Hyde Park and Regent's Park bombings
The Hyde Park and Regent's Park bombings were carried out on 20 July 1982 in London, England. 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.
|Hyde Park and Regent's Park bombings|
|Part of the Troubles|
Aftermath of the Hyde Park bombing which killed four soldiers
|Date||20 July 1982|
|Perpetrators||Provisional Irish Republican Army|
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".
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. On 18 December 2019 the High Court ruled that John Downey was an "active participant" in the bombing.
Hyde Park bomb
At 10:40 am, a nail bomb exploded in the boot of a blue Morris Marina parked on South Carriage Drive in Hyde Park. The bomb comprised 25 lb (11 kg) of gelignite and 30 lb (14 kg) of nails. 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. Three soldiers of the Blues & Royals were killed outright, and another, their standard-bearer, died from his wounds three days later. The other soldiers in the procession were badly wounded, and a number of civilians were injured. Seven of the regiment's horses were also killed or had to be euthanised because of their injuries. Explosives experts believed that the Hyde Park bomb was triggered by remote by an IRA member inside the park.
Regent's Park bomb
The second attack happened at about 12:55 pm, 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.
It was the first in a series of advertised lunchtime concerts there. 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. The bomb had been hidden under the stand some time before and triggered by a timer. Unlike the Hyde Park bomb, it contained no nails and seemed to be designed to cause minimal harm to bystanders.
- WO2 Graham Barker, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
- Corporal Major Roy Bright, The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)
- Lieutenant Anthony Daly, The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)
- Bandsman John Heritage, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
- Corporal Robert Livingstone, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
- Corporal Robert McKnight, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
- Bandsman George Mesure, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
- Bandsman Keith Powell, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
- Bandsman Laurence Smith, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
- Trooper Simon Tipper, The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)
- Lance Corporal Jeffrey Vernon Young, The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)
At least 51 people were injured, and a total of 22 people were admitted to hospital as a result of the blasts: 18 soldiers, a police officer, and three civilians. 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". 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.
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. Sefton's rider at the time of the bombing, Michael Pedersen, survived but believed he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder; after splitting from his wife he committed suicide in September 2012 after killing two of his children.
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 stands in Regent's Park. (See images above)
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. 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.
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. At a hearing on 1 August 2013, Downey was granted conditional bail and a trial was scheduled for January 2014.
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. 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. Downey is one of 187 IRA suspects who received secret on-the-run letters guaranteeing them unofficial immunity from prosecution. In December 2019 the High Court ruled in a civil action against Downey by the family of a victim that he had been an "active participant" in the Hyde Park bombing, subject to a claim for damages.
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- "John Downey 'active participant' in Hyde Park bombing". BBC News. 18 December 2019.