Nail Bomber: Manhunt 2021 Movie
22 years ago, London’s minority groups were under attack. Over three successive weekends in April 1999, three horrific nail bombs were set off in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho, killing three people and injuring 140.
While many of us may remember these attacks from the time, what we may not recall is the true fascist nature of these crimes, and of the white supremacist who wilfully chose to hurt and kill others as part of his racist and homophobic hate campaign.
Two decades on, Netflix has commissioned a one-off documentary, Nail Bomber: Manhunt, that examines the events leading up to the bombings, the people caught up in the blasts and even a man who went undercover in the BNP to help expose the killer who was later revealed to be David Copeland. Taking a snapshot of the rising far-right political temperament in the country at the time, the documentary looks at the failings of the police in identifying the bombs as racial hate crimes and also questions whether enough was done to curb the pockets of white extremists banding together at this time.
What happened in the three bombings?
The first bomb was left by Copeland in the busy market of Electric Avenue, Brixton, on Saturday 17 April. However, a few market traders noticed the black sports bag and saw that it contained a bomb, but they weren’t sure what to do with it. One of the traders notes in the documentary that: “I kid you not, a crackhead came and took the bomb out and stole the bag it was in”. By the time the public had alerted authorities, the bomb had exploded at 5.25pm. The sheer number of nails embedded in the bomb were placed there to cause maximum damage to the maximum number of people and 48 people were injured, including a child who ended up with a four-inch nail in his skull.
The second bomb was placed in the Bengali community of Brick Lane, east London, on Saturday 24 April. Once again, it was placed in a sports bag, and once again, it’s crude nature meant a member of the public discovered it and tried to take it to the police station, which was shut. The bomb exploded in the man’s car, destroying nearby buildings, and injuring 13 people.
The most prolific of all three bombs took place in The Admiral Duncan pub, Soho, on Friday 30 April, the start of a busy bank holiday weekend. The bomb – which was taped on to the inside of the pub in a sports bag – was just being investigated by the pub’s manager at 6.37pm when it exploded. Three people including a pregnant woman were killed, 79 people were seriously injured and four people had to have limbs amputated. The documentary reveals that the nails fired out from the bombs had been dipped into rat urine and faeces, further infecting those wounded.