Book Review - "Mr Evil"

A. Shaw reviews "MR EVIL - The Secret Life of Racist Pub Bomber and Killer David Copeland" by Graeme McLagen & Nick Lowles

It is only fair to say that Mr Evil is a riveting read for all the wrong reasons. Seasoned anti-fascists will either snort or gag.

Co-written by Searchlight editor Nick Lowles and fellow-traveler Graeme MacClagen the first half of the book appears to have been written with the ‘serial killer’ market in mind, while the final third is a polemic against foes and rivals in the security services. It is an uneasy mix. All is simplicity to begin with. "This is the chilling insight into a mind so warped it practically defies belief," the introduction promises, and before long you know you are in for a treat - of sorts. Following a conviction for common assault Copeland received a community service order. This the authors warn darkly, proved to be the first sign Copeland "was getting out of control". Later we are told, "like many on the far right he [another bombing suspect] had been bullied in school".

On page 28 "anti-Zionist" is defined for the simple reader as "a far-right euphemism for anti-Semitism" The temptations of reaching a mass market may have encouraged such... ahm... simplicities, but then dates too are also modified to accord with the "Copeland inherently evil" script. Thus it is inferred that it is was only after Copeland joined the BNP in 1997, that the BNP sought "to remodel the party as a respectable alternative" rather than three years earlier in 1994 when at a press conference it announced there would be "no more marches, meetings, punch-ups". Wouldn’t do to have Copeland the nutter joining anything other than the "most extreme racist political organisation in Britain" now would it?

In the same vein, it is announced that by 1999 "any hope of achieving a racist society through the ballot box... seemed more distant that ever" so bombing (in frustration with democracy you see) inevitably had greater purchase among right-wing extremists generally. Except that in the GLA elections less than a year after Copeland’s arrest, the BNP attracted the highest popular vote for any far-right party for a quarter of a century!

More seriously, despite a hardbacked 300 pages, the core questions in regard to the nature, and the basis for the mysterious police warning to the Admiral Duncan on the day before the bombing, is cynically skated over. A particular pity as these key questions the book side-steps are the ones the victims and their relatives, who are suing the pub’s owners, are asking.

Now, it is generally accepted that Copeland carried out reconnaissance in Soho on the same day he planted the bomb in Brick Lane. Five days later The Pink a gay newspaper ran a headline ‘Gays in fascist bomb alert’. According to the book "acting in response to the headline" police then warned some gay pubs in Soho including the Admiral Duncan, but as the book coyly frames it, "other well known gay venues in London were not visited". More to the point, other well know gay venues in Soho were not visited either.

Whatever way you look at it, police conduct seems extraordinary. Put simply, either they picked Soho and the venues they visited entirely at random, (as a PR exercise) or working on information received, chose to warn instead only those pubs Copeland had reconnoitred the previous Saturday. And if indeed they were acting on some specific information as would appear to be the case, they could have done so only if Copeland been under surveillance by ‘persons unknown’ prior to the bomb in Brick Lane as he went directly to Soho from there, If so, then someone ‘in the know’ very deliberately withheld such info from Scotland Yard.

Though none of this is addressed, a little finger-pointing is not entirely resisted. Describing the "relief and jubilation" of police at the Scotland Yard news conference after Copeland’s capture there is reference to "a significant omission in the widespread congratulation offered by Assistant Commissioner Veness". "Missing most notably from the list of those deserving congratulation was any mention of MI5 and Special Branch". As is stressed this was no oversight, "the omission was deliberate". A consciously public snub in fact, primarily because of "what one senior detective described to us later as an intelligence void". Here at the very least is tacit confirmation of the intense and bitter rivalry (though vehemently and repeatedly denied in the media) that exists between competing sections of the security services, not least of course that ‘lay adviser to the Met’: Searchlight itself.

In truth Searchlight were central to the in-fighting. Trenchant criticism of police handling of the investigation was a marked feature of Searchlight’s Gerry Gables contribution to the public debate in the run up to Copeland’s arrest. With every opportunity, came the same complaint: the investigation needed to be "intelligence led". A comment made in the knowledge, as the book confirms, that this is exactly where the operational "void" existed.

No bouquets for guessing what organisation Gable felt was best equipped to fill it. Though the likes of the ANL unashamedly endorse the strategy of ‘filling the vacuum Searchlight style’ a still widespread and commendable uneasiness at such collusion is evident by the fact Searchlight, just three months after a hardback Mr Evil was being offered to the public for £14.99, are giving it away for "free". Hopefully, if people are not buying the book they’re not buying the theory that underpins it either

Reproduced from RA bulletin Vol 4, Issue 10, March/April 2001