Bernard O’Mahoney (L) and ‘Arthur’ were two of the heroes who stepped up (Picture: Netflix)
In 1999, London was bombed three times in three weekends – in Brixton, Brick Lane, and Soho.
Three people were killed and and 140 people were injured, four of whom lost limbs.
The nail bombs, which were designed specifically to cause as much death and hurt as possible, were detonated by David Copeland, a man who openly admitted to being a Nazi in a police interview afterwards, and who targeted people from ethnic minority backgrounds and the LGBT community in his attacks.
Netflix’s new documentary, Nail Bomber: Manhunt, focuses on the survivors of the attacks, with director Daniel Vernon hailing the everyday heroes who helped to convict Copeland.
One man, referred to as ‘Arthur’ in the documentary, has kept his identity anonymous. He went undercover, attending British National Party meetings, and was able to identify Copeland when the police released CCTV shots of him.
When Copeland was arrested and awaiting trial, he attempted to plead diminished responsibility, claiming he wasn’t in his right mind.
Upon hearing that, club doorman Bernard O’Mahoney wrote to Copeland, pretending to be a woman who Copeland eventually appeared to fall in love with.
Arthur has kept his identity a secret (Picture: Netflix)
Copeland admitted in his letters that he had been tricking doctors into believing he had mental health issues. Following his trial, he was convicted of murder and given six life sentences.
Director Vernon explained to Metro.co.uk: ‘When we started digging down into the story, we realised there was a story that hadn’t even been told fully because actually it was the characters that we came across, like the undercover agent and others, that you suddenly realise – these people stood up and they pulled their sleeves up, and they did something about it.
‘Without them, I’m convinced that [Copeland] may have gone on to do other things, other bombings.’
Asked about what it was like hearing Arthur and Bernard’s stories first-hand, he pointed out: ‘As a filmmaker, there’s nothing more satisfying than someone telling you a story they haven’t told anyone else before. It doesn’t get better.
‘On top of that, there’s nothing but huge admiration because some people doing something as amazing as these people have done would want book deals, they would have been on chat shows, they might even have their own TV show by now, they would have maximised on their fame – but they didn’t.
Bernard wrote letters to Copeland in prison (Picture: Netflix)
‘They kept quiet, they didn’t tell anyone, and I just find that incredible and it’s a real privilege to be the one who sits in front of them to hear it for the first time.’
Vernon was keen to focus on the survivors rather than the perpetrator of the attacks, adding: ‘That was probably the most important thing from day one that we wanted to make sure – here’s somebody that clearly wanted to be noticed and we’ve got to tread a very fine line to make sure that this is not his story. This is the story of the people who stopped him and the story of the people who survived.’
‘At the same time, I think it’s also dangerous to paint these people as monsters and not like us in any sense of the word,’ he continued. ‘Because as soon as you do that, as soon as you create a monster and people die, then it’s very difficult to understand who they are, what they are, and it’s very difficult to find out how we can stop that.
‘The problem is they are [human] and they watch the same TV as us, read the same news as us. They just have a very different filter and they’re hanging around with people who are filling them with hate. I think that’s the other thing that we’re trying to get across – yes it was the act of one man but actually the architecture around him really needed to be investigated and in today’s world even more so.’
While it was essential to hear the stories of many of the survivors of the attacks, Vernon admitted that they hit him incredibly hard.
‘The details of the bombings – it’s one thing to read them in the paper but to speak to people who lived through it and, not just the people that we interviewed but we did speak to a lot of people who, for one reason or another didn’t want to be filmed, but were pleased we were making the film and gave us details,’ he recalled.
‘But they were so traumatised by it still that they didn’t want to tell us any more. I think of all those people who are still stuck in that moment and haven’t quite escaped – that really hit home, the tragedy of something like this that you don’t often get from reading a news story. That hung around for quite a while. It still hangs around with me quite a bit.’
However, he hopes that a positive message can be taken from the documentary.
‘I think [there are] lots of news reports swirling with the idea that we’re surrounded by hatred – which to some extent we are. I’m hoping that this story shows us that there is hope and that those who stand up against hate make such a huge difference,’ Vernon said.
‘I didn’t want to make a film that scares people, it’s more a film about humanity and that we can conquer any hatred.’
Nail Bomber: Manhunt is released on Netflix on May 26.
Credit: Original article published here.