Former BNP chief helps police crack secret codes of far right

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The Independent Online

They are secret signs known to fellow travellers of the far right but leave the general public unaware of their sinister meaning.

For example, in the symbolism of the far right, the number 14 means: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children," while, for young members of the British National Party, the Odal rune, an ancient Norse symbol, indicates a broken swastika that will be remade.

Now, police, judges, prison officers, local authorities and even football clubs are being trained to identify members of extremist right-wing groups from their use of secret badges, symbols and coded messages.

Their guide to the world of extremist imagery is a former member of the National Front. Matthew Collins, who is also a former chairman of the South London British National Party has co-written a new guide for the anti-fascist organisation, Searchlight Information Services, called Signs of Hate.

The guide shows how followers of the ultra-right and other hate groups can be detected by their use of badges, symbols, tattoos, jewellery, and clothing. Researchers have also identified race-hate computer games and bands.

The 60-page book has already been adopted by Scotland Yard, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Prison Service and the National Probation Service.

At least one Premiership football club is to issue the guide to its stewards to help recognise racists among the fans, and councils are to issue them to their education departments to help identify children who are being influenced by the far right.

The Metropolitan Police has distributed the book to all community safety units and custody suites, partly to help officers detect suspects likely to have been involved in a hate crime, such as a racist attack.

Mr Collins joined the NF at the age of 15 and by his late teens was talked about as a possible future leader of the British National Party, as the "acceptable face" of the extreme right.

But following an attack by far-right activists on a group of local residents - mostly women - in south-east London in 1989 he decided to switch sides and contacted the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight. Over the next three years, he handed over damaging information about the internal workings of the National Front and several dangerous splinter groups, including the self-styled "paramilitary unit" Combat18. His assistance led to the arrest of several neo-Nazi leaders and prompted others in the ultra right to co-operate with the authorities.

He was later forced to flee to Australia after being warned by Special Branch officers that his life was in danger. He returned to Britain last year after 10 years abroad.

Mr Collins said: "Most people do not realise what many of these symbols really mean. The far right has become more sophisticated and does not use such obvious signs as Nazi swastikas. The guide is aimed at helping people in the probation service, police, social services and in education understand what these symbols mean."

The other author of the book, Gerry Gable, publisher of Searchlight magazine, said: "One of the main reasons for the book is that, over the years, we have had probation officers and magistrates coming to us and saying we have got a client or someone in court and they have got a tattoo and we don't know what it means. They could be up for attacking mosque and claim they were just drunk, but our guide will help to provide evidence of whether they are racists." He added: "We have noticed an increase in people using the numbers 88 and 14 [which refer to Hitler]. Another common symbol is the tree-of-life symbol - which looks like an inverted CND sign - which gets used by all sorts of people."


Celtic Cross

Adapted from the Bronze Age sun wheel, which represents the sun, it was taken by Scots Highlanders to North America. The Ku Klux Klan adopted it and it became a symbol of "white resistance". The Nazi movement, including the British Movement, adopted it. Nazi bands and political groups use the symbol, although it also appears in a Christian context.

National Alliance:

The best known openly-nationalist socialist party. Founded in the 1970s by Dr William Pearce, who set up a white supremacist group in West Virginia. British far-right leaders often visited his compound and he helped raise funds. He died in 2002.

Elbow web:

The spider's web was a code sign for those who had committed rape on both men and women. In the USA the spider's web symbolises Nazis caught in the web of the penal system.

Odal rune:

An ancient Norse symbol which has been adopted by neo-Nazi groups. It represents the broken swastika awaiting reconstruction on Der Tag ("The Day") when they believe Nazism will rise again. It has been adopted by the youth wing of the BNP.

The number 88:

The number 88 refers to the eighth letter of the alphabet, HH - the German Nazi greeting Heil Hitler.

14 words:

The number "14" or phrase "14 words" is code for the phrase: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children". It has become the rallying cry for white supremacists.

Tree of Life:

Widely-used symbol among modern Nazi organisations, especially in countries where the swastika is banned.

Blood and Honour

Ian Stuart Donaldson, who died in a car crash in 1993, and his band Skrewdriver, the most famous of the original wave of British Nazi bands, set up Blood and Honour as an umbrella group for all neo-Nazi bands.

Video games:

With titles such as Shoot The Blacks, SA Mann - the SA was Hitler's brownshirt organisation - Ghetto Blaster, in which the player has to destroy Jews, and Kill 'em All, in which the player is invited to kill people, from communists to Jews to black leaders.