The 19th anniversary of the worst homophobic attack to ever occur in Britain will be remembered today.
At the heart of the capital’s LGBT community on the evening of 30 April 1999, the Admiral Duncan pub on Old Compton Street in Soho was the scene of a nail bomb blast that killed three people and wounded 79 – four of the survivors had to have limbs amputated.
It was one of three nail bomb attacks that took place in London in April 1999.
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 a 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 a 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-meditated 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.
The bomb was the third that had been planted by Neo-Nazi David Copeland.
He was attempting to stir up ethnic and homophobic tensions by carrying out a series of attacks across London.
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Copeland, from Farnborough, Hants, later admitted causing explosions in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho during 13 days in April 1999.
He is currently serving six life sentences.
In 2007 the High Court ruled that he must serve at least 50 years behind bars.
In 2014 Copeland attacked a fellow inmate with a shiv – an improvised weapon made from razor blades attached to a toothbrush handle – and was sentenced to a further three years, of which he will serve 18 months.
Andrea Dykes, 27, who was pregnant, and friends John Light, 32, and Nik Moore, 31, from Essex, were killed in the Soho attack.
Events usually take place in London’s Soho, seeing people gather outside Admiral Duncan, followed by moments of silence.