At just 22 years of age, he prompted terror in April 1999 when he detonated three homemade nail bombs in London, one in Brixton Market, one in Brick Lane in the East End, and the final bomb at the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho. His bombs killed three people and injured 140.
Following the third nail bomb on Friday, 30th April 1999, Copeland was arrested by police and charged with murder. He confessed to the crimes, and attempted to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. His plea was not accepted – in part because of letters he had written to a woman named Patsy while on remand, in which he stated he had “fooled all the doctors” into believing he was mentally ill.
What he didn’t know was that Patsy was actually a fake person made up by Bernard O’Mahoney.
What did Bernard O’Mahoney’s letters to the Nail Bomber say?
Bernard O’Mahoney is interviewed in the Netflix documentary Nail Bomber: Manhunt. The former soldier and club bouncer became an author following his association with Tony Tucker, one of three drug dealers known as the ‘Essex Boys’ who were murdered in 1995 as they sat in a Range Rover near the village of Rettendon in Essex.
O’Mahoney has since written a series of books about the men, as well as one about the infamous Kray twins, whom he corresponded with during their imprisonment. He also wrote to Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, posing as a woman named Belinda.
O’Mahoney’s 2005 book Hateland and the Netflix documentary Nail Bomber: Manhunt detail his communications with another famous criminal: nail bomber David Copeland, to whom O’Mahoney wrote while Copeland was on remand at Broadmoor high security hospital in 1999 for the three London bombings.
At the time, Copeland didn’t realise he was corresponding with O’Mahoney – he believed he was writing to a young English woman named Patsy Scanlon. In his letters, he told her he loved her, and the notes between O’Mahoney/Patsy and Copeland were later used as evidence of his mental stability in court.
In Netflix’s Nail Bomber: Manhunt documentary, O’Mahoney revealed that Copeland only discovered Patsy wasn’t real when the letters were mentioned during the trial.
“When the prosecution read out the girl he wanted to marry was actually a hairy-a**ed bouncer from Essex called Bernie… his world ended,” O’Mahoney said.
His plan was for the letters to reveal that Copeland was sane at the time he committed the bomb attacks. “I needed him to confess he was perfectly sane,” he says in the documentary.
‘Patsy’ was, according to O’Mahoney, “blonde, beautiful, do what they’re told without question, vulnerable and a total airhead”. “I knew he would go for that one, one million percent, [but] essentially what I needed was a smoking gun,” he said.
In his replies to ‘Patsy’, Copeland wrote that it was “strange being famous” and talked about his feelings for her, stating, “Patsy, can’t get you out of my mind, all I do is dream about you and when we can finally meet.”
O’Mahoney, meanwhile, wrote back saying they could meet after the trial and that, if Copeland opted for a plea of diminished responsibility, he would be sent to hospital to “get better”.
The letters between Copeland and ‘Patsy’ continued for a year, becoming more intimate with Copeland writing that he dreamed about her wearing sexy clothing and visiting him at Broadmoor Hospital. “You’re the only girl I write to so you have no need to be jealous,” he wrote.
What came later was far more important. Copeland wrote to ‘Patsy’: “Dear Patsy, this place is a joke, so are the doctors, they think they are clever but they are as stupid as the fools in here. Things are not looking bad for my trial. I can’t believe that I have fooled all the doctors.”