EXCLUSIVE: Jewish security team helped infiltrate neo-Nazis to catch nail bomb killer

CST and anti-fascist group Searchlight gained key intelligence from an informant that led to arrest


A Jewish security group working with the antifascist Searchlight organisation gathered the key undercover intelligence that led to the arrest of the 1999 nail bomber who killed three people in attacks on minorities in London.

Dave Rich from the Community Security Trust (CST) was one of the ‘handlers’ for an agent codenamed ‘Arthur’ who had infiltrated the capital’s extreme far-right scene at the time.

Between 1996 and 2004, Arthur passed Mr Rich a stream of intelligence on the BNP and militant group Combat 18, in order to help protect the Jewish community from attack.

In the wake of the nail bomb atrocities in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho in 1999 — which killed three, including a pregnant woman, and injured 140 people — the Evening Standard printed a CCTV image of a suspect. 

Arthur saw the picture and recognised him as David Copeland, now 45, a member of the far-right underground. He alerted Mr Rich, who passed the information to the police, leading to Mr Copeland’s arrest. 

In 2000, the killer, who had been targeting London’s black, Bengali and gay communities, was convicted of murder and given six life sentences.
“If someone is going through minority communities to attack, at some point, Jews are going to be on that list,” Mr Rich told the JC. “That was our fear at the time.”

The revelation is alluded to in the new book Codename Arthur by Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate, as well as the new Netflix documentary Nailbomber: Manhunt. Mr Lowles was the original recruiter of Arthur, who had a family history of fighting fascism.

Over a period of eight years, Mr Rich built up a relationship with the whistleblower that turned into a friendship.

They would meet in hotels and communicate on the phone or via a pager.
“Sometimes he’d be going out with the BNP three or four times a week, leafleting, or party meetings, or sometimes just for a drink,” Mr Rich said.

“For a long time, this was [Arthur’s] life. He really gave up a lot just to plunge himself into this. He was absolutely in the midst of the London far right, for all that time. I would meet him frequently, or if it was something more urgent, we would speak on the phone”.

The Metropolitan Police was running its own informants. But, Mr Rich said, the Jewish community has a proud history of defending itself. “There is institutional knowledge in the Jewish community of defence work stretching back to the 1940s,” he said. 

“It has become very professional and is not done in amateurish way. All of our operational decisions were taken to minimise risk to Arthur.”

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