Monday, 23 April 2012

The Bombing of the Admiral Duncan

The 30th April 2012 will mark the 13th anniversary of the Bombing of the Admiral Duncan, a popular pub on Old Compton Street in Soho. The following article appeared originally in the 2009 edition of Past2Present, original sources included Wikipedia.

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The Admiral Duncan is a pub in Old Compton Street, Soho in the heart of London's gay district. It is named after Admiral Adam Duncan, who defeated the Dutch fleet at Camperdown in 1797.

On April 30, 1999, the Admiral Duncan was the scene of a bomb blast when the Neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement member David Copeland, who was attempting to stir up ethnic and homophobic tensions by organising a series of bombings, detonated a nailbomb which killed three people and wounded around 70.

Eyewitnesses spoke of a "huge bang" as the bomb went off, hurling glass and debris into the street. Jason Everton had just left his job in nearby Frith Street to buy a sandwich, when he saw the front of the pub "coming straight off".

"There were people running out, all covered in dust and bruises and cuts. It was quite horrific," he said.

Jean Pierre Trevor, who was working in an editing suite in offices just behind the pub, was blown three feet by the force of the blast. He went to offer his help, and found the street outside "like a war scene".

"There were people lying everywhere," he said. "Those who were around were putting thermal blankets over them. A lot of them had severe burns, so we were putting water and ice cubes on their skin."

Nearby Soho Square, usually packed with office workers, became a makeshift treatment centre for the injured.

The dead were identified as Andrea Dykes (4 months pregnant); her friend, Nik Moore and John Light, the best man at the wedding of Andrea and her husband, who was himself seriously injured.

There is a memorial and a plaque in the bar to commemorate those injured and killed in the blast.

David Copeland, a 23-year-old engineer from Hampshire, was arrested at the beginning of May, and charged with murder and causing three explosions. During his trial, the court heard he told police he was a Nazi, and believed in a master race. The jury found him guilty, and he received six life sentences. Sentencing him, the judge said "The public must be protected from you, and assured that if you are ever released it will not be for a very long time." Almost 7 years later, on 2 March 2007, the High Court decided that Copeland should remain in prison for at least 50 years, effectively ruling out his release before 2049 at the age of 73.


In December 1881 a customer received eight years penal servitude for various offences in connection with his ejection from the Admiral Duncan pub by keeper William Gordon.

It was once in the ownership of the Scottish & Newcastle Brewery but changed hands in 2004 and is now owned by the Tattershall Castle Group, now known as TCG Acquisitions.

The exterior of the bar was repainted in a black and pink motif in late 2006.

In late 2005, Westminster City Council decreed that the Admiral Duncan and all other LGBT bars and businesses that operated in its jurisdiction, including those in Soho and Covent Garden, remove their pride flags claiming that such flags constituted advertising which was forbidden in its planning laws. Businesses would be required to apply for permits to be allowed to fly flags but those businesses that did apply for permission found their applications turned down for spurious reasons. Following media allegations of homophobia in the Council, the I Love Soho campaign and intense pressure from the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, the Council rescinded its directive and Pride Flags were once again permitted to be flown.

Bar manager David Morley, who survived the bombing, was murdered in London on 30 October 2004.










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