Hyde Park and Regent's Park bombings

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Hyde Park and Regent's Park bombings
Part of The Troubles
Hyde Park Bombing.jpg
Aftermath of the Hyde Park bombing which killed four soldiers and seven horses
Location London, England
Date 20 July 1982
Target British military
Attack type
Bombings
Deaths 11
Non-fatal injuries
c.50
Perpetrators Provisional Irish Republican Army

The Hyde Park and Regent's Park bombings occurred on 20 July 1982 in London. Members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated two bombs during British military ceremonies in Hyde Park and Regent's Park, both in central London.

The explosions killed 11 military personnel: four soldiers of the Blues & Royals at Hyde Park, and seven bandsmen of the Royal Green Jackets at Regent's Park. Seven of the Blues & Royals' horses also died in the attack. One seriously injured horse, Sefton, survived and was subsequently featured on television programmes and was awarded "Horse of the Year". Sefton's rider suffered posttraumatic stress disorder and in 2012 committed suicide after killing his two children.

In 1987, Gilbert "Danny" McNamee was convicted of making the Hyde Park bomb and jailed for 25 years. He served 12 years before being released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement; his conviction was later quashed. In 2013, John Downey was charged with four counts of murder in relation to the Hyde Park attack; his trial began in January 2014 but collapsed the following month after a ruling upon a letter sent to him by police assuring him that he would not be prosecuted over the attack. No one has ever been charged in connection with the Regent's Park bombing.

The attacks[edit]

Hyde Park bomb[edit]

U-shaped hedge enclosure surrounding an oblong slate plaque on a wedge-shaped plinth, with flowers laid at the bottom
Memorial in Hyde Park
Oblong slate plaque with inscriptions in gold, set into a low wall
Memorial in Regent's Park

At 10:40 am,[1] a nail bomb exploded in the boot of a blue Morris Marina parked on South Carriage Drive in Hyde Park.[2] The bomb comprised 25 lb of gelignite and 30 lb of nails.[2] It exploded as soldiers of the Household Cavalry, Queen Elizabeth II's official bodyguard regiment, were passing. They were taking part in their daily Changing of the Guard procession from their barracks in Knightsbridge to Horse Guards Parade.[3] Three soldiers of the Blues & Royals were killed outright, and another, their standard bearer, died from his wounds three days later.[2] The other soldiers in the procession were badly wounded, and a number of civilians were injured.[2] Seven of the regiment's horses were also killed or had to be euthanised because of their injuries.[4][2]

Explosives experts believed that the Hyde Park bomb was triggered by remote by an IRA member inside the park.[4][2] The four men who died in the attack were Anthony Daly, Simon Tipper, Vernon Young, and Raymond Bright (in hospital three days later).[2]

Regent's Park bomb[edit]

The second attack happened at about 12:55 pm,[5] when a bomb exploded underneath a bandstand in Regent's Park. Thirty military bandsmen of the Royal Green Jackets were on the stand performing music from Oliver! to a crowd of 120 people.[4][5] It was the first in a series of advertised lunchtime concerts there.[5] Six of the bandsmen were killed outright and the rest were wounded; a seventh died of his wounds on 1 August. At least eight civilians were also injured.[5] The bomb had been hidden under the stand some time before and triggered by a timer.[4] Unlike the Hyde Park bomb, it contained no nails and seemed to be designed to cause minimal harm to bystanders.[5] The seven men who died were Graham Barker, Robert Livingstone, John McKnight, John Heritage, George Mesure, Keith Powell and Laurence Smith.

Aftermath[edit]

A total of 22 people were detained in hospital as a result of the blasts: 18 soldiers, a police officer, and three civilians.[2] The IRA claimed responsibility for the attacks by deliberately mirroring Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's words a few months before when Britain entered the Falklands War. They proclaimed that: "The Irish people have sovereign and national rights which no task or occupational force can put down".[5] Reacting to the bombing, Thatcher stated: "These callous and cowardly crimes have been committed by evil, brutal men who know nothing of democracy. We shall not rest until they are brought to justice."

