Soho to mark 20th anniversary of Admiral Duncan bombing today

(From Pink News today)

April 30, 1999, was supposed mark no more than the start of a bank holiday weekend—but a deadly nail bomb attack at the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho confined the date to a dark page in history for London’s LGBT+ community.

Three people lost their lives in the attack, and 79 more were injured. It was the third bombing in two weeks targeting vulnerable groups in the British capital—on April 17, a nail bomb exploded in Brixton injuring 47 people, and another blast took place in Brick Lane on April 24, harming six people.

The campaigning group 17-24-30 NationalHCA, which also organises National Hate Crime Awareness Week, has teamed up with Pride in London to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Admiral Duncan bombing in Soho on Tuesday (April 30).Ahead of the anniversary, venues along Old Compton Street, the beating heart of London’s gaybourhood where the Admiral Duncan is located, were asked to display LGBT+ pride flags.

“Hate crime is just a heartbeat away for a lot of gay, lesbian, trans, bisexual people, and they face the risk and the threat of hate at any moment in their lives.”

— Ian Adams

The person responsible for the bombings was arrested in May that year and later condemned to six life sentences—organisers of the commemoration asked for his name to be withheld from publication to prevent him from achieving his goal of being immortalised for the attacks.

A far-right fanatic who was 23 years old at the time of the attacks, he had picked the locations for the attacks on the basis of their association with the black community, the Asian community and the LGBT+ community.

The victims of the Admiral Duncan attack were 27-year-old Andrea Dykes, who was pregnant with her child and due to marry her boyfriend, her friend Nik Moore, 31, and her fiancé’s best man John Light, 32.

The commemoration on Tuesday will also honour the memory of David Morely, affectionately known as Sinders in the community, who survived the bombing at the Admiral Duncan where he worked as a bartender, but was killed in a homophobic beating on the South Bank on October 30, 2004 by a group of teenagers, as well as Thomas Douglas, another survivor of the attack, who passed away in 2017.

Westminster councillor Ian Adams had gone out to Soho the evening of the attack, approaching Old Compton Street shortly after the bomb exploded at 6.27pm.

“There was a lot of disruption of the roads and some of the roads were closed and there was police tape towards the end of Old Compton Street. There was a certain eeriness about the place. There was no panic and there were a lot of people milling around,” he tells PinkNews.

“I think the community was just there together as one and wanting to provide reassurance to one another that people were alright,” he recalls. “This is a very extreme case of hatred being played out on our streets but I’m very very conscious that today, 20 years on, hate crime is just a heartbeat away for a lot of gay, lesbian, trans, bisexual people, and they face the risk and the threat of hate at any moment in their lives.”

Human rights activist Peter Tatchell (centre) at a vigil organized by the direct action gay rights campaigning group OutRage! in Old Compton Street, Soho, London, 7th May 1999.
Human rights activist Peter Tatchell (centre) at a vigil organised by the direct action gay rights campaigning group OutRage! in Old Compton Street, Soho, London, 7th May 1999. (Steve Eason/Getty)

LGBT+ campaigner Peter Tatchell tells PinkNews he was “stunned but not surprised” by news of the attack. “After the bombings of the black and Asian communities, I had been warning that the bomber was probably a far right extremist who might attack LGBT+ venues. Together with my OutRage! colleagues, I had been urging gay bars to conduct bag searches. The police initially dismissed our concerns—[they] accused us of ‘scaremongering,’” he says.

OutRage! activists were among those who organised the first commemoration of the bombings’ victims, a week following the attack, demanding tougher action to combat anti-LGBT hate crimes.

“The highlight was the public premiere of Holly Johnson’s moving new single, ‘The Power of Love.’ It bought tears to my eyes,” Tatchell recalls.

The Admiral Duncan attack was the third of three bombings by neo-nazi David Copeland, who deliberately targeted London’s minority community heartlands.  He is serving 6 consecutive life sentences and will never be released from prison.