where the clientele was predominantly gay.

Copeland was brought up in Yately in Hampshire; his father an engineer and mother a part-time helper in a centre for the handicapped.

'Mr Angry'

At school he was small for his age and is said to have resented it, gaining the nickname "Mr Angry". He left secondary school with a few low-grade GCSE's and began drinking and taking drugs, including heroin. This was followed by convictions for assault.

Copeland never had a girlfriend and it was his great fear that people thought him gay. By 1997 when he moved to London to work on the Jubilee line extension as an engineer's assistant, he had become homophobic and racist.

He joined the extremist BNP and became an activist. In 1997 he was photographed standing next to the party's founder John Tyndall.

His father, Stephen Copeland, believes others led his son astray.

"I just believe he was easily influenced by people who saw they could indoctrinate him with their views. I just don't believe he went looking for it himself," he says.

While in the BNP David Copeland found information on the internet on how to make bombs from fireworks. He also read racist and anti-Semitic literature from extreme right wing Christian groups in America.

He moved back to Hampshire at the end of 1998 and joined a small Nazi organisation, the National Socialist Movement.

He became its regional unit's leader just a few weeks before his bombing campaign.

Caught on CCTV

Copeland was caught largely because he had wandered around Brixton for more than an hour before planting his first bomb.

It is an area heavily covered by CCTV and after trawling through thousands of hours of tape, police singled him out, enhanced the pictures and released them in a public appeal.

The crucial tip-off to police came from Copeland's workmate, Paul Mifsud.

"I saw the paper and the bag and something hit me. I saw the picture again, I picked it up and looked at it and something hit me, I though 'that looks like David," he said.

Shrine to atrocities

The name David Copeland did not appear on any MI5 or police special branch database and when unarmed police finally went to his room in Farnborough, they were astonished to find a Nazi shrine.

The walls were decorated with swastika flags and photos of atrocities and bombings from around the world, including some from his own bombings at Brixton and Brick Lane, what he called his "handiwork".

There were also explosives and weaponry, a crossbow at the ready, hunting knives and a lethal gas-powered pistol.

Asked by police the next day why he attacked blacks and Asians he replied: "Because I don't like them, I want them out of this country, I'm a national socialist, Nazi, whatever you want to call me, I believe in the master race."

Conspiracy theorist

Despite his right-wing connections, Copeland said he acted alone in his bombing campaign.

He craved fame and notoriety, but in his confession to police he made it clear that his aim was political.

"My main intent was to spread fear, resentment and hatred throughout this country, it was to cause a racial war," he told detectives.

"There'd be a backlash from the ethnic minorities, I'd just be the spark that would set fire to this country."

While on remand in prison and at Broadmoor special hospital, Copeland wrote to BBC correspondent Graeme McLagan. He denied that he was schizophrenic.

He also revealed his racist obsessions - writing that what he called "Zog", the Zionist Occupation Government, was trying to sweep him under the carpet by pumping him full of drugs.

"The Jew, devil's disciples and peoples of mud must be driven out of our land," he wrote.

"It is God's law and we must obey.

"I bomb the blacks, 'pakkies', degenerates.

"I would have bombed the Jews as well if I'd got a chance."

The courts have ensured that he never will.



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