The bombings had a negative impact on public support in the United States for the Irish republican cause.[5]

Sefton, a horse that survived the attack at Hyde Park despite suffering serious wounds, became famous after appearing in many television shows and was awarded Horse of the Year.[1] Sefton's rider at the time of the bombing, Michael Pedersen, survived but claimed to suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder; after splitting from his wife he committed suicide in September 2012 after killing his two children.[6]

A memorial marks the spot of the Hyde Park bombing and the troop honours it daily with an eyes-left and salute with drawn swords. A plaque commemorating the victims of the second attack also stands in Regent's Park.

The character Joe in the 1993 play Our Boys is a survivor of the Hyde Park bomb attack.

Criminal proceedings[edit]

In October 1987, 27-year-old Gilbert "Danny" McNamee, from County Armagh, was sentenced at the Old Bailey to 25 years in prison for his role in the Hyde Park bombing and others, despite his plea that he was not guilty. In December 1998, shortly after his release from Maze prison under the Good Friday Agreement, three Court of Appeal judges quashed his conviction, deeming it "unsafe" because of withheld fingerprint evidence that implicated other bomb-makers. They stated that though the conviction was unsafe it did not mean McNamee was necessarily innocent of the charge.[7]

On 19 May 2013, 61-year-old John Anthony Downey, from County Donegal, was charged with murder in relation to the Hyde Park bomb and intending to cause an explosion likely to endanger life. He appeared by videolink from Belmarsh prison for a bail hearing at the Old Bailey on 24 May and did not apply for bail so was remanded in custody.[8] At a hearing on 1 August 2013, Downey was granted conditional bail and a trial was scheduled for January 2014.[9]

On 24 January 2014, Downey appeared at the Old Bailey for the beginning of his trial; he entered a not guilty plea on the four murder charges and the charge of intending to cause an explosion.[10] On 25 February 2014, it was revealed that Downey's trial had collapsed after the presiding judge had ruled, on 21 February, upon a letter sent by the Police Service of Northern Ireland to Downey in 2007, assuring him that he would not face criminal charges over the attack. Although the assurance was made in error and the police realised the mistake, it was never withdrawn, and the judge ruled that therefore the defendant had been misled and prosecuting him would be an abuse of executive power.[11] Downey is one of 187 IRA suspects who received secret on-the-run letters guaranteeing them unofficial immunity from prosecution.[11][12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Sefton, Battle of a War Horse". Horse Show Central. Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h McKittrick, David. Lost Lives: The stories of the men, women and children who died as a result of the Northern Ireland Troubles. Random House, 2001. pp.908-909
  3. ^ "2006:". 
  4. ^ a b c d "1982: IRA bombs cause carnage in London". BBC News. Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Chalk, Peter. Encyclopedia of Terrorism. ABC-CLIO, 2012. pp.614-615. ISBN 0313308950
  6. ^ "Pedersen deaths: Father killed children and himself". BBC News. Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  7. ^ "Man wins IRA bomb appeal". BBC News. 17 December 1998. Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  8. ^ "John Anthony Downey charged over 1982 Hyde Park bombings". BBC News. 22 May 2013. Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  9. ^ "IRA Hyde Park bomb: John Downey granted bail". BBC News. 1 August 2013. Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  10. ^ "IRA Hyde Park bomb: John Downey denies murder". BBC News. 24 January 2014. Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  11. ^ a b "Alleged IRA Hyde Park bomber goes free after 'no trial' guarantee". BBC News. 25 February 2014. 
  12. ^ "Peter Robinson quit threat over IRA Hyde Park bomb case". BBC News. 26 February 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2014. 

Coordinates: 51°31′35″N 0°09′27″W / 51.52652°N 0.157443°W / 51.52652; -0.157443