Murdered for his sexuality, the gay man who survived Soho bombing attack

By Terri Judd,Jason Bennetto
Tuesday 02 November 2004 01:00

Five years ago, David Morley was serving customers at the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho when a nail bomb exploded, killing three people and causing dreadful carnage.

It was a crime driven by homophobia and police believe the gay barman, who was beaten to death in central London by a gang of attackers on Saturday, may have been a victim of the same blind hatred that scarred his life in 1999.

The 37-year-old had spent three hours talking to a friend in the early hours of Saturday on the South Bank in central London, when he was subjected to a beating so savage that his spleen was ruptured and several ribs were fractured. He died later from multiple injuries. His friend, 29, suffered minor injuries and was left traumatised.

Detectives said they believed he was attacked by a gang of up to six teenagers, who also attacked other people in a spate of assaults near the Royal Festival Hall. The area is a popular meeting spot for homosexual men.

Shortly after 3am, the two victims were approached by a group of six youths, described as in their mid to late teens ­ two black and two white boys and two white girls.

After some brief comments, which were not homophobic, they set upon Mr Morley and his friend, kicking them to the ground and stealing from them. The gang then walked under a nearby footbridge before attacking another group of people, some of who were French and one was a woman. In nearby Jubilee Gardens, a man was then struck over the head with what is believed to have been a bottle. While the spot where Mr Morley was attacked was described as a well-known area where gay men meet, Detective Chief Inspector Nick Scola, who is heading the murder inquiry, said he could not be sure of the gang's motive.

"In at least two of the three attacks, victims were gay. While robbery was clearly a motive, until I can be satisfied the attacks were not homophobic, they will be treated as homophobic," he added.

A senior detective warned the gang could strike again. He said: "With five attacks, they are going to attack again."

Detectives are not sure that the gang set out to attack homosexuals. As well as stealing bags and money as they went, they also appear to have beaten a lone man and a woman.

Friends and acquaintances of Mr Morley, who was originally from the West Midlands but moved to London 16 years ago, described their anger at the killing. They recalled how he had been injured by the bomb in the Soho pub, which was popular with gay customers.

The attack, which killed a pregnant woman and two of her male friends, injured 76 people and followed similar bombings aimed at Asian and black people in Brick Lane and Brixton.

The bomber, David Copeland, 24, a far-right fanatic, was given six life sentences.

Mr Morley was left with burns to his hands and the terrible memory of the bodies of the dead and injured which filled the street outside the pub.

Known as Sinders to his friends, Mr Morley returned to work at the Admiral Duncan when it reopened. Although he always attended the anniversary commemorations, he was keen to "move on".

The Rev Neil Whitehouse, a gay Methodist minister who ran a counselling clinic for survivors, said: "I first met David a few weeks after the bombings when we were all deciding what to do with the pub. We were still in a state of shock.

"I found him an amazingly positive person with a sharp sense of humour and, although he was still undergoing shock, he could put a positive angle under difficult circumstances."

Richard Brett-Cairns, 30, said: "He was the life and soul of a party. He made a good night into a great night. There was never a sad face when Sinders was around."

Andy McHaffie, a friend, said: "It's disgusting, absolutely shocking. I used to work with him, he was big, jovial, loads of fun and hugely camp."

Months after the Admiral Duncan bombings, Mr Morley recalled: "I remember, about a week after we reopened, a group of Asian kids turned up at the door with a card of support from one of the families whose shop had been damaged in the Brick Lane bomb. I stood there crying in front of them."

Yesterday friends began laying flowers at the spot next to the Thames where he was fatally attacked.

One read: "David was a kind, gentle non-violent man".