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Camden High Street bombing remembered 25 years later

PUBLISHED: 00:00 27 February 2018

Police sift through the wreckage after the bomb in Camden High Street.

Police sift through the wreckage after the bomb in Camden High Street.

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It was 25 years ago today that IRA bombers targeted Camden High Street on the busiest day of the week.

Commander Bernard Luckhurst tells reporters: Commander Bernard Luckhurst tells reporters: "Let's be clear about this. This was a callous attempt to injure as many people as possible."

It was condemned as ‘callous’ and sparked criticism of a council alleged to have cosied up to councillors belonging to a terror organisation’s political wing.

The Camden Town bomb – planted in a litter bin outside an Athena shop by paramilitary organisation the IRA – sewed panic and recriminations when it blew up at 12.52pm on Saturday, February 27 1993.

Swedish tourist Jenny Erikson, 22 at the time, suffered eye injuries in the explosion while seven other casualties were taken to the Royal Free and University College hospitals.

The bomb detonated 30 minutes after Scotland Yard got a tip off a device was due to explode outside the Kentucky Fried Chicken take-away further up the road. But without knowing it, officers evacuated pedestrians away from KFC straight into the device’s path. Camden police commander Bernard Luckhurst told the Ham&High afterwards: “Let’s be clear about this. This was a callous attempt to injure as many people as possible.”

Injured PC Joe Iannelli, with his wife Heather. Injured PC Joe Iannelli, with his wife Heather.

Jean Pais – the mother of two girls, Lisa, four, and Jeanie, eight, blown off their feet by the blast – said she felt like the luckiest woman alive.

Mrs Pais said: “The man and woman in front of them sheltered them – if they hadn’t have been there they would have felt the full force. I would have lost two daughters and a husband.”

Camden bobby Pc Joe Iannelli, blown over by the blast, described seeing glass flying, people running, screaming and lying on the pavements. Athena manager Harit Thaker said: “All I could see was blood. You couldn’t see anything else. It wasn’t like on TV. It was horrendous.”

In the confusion Kentish Town firefighters drove past the bombsite heading to the suspected bomb outside KFC.

How the Ham and High reported the bombing in its March 5 1993 edition. How the Ham and High reported the bombing in its March 5 1993 edition.

The bomb also ignited a political row with Tory Cllrs Judith Barnes and Julian Tobin claiming the blast showed how dangerous it had been of Labour to have invited councillors from the IRA’s political arm, Sinn Féin, to Camden in the mid-1980s.

For Holborn and St Pancras MP Frank Dobson the bomb in the heart of Camden was a disaster many had dreaded, but he had no doubts about where blame lay.

“The bomb was placed by a collection of murdering psychopaths,” he said at the time.

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