In 1999, 22-year-old David Copeland set off three nail bombs in London, killing three people and injuring over 200 others. His first bomb targeted the Black community in Brixton, the second the Muslim community in Brick Lane and the third targeted gay revellers in London’s Soho.
By their own admission, police initially had few clues as to the motive. The first line of enquiry looked at Irish Republicans, but after ruling that out they also contemplated a Yardie gang war. It was only after the second bombing that the police really zeroed in on the possibility that the perpetrator was a far-right extremist.
One person who did immediately suspect a far-right motivation was a young man from London who was then infiltrating the British far right with the precise aim of exposing their extremism. ‘Arthur’ as he is now known, approached me in the summer of 1994 offering to infiltrate the far right. He was an active anti-fascist but he felt the most effective thing he could do was to get inside them and expose their activities. He joined the British National Party, the largest far-right group in Britain at the time, but also got involved in Combat 18 and other violent national socialist groups.
The authorities are now, finally, taking the threat of far-right terrorism more seriously
Over the next 10 years Arthur attended more than 400 meetings, rallies, leafleting sessions and socials, reporting back to me on everything he saw and heard.
He passed on their plans, their involvement in violent racist attacks and their desire for race war. Arthur immediately suspected far-right involvement. “Right away I was sure it was a racist, probably a Nazi, attack,” he later recalled. “To me it seemed so obvious.
“This is what Nazis in Britain had been talking about doing for years. Now someone or a group of people had actually gone and done it, they had gone into Brixton and detonated a bomb with the intention of killing and injuring innocent Black people. It was ethnic cleansing. It was race war. This is what they had dreamed of.”