Brixton traders have today remembered the 20th anniversary of the Brixton Market nail bomb which injured 48 people on Saturday April 17 1999.
It was the first of three nail bomb attacks over two weeks – homemade devices were also detonated in Brick Lane in east London on 24 April 1999, injuring 13, and another in the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho on 30 April 1999, killing three people and injuring 79.
Tube worker and fascist David Copeland, from Hampshire, was sentenced to six terms of life imprisonment in June 2000 after being found guilty of three counts of murder and for planting the homemade explosive devices, following an investigation by what was then the Met’s Anti-Terrorist Branch.
Over the next two weeks, there will be a series of community events where the victims of these attacks will be commemorated.
Copeland, a former member of the British National Party who said he had acted alone to spark a racial war so “all the white people will go out and vote BNP”, placed the first device in Electric Avenue, Brixton.
The bomb was made using explosives from fireworks, taped inside a sports bag, primed and left at Brixton Market. Traders became suspicious, and one of them, Gary Shilling, moved the bag to a less crowded area after seeing perpetrator Copeland acting suspiciously. Two further moves of the bomb occurred by unconvinced traders, including the bomb being removed from the bag, and ending up by the Iceland supermarket. Concerned traders called the police, who arrived at the scene just as the bomb detonated at 5.25 pm. The explosion blew out windows and blasting a car across the street – and 48 people were injured, many of them seriously because of the four-inch nails that were packed around the bomb.
Commander Mark McEwan said: “Two decades have passed since these abhorrent attacks which left an indelible mark on London. Our thoughts are with everyone affected – those who lost their lives, their family and loved ones, and all of the people who survived the attacks and continue to live with the physical and psychological trauma of what happened.
“London’s black, Asian and gay communities were the target of these bombs, but they were an affront to London as a whole, and to the diversity and unity which characterises this great city.
“In the past two decades, Londoners have shown time and time again that they wholeheartedly reject everything that attacks of this nature are intended to do – instil fear and create prejudice and conflict to divide communities.
“The anniversary of these atrocities serve as a reminder that we can never be complacent in dealing with extremism and people who harbour radical views based on racial, religious and other forms of prejudice.
“The Met’s priority is to keep the public safe, and we do not tolerate any criminality motivated by hate. We routinely engage with religious and minority communities and leaders, and we work closely with partners to address local community concerns and needs, and do what we can to protect them from hate crime.
“The police is working round the clock to keep the Capital safe from terrorism, from patrolling key areas to delivering training and advice to businesses through our ground-breaking e-learning package, ‘ACT Awareness’. We cannot do this alone however, so I urge the public to help by reporting anyone or anything that looks out of place or suspicious to a member of staff, security or police.”