Socialist Worker

Why didn't police catch him sooner?

Issue No. 1704

Murderer

Why didn't police catch him sooner?

"NAZI SWINE" was the headline of the Sun last week. "Nazi Scum Who Fuelled Evil Bomber" was the Mirror's headline. This was the press reaction to the jailing of David Copeland, who was given six life sentences for the nailbombings in London's Soho, Brixton and Brick Lane. The papers echo the feelings of revulsion many millions of people have about Copeland. His bombs killed three people and left 139 injured.

The horror of these bombings provoked a groundswell of solidarity amongst ordinary people, black and white, gay and straight. The jury rejected Copeland's claim that he was mad and therefore couldn't be convicted of murder. The trial clearly exposed his membership of Nazi organisations and fervent commitment to their ideas.

The press herald Copeland's prison term as the end of the matter. But his arrest and trial have raised a key question. Why didn't the Metropolitan Police catch Nazi bomber David Copeland sooner? From the time they arrested him, after a tip-off from one of his workmates, they have tried to portray him as a loner they couldn't possibly have known about.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner David Veness said on the day of Copeland's arrest, "There is no suggestion that the arrest is linked in any way to the extreme right groups. The man is not a member of any of the groups." Yet Veness must have known that Copeland was a member of the Nazi National Socialist Movement.

There were letters from the Nazi group and a membership card in Copeland's Hampshire bedsit when he was arrested that morning, along with a huge swastika on the wall.

Even last Thursday, at a press conference at Scotland Yard, the police were still saying, "We are completely satisfied Copeland acted alone." In fact Copeland was a member of the Newham branch of another Nazi group, the British National Party (BNP), for over a year until the end of 1998 before joining the National Socialist Movement.

It is incredible that Copeland did not come to the attention of the police and the security services at this point. He was given the key job of guarding then BNP leader John Tyndall. Copeland knew Tony "Bomber" Lecomber, currently the BNP's press officer. This Nazi thug was jailed in 1986 for three years for a nailbomb attack, and for making grenades, detonators and bombs.

Yet last week the police stated that "the security services had no information on Copeland" and "never had him under surveillance". The police admitted that they were more interested in watching left wing groups who, in their minds, pose a "threat to national security".

In other words, the security services are more interested in monitoring anti-fascists, anti-capitalist protesters and socialists. A senior Whitehall official told a Sunday paper that there was just one Special Branch officer with the task of monitoring Britain's Nazi groups. The official admitted, "MI5 thought the right wing gangs were little more than potential football hooligans and at the time of the bombs were not monitoring them at all."

Yet at every demonstration those on the left are photographed by police, arrested, and have their names and addresses taken. Police are there to protect the Nazis when they march.

That same protection did not extend to the gay community despite strong rumours in the wake of Copeland's Brick Lane bomb that Nazis could target them next. When a BNP meeting was broken up by the Anti Nazi League in September 1997 Copeland was photographed protecting John Tyndall.

Copeland was filmed talking to a policeman. But that officer didn't take the name and address of such a high profile Nazi to add to their intelligence gathering.

The anti-Nazi group Searchlight knew all about Copeland. Four and half hours before the Soho bomb went off on 30 April last year Searchlight passed on a list of 260 names of known Nazis to Special Branch. Copeland's name was picked out on a separate sheet of paper which gave accurate information, including his old address in east London. The message read, "David Copeland. Is in early 20s and works as an engineer, possibly for British Rail."

Copeland was 22, and worked as an engineer on the Jubilee Line Extension. The police admit that Special Branch sat on this vital information and did not pass it on to Scotland Yard's Anti- Terrorist Squad, which was in charge of tracking down the bomber.


Enemies of us all

Copeland has deliberately distanced himself from his Nazi associates since his arrest, and the authorities seem to have swallowed his deception. No other Nazi was arrested or called to Copeland's trial to explain their connection with him.

Yet Copeland was a hardened Nazi who got his poisonous ideas from mixing with other Nazis. He first became interested in Hitler and the Nazis at the age of 13. He told the police it "made him feel powerful". The police say he confessed that "he was a Nazi who believed in a white master race. He did not like black or Asian people and wanted them out of the country. He thought his bombs would set fire to the country and trigger a race war, forcing whites to vote for the BNP. He regarded gay men as perverted degenerates who had no use to society and should be put to death."

These horrendous views and fantasies are "common currency" in Britain's Nazi movement. Yet these vermin are allowed to organise, terrorise and march against asylum seekers.

After Copeland's arrest the Nazi National Front sought to defend him, saying, "Is it any wonder that some individuals feel the need to resort to acts of violence to get their message across?"

Nick Griffin, the new head of the Nazi British National Party, said, "The TV footage of dozens of 'gay' demonstrators flaunting their perversion showed why so many people find these creatures so repulsive." Copeland's friends on the outside have sent him a swastika flag which he has hung in his Broadmoor cell.


Victim speaks out

Socialist Worker talked to building labourer TOMMY DOUGLAS, who was in the Admiral Duncan pub when it was blown up by Copeland. Tommy lost both his legs and suffered massive internal injuries. He is still very ill.

"When I came round in hospital I did not know I had no legs. I asked a nurse to take my shoes and socks off because my feet felt hot. She burst into tears and ran out of the room. Copeland is not mad. He is a very clever and dangerous person. We know he has sympathisers still out there-and they are as much to blame for the bombs as he is. I have kept the hospital slides of the injuries, just so I have a record to remind people that the far right element is still there with ideas even worse than Copeland's and what they are capable of. Why shouldn't black people or Asian people go about their business without fear? I feel solidarity with Neville and Doreen Lawrence. It was the same hate that killed Stephen."


Why I'm going to Marxism

'I AM a student at Warwick University who was involved in the occupation over top-up fees. After a year of studying mainstream, uninspiring views on social policy, I am looking forward to hearing some fresh, alternative opinions. With the Nazi BNP rearing its head in the local area I want to be able to discuss and understand the roots of fascism, and how to fight it.'

  • NATHAN HUGHES

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Sat 8 Jul 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1704
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