How Searchlight editor Gerry Gable made Clayhall the target of a letterbomb

16:34 26 June 2014

'I said to Sonia "will you please go and ring the Yard and say that it looks like we have a live bomb on the premises"'


A small, cramped semi in Clayhall is perhaps the last place you would expect to become the target of a letterbomb.

Anti-fascist magazine Searchlight celebrates its 50th anniversary this yearAnti-fascist magazine Searchlight celebrates its 50th anniversary this year

But then it’s probably also the last place you’d expect to find such an extraordinary pensioner as Gerry Gable.

Sitting in his modest garden, untended but not untidy, anti-fascist campaigner Gerry and his wife Sonia vie with each other to tell the most accurate and compelling version of events.

It happened on a “normal morning” in December 1994 as the pair enjoyed rolls, coffee and some home-made jam at their home in Herent Drive, Clayhall.

Sonia, who was heavily pregnant at the time, had already started opening the package when Gerry, sensing something was awry, intervened and placed the letter on the kitchen side.

Reporter Sebastian Mann interviewed Gerry Gable at his home in ClayhallReporter Sebastian Mann interviewed Gerry Gable at his home in Clayhall

Carefully resting his hand on the delivery, the long-time activist felt a tingle and realised immediately it must be the acid accelerant that would have helped set his kitchen ablaze.

“I said to Sonia ‘will you please go and ring the Yard and say that it looks like we have a live bomb on the premises’.

“It took them 28 minutes to get two bomb disposal Jeeps out here. It was very impressive.”

Gerry had been on a police “at risk” list at the time due to his involvement with the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

The 77-year-old still edits the publication which continues to produce investigative stories which focus on exposing fascism, racism and anti-semitism by infiltrating far-right organisations.

Gerry says the publication’s tireless investigating has helped to bring about the fragmented state of the British far-right today – something of which he is proud.

Perhaps for this reason, he carries a certain pride as he relates the letterbomb story. It is almost as if being targeted was a vindication that he was doing something right.

But his tone shifts when he recalls comments from one of the bomb disposal officers following the incident.

“It was not funny because the bomb disposal guy said it was a crude device not intended to kill, but intended to maim. It was the sort of letterbomb which is designed to go off in your face.

“He said to me, frankly, she [Sonia] could have lost her life.”

In the 20 years since the incident, no one has been convicted, though Gerry remains confident his years of anti-fascist campaigning had made him a target. Not that it has deterred him from his efforts to produce the magazine.

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