The ‘ordinary Londoner’ who spent 10 years undercover in the Far Right and eventually brought down the Soho nail bomber admits the neo-Nazi terror group ‘indoctrinated’ him and made him doubt the Holocaust happened in a tense new Netflix documentary.
Nail Bomber: Manhunt revisits the 1999 London bombings which saw right-wing extremist David Copeland, then aged 22, plant and detonate three nail bombs in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho in an attempt to spark a race war. The targets were minorities – specifically black, Asian and gay communities.
Three people were killed, including a pregnant woman, and around 150 suffered horrendous injuries including infections as a result of Copeland storing the nails among his pet rats.
The man who helped bring Copeland to justice goes by the name Arthur, whose real identity remains a secret to this day for his own safety.
Despite having no military background or links to official intelligence agencies, Arthur – then in his early twenties – volunteered with the anti-fascist organisation Searchlight.
The man who helped bring Far Right extremist David Copeland to justice goes by the name Arthur, whose real identity remains a secret to this day for his own safety
He infiltrated the British National Party and was eventually able to identify Copeland when the police released grainy CCTV images of him.
But despite wanting to go undercover because his own anti-racism sentiment was so strong – he wasn’t paid, and was motivated purely by disgust at the growing influence of the Far Right – Arthur reveals even he felt ‘brainwashed’ by the neo-Nazis’ propaganda.
‘I became immune to the racism and the facism,’ he explains in the documentary.
‘We’d look up to heroes within our movement… Hitler of course. For racists it was an inspiring environment. I’d love to say I thought it was all bulls***, but yeah definitely, they indoctrinated me.
Nail Bomber: Manhunt revisits the 1999 London bombings which saw right-wing extremist David Copeland, then aged just 22, plant and detonate three nail bombs in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho in an attempt to spark a race war
‘Yes I doubted the Holocaust happened and I was even thinking that maybe I was naïve if I followed the mainstream view that it did happen. If they could get inside my head, imagine what it was doing to other people.’
Copeland’s bedroom full of Nazi propaganda and swastikas
Arthur said the level of hatred and racism within the Far Right was ‘so much worse’ than he had anticipated, adding: ‘It was hardcore. The first years especially was like full on Nazi. People were competing to be as radical as possible and there was talk about starting a race war.’
In 1999 when the bombings took place, Arthur told how he was working undercover in the far-right British National Party [BNP] whom he claimed billed itself as the ‘law and order party’.
‘We were projecting ourselves as decent, honourable, law-abiding citizens, we were the good guys,’ he recalled.
‘But behind that you’d be going to a BNP meeting at a church hall or the back room of a pub and people were distributing hit lists, overtly Nazi propaganda, bomb manuals. It was their dream that someone would go out and blow up someone they’ve suggested to target, so it was pretty extreme.
‘My assumption was that they’d keep the Nazi thing out of the way for new recruits, but straight away they were saying, “Killing Jews was a good thing”, first day. I was shocked, I was scared, but I was also excited… the fact they were so overtly Nazi, that’s more reason to carry on, isn’t it?’
With anti-fascist groups having no idea Arthur was on their side, he told how there were a number of occasions where he was caught in the crossfire and subjected to violence during clashes.
Three people were killed in the Soho nail bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub, including a pregnant woman, and around 150 suffered horrendous injuries including infections as a result of Copeland saturating the nails with rat urine
The scene in Soho after the third of Copeland’s bombs went off and killed three people in 1999
‘A few times I got whacked, the worst time, it was a girl, she was smashing me over the head with a hammer. This was my reality,’ he recalled.
Who is the Soho nail bomber? David Copeland who idolised Hitler and Stalin had ‘no feelings’ and wanted to be famous
David Copeland, from Hampshire, caused three nail bomb explosions in the space of 13 days in April 1999 – the final of which went off LGBTQ pub the Admiral Duncan in Soho.
The blasts also went off in Brixton and Brick Lane. Copeland, who was 22 at the time, told police he wanted the bombings to ‘set fire to the country and stir up a racial war’. He had planned to continue the attacks until he was caught.
Andrea Dykes, 27, John Light, 32, and Nik Moore, 31, died in the final blast which contained 1,500 nails.
The bomber, whose heroes were Hitler, Stalin, Sadam Hussein and serial killer Henry Lee told police he had ‘no feelings’ about what he’d done, and wanted to be famous.
