Informer exposes neo-Nazi football gangs: Tim Hepple, who infiltrated the British National Party after a decade as a football hooligan and neo-Nazi activist, says a new more violent group, Combat 18, is behind many racial attacks, Tim Kelsey reports

BRITISH neo-Nazis are forging closer links with gangs of football hooligans, and have been invited on weapons training courses by American far-right groups, according to an informer within the British National Party.

Tim Hepple, who infiltrated the London headquarters of the BNP two years ago for the magazine Searchlight, blames a new group associated with the BNP - Combat 18 - for vicious racial attacks in the past 18 months. Members of the 'Chelsea Headhunters', a gang of football hooligans, are among its most active members. Combat 18 also has close links with the outlawed Ulster Defence Association.

Scotland Yard's National Football Intelligence Unit said this week that the 'Chelsea Headhunters', with about 80 members, was the largest of the organised gangs and responsible for crimes ranging from rape to robbery. The BNP has been busily recruiting gang members, and has 'borrowed' others to pick fights with anti-fascist groups.

Mr Hepple also reveals in At War with Society, an account of his experiences, that the BNP is forging ties with an American white supremacist group, the Church of the Creator, based in Wisconsin. The church was founded by a millionaire, Ben Klassen, in 1973. The group is running a weapons training school for visiting neo-Nazis with sub- machine guns and high powered pistols - targets feature pictures of blacks and Jews. A representative of the recently established British branch of the church visited the US headquarters last year. A group of BNP members is planning a visit this summer. According to Mr Hepple, the church's virulently anti-semitic literature is sold by the BNP as 'simple background reading material'.

Football hooligans started to join the BNP in large numbers during 1988. The party was vigorously recruiting from the football gangs, including those of Leeds United and Glasgow Rangers. But the number of activists remained small - not more than 80.

By the end of 1992, however, a new phenomenon emerged, threatening to eclipse the BNP. Mutual dissatisfaction with the poor performance of the BNP, has brought the more violent BNP members, skinheads and members of the Chelsea Headhunters together in Combat 18. The group's foundation was inspired in 1991 by a notorious American Nazi, Harold Covington. His address in New Carolina is used as an offshore mailing address for the group.

The prime British mover of Combat 18, who has two convictions for drug trafficking, has a close relationship with one of the founders of the Chelsea Headhunters. Another leading light was formerly National Front organiser in Croydon, south London. The Croydon BNP is most involved with Combat 18.

Combat 18 also contains members of the 657 crew from Portsmouth, and groups from West Ham, Leeds and Millwall.

Mr Hepple has identified close links between Combat 18 and Protestant paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland. Combat 18 aims to set up a group of virtually autonomous cells across the country and is responsible for an increase in racial violence. Its magazine Redwatch urges attacks on selected individuals including Sir Ivan Lawrence MP, chairman of the Home Affairs Select committee. The group is believed to be stockpiling weapons.

One prominent Combat 18 member, a dustman in south London, was arrested recently for possession of firearms.

One of Combat 18's first actions was an attack on anti-fascist campaigners in Tower Hamlets last year. Several people were arrested. There have been a string of incidents since then.

Two leading Midlands BNP activists, also involved with Combat 18, have been charged with affray and assault following an attack on anti-fascists in Mansfield this year. After an attack, Combat 18 usually sends a letter to the victim admitting responsibility.

The skinhead element, so important to the BNP, seems to prefer the more overt violence of Combat 18 and is shifting its allegiance.

Mr Hepple drifted into this underworld in the early 1980s. He was hooligan at Reading football club. In 1984, he joined the National Front. A gifted pianist and conductor, he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in Glasgow in 1986. He then switched his allegiance to Glasgow Rangers and shortly afterwards was inducted into the BNP.

The far right was in violent turmoil during the mid-1980s. Rivalries between the National Front and BNP precluded much activity against racial targets. The BNP is led by John Tyndall, self- appointed Fuhrer and ex-convict, who did not want to promote his party as openly Nazi. This did not please hardcore national socialists (Mr Hepple among them) who tried to undermine the BNP and set up alternatives.

The National Front was virtually defunct during the period; the BNP was not much more coherent. Mr Hepple paints a picture of a dimly-lit world inhabited by charlatans and fanatics. Mr Hepple described his motivation: 'I just wanted to smash the state, to show my anger, to hate somebody. Like many others I was scared for the future and had little respect for myself. The BNP provided me with a sense of identity.'

In late 1986, Mr Hepple was studying music at Sheffield University. He was a prominent BNP activist in Leeds, trying to recruit members among hooligan supporters of Leeds United.

On 20 April 1988, the local Nazis arranged a rally to mark Hitler's birthday. In full Nazi regalia, they converged on Glossop Moor where a Luftwaffe fighter had crash-landed during the war. The group usually spent its time trying to sell Holocaust News, a pamphlet denying the existence of the Final Solution, and abusing ethnic minority staff outside the town hall.

Mr Hepple was rising to prominence as a reliable - and violent - militant. He organised an attack on a meeting of Labour students at the university.

He played a leading role in organising a demonstration in Dewsbury in 1989 during which 82 Asians were arrested after fights with BNP members and assorted skinheads.

But his doubts about the BNP were growing: 'I knew there was something wrong with a lot of the people I was involved with.' While working in a motorway service station as a cook he offered to become an informer for the anti- fascist magazine Searchlight. He started in October 1991, and by the beginning of the following year had become a confidant of the BNP leadership. He became a full-time worker at its headquarters in Welling, south London, which had been bought by its deputy leader, Richard Edmonds, with his severance pay of pounds 18,000 from Cable and Wireless. He provided Searchlight with a list of 3,000 BNP members

Mr Hepple was unmasked in January and is now in hiding.

At War With Society; pounds 4 from Searchlight, 37B New Cavendish St, London W1M 8JR.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
footballHe started just four months ago
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
(L-R) Amanda Peet as Tina Morris, Melanie Lynskey as Michelle Pierson, Abby Ryder Fortson as Sophie Pierson, Mark Duplass as Brett Pierson and Steve Zissis as Alex Pappas in Togetherness
TV First US networks like HBO shook up drama - now it's comedy's turn
Pool with a view: the mMarina Bay Sands in Singapore
travel From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect