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David John Copeland
Born May 15, 1976 (1976-05-15) (age 33)
Isleworth, London
Residence Broadmoor Hospital
Nationality British
Occupation Engineer's assistant
Known for Known as the "London nailbomber," and convicted of murder in 2000, after planting bombs in public spaces in April 1999, killing three and injuring 129.

David John Copeland (born May 15, 1976) is a former member of the British National Party and the 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.

Over three successive weekends between April 17 and 30, Copeland placed homemade nail bombs, each containing up to 1,500 four-inch nails, outside the Iceland supermarket in Electric Avenue, Brixton, an area of south London with a large black population; in Brick Lane in the east end of London, which has a large South Asian community; and finally 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.[1]

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.[2] He was convicted of murder on June 30, 2000, and given six concurrent life sentences.[3]


Early life

Copeland was born in Isleworth, in the London Borough of Hounslow, his father an engineer, his mother a housewife.[4] He lived for most of his childhood with his parents and two brothers in Yateley, Hampshire, attending Yateley School, where he obtained seven GCSEs before leaving in 1992. British journalist Nick Ryan writes that Copeland was a late developer and resented that he was small for his age. His testicles were under-developed and he had only had one girlfriend, using prostitutes when he was older in lieu of a sexual relationship. Ryan writes that, as a teenager, Copeland feared he was gay; when his parents sang along to the Flintstones theme on television—"we'll have a gay old time"— he reportedly believed they were sending him a message.[4]

As an older teenager, he began listening to heavy metal bands and earned the nickname "Mr. Angry."[5] Ryan writes that the staff at his school have no recollection of him during this period. It was as if he had become invisible.[4]

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.[6] He left school to a series of failed jobs, reportedly blaming immigrants for the difficult job market. He became involved in petty crime, drinking, and drug abuse. He also took part in acts of football hooliganism with Portsmouth Football Club's notorious hooligan firm, the 6.57 Crew.[citation needed] His father was eventually able to get him a job as an engineer's assistant on the London Underground.[4]

Involvement with the BNP and NSM

In May 1997, at the age of 21, he joined the British National Party, a far right political party. Copeland acted as a steward at a BNP meeting, in the course of which he came into contact with the BNP leadership and was photographed standing next to John Tyndall, 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 Web.

In 1998, Copeland left the BNP, outraged by their democratic involvement strategy. He 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.[2]


X-rays show a nail from one of Copeland's bombs embedded in a baby's brain.

Copeland's first attack, on Saturday, April 17, 1999, was in Electric Avenue, Brixton. He made his bomb using explosives from fireworks, taping it inside a sports bag before priming it and planting it outside the Iceland supermarket, on the corner of Electric Avenue. The Brixton 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 23-month-old toddler had a nail driven through his skull into his brain (see right), though he made a full recovery.

Andrea Dykes, four months pregnant, was killed, and her husband, Julian, seriously injured.

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 detonated 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, 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.[7] The trial judge spoke of his doubt that it would ever be safe to release Copeland. On March 2, 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. [8] 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 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." "There'd be a backlash from the ethnic minorities, he said. "I'd just be the spark that would set fire to this country."[5]

After his arrest, Copeland wrote to BBC correspondent Graeme McLagan, denying that he had schizophrenia, and telling McLagan that the "Zog," or Zionist Occupation Government, was pumping him full of drugs in order to sweep him under the carpet. He wrote, "I bomb the blacks, Pakis, degenerates. I would have bombed the Jews as well if I'd got a chance." [5] Ryan writes that Copeland's first idea had been to bomb the Notting Hill Carnival, after seeing images of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing.[4] When asked by police why he had targeted ethnic minorities, he replied: "Because I don't like them, I want them out of this country, I believe in the master race."[5]

See also



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