‘I saw the people I was going to maim and kill. I do not feel joy about it. I do not feel sad. I just did not feel anything,’ he said.
Copeland was jailed for life in 2000 and must serve a minimum of 50 years. He was slapped with six life sentences after a trial at the Old Bailey and has since been handed an additional three years for attacking a fellow inmate in 2014.
Now 44, he is serving his sentence at HMP Frankland, in Durham.
Earlier this year, The Sun reported claims that Copeland converted to Islam in a bid to find forgiveness and ‘get a second chance’.
Copeland befriended armed robber Andy Ross who has since been released after serving 11 and a half years.
Ross told the Sun: Copeland prays every day and sees practising as a Muslim as a way of getting forgiveness and changing.
‘But he still has a twisted mind.’
The nail bomb killer, from Hampshire, instructed fellow inmates to call him Saddam, a reflection of his admiration for the Iraqi dictator, the Sun reported.
When the first bomb exploded in Brixton on April 17, 1999, Arthur and the majority of the Far Right had no idea who was responsible.
‘I was phoning people pretending first of all I was happy, saying, “Have you any idea who it is?” but no one had a clue,’ he said. ‘It’s quite difficult to be in a situation where you’re spying on people and you try to switch the voices off in your head, but it’s not easy.’
Arthur passed information back to his handlers to disrupt the extremists’ plans, and eventually identified Copeland from a CCTV image – but admits he’s haunted by the fact the image wasn’t shared with him sooner, after it had been enhanced – by which point Copeland had time to plan and carry out the fatal Soho bombing.
When he saw the images in the Evening Standard, Arthur told how he informed Searchlight he believed it could be someone he knew as ‘Dave from Barking’, who had previously been pictured next to John Tyndall, who was leader of the BNP for 17 years.
When he heard about the Soho bombing, Arthur was at home and said he felt ‘complete shock and helplessness’.
‘I wish we’d been able to stop it, to stop those people being killed and injured,’ he said, adding that he feels a lot of guilt.
Becoming audibly emotional, he went on: ‘I think about that a lot, thought I’d got over it and then it came back. Joining the BNP I wanted the excitement of being a spy and taking on the bad people, but when something of that scale happened I wish we’d been able to stop that happening sooner.’
Harrowing audio footage of Copeland’s interviews with police revealed he ‘didn’t feel anything’ when he walked into the Admiral Duncan pub and looked around at the people he knew he was about to ‘maim and kill’.
‘I knew that people would be killed but I had to do it,’ he told officers. ‘I wanted to get caught to be famous in some sort of way. It’s existence – if no one remembers who you were, you never existed.’
Copeland added that he acted out of ‘fear, resentment and hatred’, declaring himself a Nazi. Despite his frank confession, he denied three murder charges due to diminished responsibility.
While on remand at Broadmoor high security hospital in 1999, Copeland fell in love with a young English woman named Patsy Scanlon who wrote him letters. In his notes to her, he admitted he’d managed to ‘fool all the doctors’ into thinking he was insane.
However, Patsy was in fact a ‘hairy-a***d bouncer’ and former soldier from Essex called Bernard O’Mahoney who had set up the elaborate honeytrap to snare Copeland – and it worked.
Patsy was in fact a ‘hairy-a***d bouncer’ and former soldier from Essex called Bernard O’Mahoney (pictured) who had set up the elaborate honeytrap to snare Copeland – and it worked
Speaking in the documentary, Bernie said he was ‘never gonna let him get away with it’ and ‘needed’ Copeland to confess that he was perfectly sane.
The jury eventually looked at Copeland’s correspondence with ‘Patsy’ in its entirety and deduced there was ‘absolutely nothing wrong with him’, Bernie revealed.
‘Not once did he show a sign of emotion when he saw injuries. But when the prosecution read out the girl he wanted to marry was actually a hairy-a***d bouncer from Essex called Bernie… his world ended,’ he recalled.
Arthur was offered a £70,000 reward for the role he played in catching Copeland, but he was ‘never interested in a penny’. Only on the 20th anniversary of the attack did some of his family find out what he had done, and that he wasn’t a Nazi after all.
Arthur has remained largely silent about his role until now. Asked why he did it – and persevered with it for so long – Arthur simply replied: ‘I like being a spy. It’s a buzz.’
Nail Bomber: Manhunt is streaming now on Netflix.