Brixton Bombing: Shoppers cut down in hail of nails and broken glass Shoppers

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The Independent Online
ALL THAT Wayne Pegus wanted were yams and bananas in the street market on Electric Avenue in Brixton, south-west London. But that early evening shopping trip will haunt him for life.

"I was just talking to a friend and all of a sudden I heard a great bang," he said from his bed in King's College Hospital. "When I looked down at my hand my finger had disappeared. I thought it was magic.

"I could not believe it had happened. When I looked again I realised it was not magic and that it had happened. My finger was just hanging there - it was shredded."

The remains of the little finger of his left hand have been amputated.

Mr Pegus, 55, a father of six from Peckham, south London, was knocked to the groundwhen the nail bomb exploded in the crowded market on Saturday. Apart from the hand injury, he suffered a number of other wounds, including one to his back. He had been standing just 20ft from where the bomb exploded.

"I saw people lying around on the ground screaming and bleeding," he said. "It was chaos. I was so shocked, especially when I saw my hand.

"That split second ... I was bleeding all over my body. I felt a lot of pain. My finger was just like mincemeat.

"I feel disgusted about this thing. How could they do such a thing like this? I cannot use words to describe these people. You cannot explain why they would do such a thing."

Police say the bomb appeared designed to inflict injuries to people rather than damage to property. If that was its aim, it was successful.

Fourteen victims are still in hospital with injuries from flying debris - mostly nails and broken glass.

Four casualties are in serious condition. Two men, one aged 51, the other 62, suffered eye injuries that could result in blindness. "At this stage it is still too early to say," said Nick Samuels, a spokesman for King's College Hospital.

The other two seriously injured victims have head and spinal injuries.

A total of 39 people were injured in Saturday's explosion. Thirty were taken to hospital by ambulance and the other nine made their own way there. Hospital officials said people were also treated for trauma.

Many of the staff at the hospital, which is less than a mile from the site of the blast, were also shocked. "People shop there, some of us live in the area," said Mr Samuels.

Sister Karen Swinson, who was in charge of the hospital's accident and emergency unit, said: "We removed nails from faces, heads, legs and arms. There were pieces of glass and some very nasty injuries

Three operating theatres worked through the night - some under the supervision of Professor Charles Polkey, the neurologist who treated Josie Russell, the young girl who suffered grievous head injuries in a hammer attack in rural Kent that killed her mother and sister.

In the worst cases, patients with multiple injuries were treated by a number of specialist teams including neurological, maxillo-facial, spinal and eye experts.

Off-duty staff, including people on maternity leave, came in to the hospital to help.

At Great Ormond Street Hospital, a 23-month-old boy underwent surgery to remove a nail embedded in his brain.

The nail - about 10cms long - had penetrated 2cms into his brain and was removed during a 90-minute operation. "We are now carrying out tests to try and find out if there has been any permanent damage," said a hospital spokeswoman. "But he ate breakfast this morning and he seems to be well."

The procedure, carried out by the neurosurgeon Dr John Wadley, is known as a craniotomy and involves making a small hole in the skull to remove the nail.

"The doctors are hopeful that the child will make a full and complete recovery but obviously it is early stages," added the spokeswoman.

Police confirmed yesterday that four police officers taken to hospital had been discharged.

Two were treated at King's College Hospital, one for shock and one for cuts, and two were taken to St Thomas's, near Waterloo station. One had a knee injury and the other was suffering from shock.


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Nail Bomb

THOUGH THE nail bomb has been used fairly regularly by terrorist groups and individuals overseas, cases on the British mainland have been rare.

A vicious device, designed to inflict maximum personal injury rather than damage to property, it is at at its most potent against crowds. Britain's worst atrocity remains the IRA's attack on the Household Cavalry in London's Hyde Park, which left four soldiers and seven horses dead. The bomb, containing 25lb (11kg) of gelignite surrounded by four- and six-inch nails and hidden in a car, was detonated by remote control as a squad of 16 rode past on 20 July, 1982. Two hours later an explosion at a Regent's Park bandstand killed seven more soldiers.

Three years ago, at the Atlanta Olympics, a nail device killed one woman, wounded 110 others and caused the fatal heart attack of a television cameraman.

Paris has been hit by repeated nail-bombings. In December 1996, two people died and 80 were injured when a device went off on a train. Two similar devices injured a total of 30 people in 1995. Islamic extremist groups were blamed forthe French attacks.