The true story of London nail bombings behind new Netflix doc Nail Bomber: Manhunt

The attacks happened over three weekends and aimed to start a race war

Today, Netflix has released a new true crime documentary about the London nail bombings of 1999. The incidents took place over three weekends, and ended in the deaths of three innocent people – one of which was a pregnant woman.

The Netflix synopsis for the hour and 12 minute long film reads: “This documentary examines the 1999 London bombings that targeted Black, Bangladeshi and gay communities, and the race to find the far-right perpetrator”.

Here’s the full true story of the London nail bombings, which new true crime documentary, Nail Bomber: Manhunt, on Netflix is about.

Nail Bomber: Manhunt, Netflix, London Nail Bombings, 1999, true story, true crime, documentary

via Netflix

The London nail bombings happened in 1999

In 1999, across three successive weekends, homemade nail bombs were let off around London.

The first was on Saturday 17th April in Brixton, south London. It was let off in Electric Avenue, which was known for having a large black community. The bomb, which was left in Brixton Market, was made using explosives from fireworks, contained four-inch nails, and was taped inside a sports bag. Market workers noticed the suspicious package and the perpetrator, David Copeland, acting strangely, and moved the bag to a less crowded area. The police were later called, and the bomb detonated at around 5:30pm, just as the authorities arrived on the scene.

Forty-eight people were injured, including a one-year-old baby boy. On the Monday after the attack, an extreme right wing group called Combat 18 claimed responsibility.

Nail Bomber: Manhunt, Netflix, London Nail Bombings, 1999, true story, true crime, documentary

via Netflix

The second was on the next Saturday and was on Brick Lane in Spitalfields, East London. This area was known for having a large Bangladeshi community. Copeland had aimed to let off the bomb when the street would be the most busy, but hadn’t realised the street market there was on Sundays. He decided to go ahead with his plan on the Saturday, and left another sports bag on Hanbury Street. A man noticed the bag, and put it in the boot of his car to take to the local police station – which was shut. From within his car, the bomb exploded. Nearby buildings were damaged and 13 people were injured.

On the Thursday of that week, CCTV from the first bombing in Brixton was released. On Friday (April 30th) a man contacted the anti-terror team to say he recognised the suspect as David Copeland.

However, the third and final bomb was also off on the Friday, in Soho. It was planted at the Admiral Duncan pub, in the heart of London’s gay community. The streets were busy as it was the beginning of a bank holiday weekend and people at the pub had noticed the package, hidden in another sports bag. The pub manager wasn’t able to investigate in time before it was detonated. Three people were killed and a seventy-nine were injured, many of them seriously. Four of the survivors had to have limbs amputated.

The victims of the bombings included pregnant woman, Andrea Dykes, along with the baby’s godfather and another friend. They had been together at the pub to celebrate her pregnancy.

David Copeland had aimed to start a race war

David Copeland, Nail Bomber: Manhunt, Netflix, London Nail Bombings, 1999, true story, true crime, documentary

via Netflix

At around 9pm of the same day the final bomb was detonated, police received the address information for David Copeland and planned a raid. On Saturday May 1st he was arrested at his home and admitted he was behind the attacks.

On May 2nd 1999, police charged 22-year-old David Copeland with murder. Copeland was a Neo-Nazi and member of far right political groups including the BNP. The bombings had been aimed at London’s Black, Bengali and LGBT communities, and Copeland is said to have wanted to start a race war.

He had looked up online how to make bombs, and during questioning, made a full confession explaining his reasons for carrying out the attacks. He said: “My main intent was to spread fear, resentment and hatred throughout this country. My aim was political. It was to cause a racial war in this country. There’d be a backlash from the ethnic minorities, then all the white people will go out and vote BNP.”

Copeland was convicted of murder in 2000 and given six life sentences with a minimum sentence of 30 years. At the time, a judge said it would probably never be safe for him to be released. In 2007, due to new legislation, Copeland’s sentence was increased to a minimum of 50 years.

Nail Bomber: Manhunt is available on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news, drops, quizzes and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook. 

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