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David Copeland

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David Copeland

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 nailbomber" after a 12-day bombing campaign in April 1999 aimed at London's black, Asian, and gay communities.

Over three successive weekends, Copeland placed homemade nail bombs, each containing up to 1,500 four-inch nails, outside a 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 Asian community; and in the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho's Old Compton Street, the heart of London's gay community. No warnings were given before the bombs exploded.

The attacks claimed three lives, all in the Admiral Duncan pub bombing. 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 Dykes, 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. A total of 129 people were injured in the three attacks, with four of the victims losing limbs and 26 suffering serious burns.

Although Copeland was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and a personality disorder, his plea of diminished responsibility was not accepted by the prosecution. He was convicted of murder on June 30, 2000, and received six life sentences.

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Early life

Copeland was born in Isleworth, London, and brought up in Yateley, Hampshire, where he attended Yateley comprehensive school and passed in seven subjects in his General Certificate of Secondary Education. He apparently resented that he was small for his age, and was given the nickname "Mr. Angry." After his arrest, he told psychiatrists that he had started having sadistic dreams when he was about 12, including dreams or fantasies that he'd be reincarnated as an SS officer with access to women as slaves. He left school when he was 16 to start an engineering apprenticeship, and became involved in petty crime, drinking, and taking drugs, including heroin. He was said in court never to have had a girlfriend, and feared that people might think he was gay.

In May 1997, at the age of 21, he joined the British National Party, a far-right, anti-immigration party that fields candidates in Britain's local council elections. 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, then BNP party leader. It was during this period that Copeland first learned how to make bombs using fireworks with alarm clocks as timers after downloading a so-called terrorists' handbook from the Web.

Copeland was allegedly disappointed by the BNP, which had moved away from advocating violence, and he left within a year. In 1998, he joined the smaller, and more violent, 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."

Bombings

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Andrea Dykes and her unborn child were killed and her husband Julian seriously injured in the bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub.

Copeland's first attack, on Saturday, April 17, 1999, was in Electric Avenue, Brixton, part of the so-called "frontline," a street made famous in the UK by the 1981 Brixton race riots that took place there.

Copeland made his bomb using explosive from fireworks and taped it inside a sports bag before priming it and planting it on the corner of Electric Avenue. The market traders became suspicious of it and moved it several times before it detonated just as the police arrived, at 5:25 in the evening. Fifty people were injured.

Copeland's second bomb was aimed at Brick Lane, the centre of the Bangladeshi 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 quiet. Unwilling to change the timer on the bomb, he left it instead in Hanbury Street, where it exploded injuring thirteen people.

The Anti-Terrorist Branch of the Metropolitan Police Service had studied CCTV footage of Brixton very carefully and on Thursday, April 29 identified Copeland planting the bomb. The image was given wide publicity and Copeland therefore brought forward his next attack to Friday evening. Paul Mifsud, a work-colleague of Copeland's, recognised him and alerted the police about an hour and 20 minutes before Copeland's third bomb exploded at the crowded Admiral Duncan pub in Old Compton Street, the centre of London's gay village. This bomb killed three people and injured and maimed over a hundred more men, women and children, many of whom were badly wounded by the nails in the bomb.

Copeland was arrested that night once the police obtained his address. His mental state was assessed at Broadmoor Hospital, but remained a matter of dispute at his trial. The jury found him sane and convicted him of three murders and three offences of planting bombs, and he was sentenced to six life sentences on June 30, 2000.

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