BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

'You can't just file away an event like this'
Soho bomb survivor Andy Butcher
 real 28k

Friday, 30 June, 2000, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
The nailbomber: The survivor's story

Andy Butcher was in the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho, central London, when the third and last of David Copeland's nailbombs exploded with murderous effect on 30 April 1999.

In an interview with the BBC's Panorama programme, Mr Butcher recounted what happened on the night - and how he has coped since.

That night was the Friday before the Bank Holiday weekend - everyone was in quite high spirits, really looking forward to a long weekend off from work.

The Admiral Duncan pub in London
Admiral Duncan: Popular pub with gay men
I'd arranged to meet my partner in the pub for a drink.

We met and I saw a friend of mine further inside the pub so I went further in to say Hi.

We were coming back down past the bar to where my partner was standing when the bomb went off.

It felt as if someone had given me a huge shove from behind.

I was thrown off my feet and I thought that I was being attacked by someone.

The next thing I knew, I came to on the floor and it felt as if my whole body was on fire.

I started to roll over because I had to try and put them out.

I saw my hands and my arms with skin hanging off ... I was obviously quite badly burnt

Andy Butcher
I just lay there for what seemed like minutes - I'm sure that it was probably only seconds - and it was then that I realised that it was a bomb.

It's very strange what goes through your head at a time like that. I thought 'bye bye cruel world', that sort of thing.

But what was also going through my head was that 'it's not Saturday' - the day when two previous bombs had gone off - I just kept thinking, 'it's not Saturday'.

Darkness and chaos

It was pitch black because of the smoke and the debris.

I managed to pull myself up, on what I presume must have been a piece of the bar and started to walk. I could hear muffled voices as the blast had knocked my hearing out and then realised that I was walking further into the pub.

It was only as I got outside that I saw my hands and my arms with skin hanging off and that I was obviously quite badly burnt.

I had gone into shock, I just wanted to sleep, I didn't care if I ever woke up again.

Andy Butcher
My partner and another chap sat me down and someone got a bowl of iced-water and put my hands into them.

Other people started pouring iced water all over me.

They cut my clothes off and my legs were badly burnt, particularly my right leg.

My head and my face were burnt and they just kept pouring iced water over all the burnt areas.

There were a lot of people who were more badly injured than I was and the paramedics had to carry out triage on the spot.

Entering shock

But in the time that it took them to get to me I had gone into shock.

I just wanted to sleep. I didn't care if I ever woke up again.

A photograph of Andy Butcher as he lay sedated after the Soho bomb
Burns: Doctors used experimental techniques
I felt that I couldn't deal with this situation any more and I was switching off when I vaguely remember hearing someone saying that I needed a paramedic now.

We reached University College Hospital and the nursing team was excellent.

In the middle of a major incident such as that, I never once felt that I was neglected or left on my own. But because of the extent of my burns, I was sent to the Broomfield Hospital where there was a whole team waiting.

One of the mixed blessings of that night was an anaesthetist leaning over and saying "Andy, we need to inspect, clean and dress your wounds.

There no way we'll be able to do that with you awake. So I'm going to have to knock you out."

And I thought, 'Yes please, just do it. I've dealt with all I can take tonight, just do it.'

Waking up

The next thing I knew it was Saturday morning.

Both my hands and arms were bandaged, my leg was bandaged, dressings had been applied to my face and my head and my parents were coming through the door.

I couldn't actually see what I looked like myself but you could see it in the eyes of people as they visited. That was the worst experience.

Treatment successful

The treatment was very successful. They experimented with a dressing called Second Skin which had never been tried before with burns.

Andy Butcher photographed during a stage of his plastic surgery
Improvements: The healing took place slowly
I've got a couple of very small scars - if you know where to look - but otherwise, you would not know what had happened.

As for my friend, he took the force of the blast.

I had no burns on my back because he was standing behind me and he lost part of his buttock and part of his thigh.

It has been quite emotional when I have seen him since. But it has just been so wonderful to know that he has made it.

My partner and I split up - mainly down to the emotional strain.

He had a lot more to deal with than I did. As I sat there injured outside the pub, I didn't realise what was going on around me.

But my partner was being asked to help all over the place as well as having me yell at him.

I don't hate David Copeland ... I'm very angry with him but he is insignificant.

Andy Butcher
He saw people being brought out with limbs hanging off and I think when you've both been through a traumatic event such as that, emotionally you can't be there to support each other.

As for myself, I have just finished a course of post traumatic stress disorder counselling.

After an event like this, you have so many things going round in your head that you cannot put in order, your brain cannot file it away.

From the time I came out of hospital I wanted my life back.

If I had given up and moved to Outer Mongolia, he [the bomber] would have won. And I am not going to let him win.

I cannot say that I hate David Copeland.

I'm very angry with him but he is insignificant.

Someone who tries to make a big noise like this has got to be so insignificant that it is the only way he felt that he could be heard.

Someone that unimportant doesn't deserve my attention.

But I think what happened will always be there in the back of my head. I'm aware of certain changes in my behaviour such as if I'm in a pub, I'm much more aware of people around me.

If I saw an unattended bag I'd be out of the door.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories