THE London nailbomber David Copeland was given six life sentences yesterday after a judge said the public needed to be protected from his ``virulent hatred and pitiless contempt for a very long time''.
A massive cheer erupted from the public in the Old Bailey as the jury delivered its verdict of guilty on three counts of murder. Many of the victims of his explosions, some sitting in wheelchairs, burst into tears and hugged one another.
Copeland (24), a loner, sexually confused and driven by homophobia, Nazism and deep-seated racism, had told detectives that the three bombs he planted in London in April last year, which killed three people and injuring 139, were designed to start a race war across Britain.
His defence argued that although he admitted planting the bombs, he had been suffering from a mental illness that substantially impaired his responsibility at the time. The prosecution, however, refused to accept his plea of manslaughter by means of diminished responsibility.
After six hours' deliberation the jury agreed, returning with its verdicts of guilty for the murders of Andrea Dykes (27), Nik Moore (31), and John Light (32).
The three friends had been in the Admiral Duncan, a gay pub in Soho, celebrating Mrs Dykes's recently announced pregnancy, when Copeland's third and final bomb exploded on 30 April.
His other bombs had been planted in Brixton and Brick Lane, respectively black and Bangladeshi communities.
The Recorder of London, Judge Michael Hyam, told Copeland anyone who had heard the facts of the case would be ``appalled and horrified at the atrocity of the crimes''.
``On your own admission you set out to kill, to maim and to cause terror in the community and that is what you did,'' he said. It was clear, he said, that Copeland felt no remorse for his victims and nothing could excuse or justify his actions.
Sentencing Copeland to three life sentences for the murders and three for charges of causing explosions to which he had already pleaded guilty, he added: ``The public must be protected from you and must be assured that if you are ever released it will not be for a very long time.'' Copeland will be returned to Broadmoor top-security psychiatric hospital for treatment.
Copeland, from Cove, Hampshire, launched his campaign after constructing bombs from instructions downloaded from anarchist publications on the internet and with materials bought from DIY stores and high street shops.
While working as an engineer on the Jubilee line Tube project and living in a series of bedsits, he perfected the bomb-making techniques that he would later use to rock the capital over 14 days and terrify minority communities. After he was arrested he told police he had been planning to bomb Southall, which has a large Asian population, the following week.
Last night, Scotland Yard and MI5 came under attack for being unaware of Copeland's membership of two far-right organisations, despite this being known to the country's leading anti-fascist organisation.
Copeland's father, Stephen, said he would be considering an appeal.
* Independent News Service