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
News
Courtney Love has admitted using heroin while pregnant with Frances Bean Cobain, her daughter with Kurt Cobain
people
Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Extras
indybest
News
Joel Grey, now 82, won several awards for his role in Cabaret
people
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Sport
Harry Kane celebrates scoring the opening goal for Spurs
footballLive: All the latest transfer news as deadline day looms
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Support Administrator - Part Time

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the South West'...

Recruitment Genius: Secretary

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This major European Intellectual Propert...

Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher

£130 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher Jan 2015 - July...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - 9-12 Months

£14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Accounts Assistant is immedi...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness