Murder charges over 1982 Hyde Park cavalry bombing

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Sefton and Echo
Sefton, right, with Echo.

A man has been charged with four counts of murder over the 31-year-old Hyde Park bombing which claimed the lives of four cavalry soldiers and seven mounts.

The men were riding from their barracks in Knightsbridge to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard when the bomb, hidden in a blue Austin car, went off.

Several horses of the Household Cavalry, Blues and Royals regiment survived the blast, with one, named Sefton, becoming a household name in Britain as he fought his way back from horrific injuries.

The blast was part of the long-running Irish Republican Army bombing campaign waged on mainland Britain.

Inquiries by London’s Metropolitan Police Service have resulted in the charges against John Anthony Downey, 61, of County Donegal, Ireland, over the July 20, 1982, blast.

Sue Hemming, who heads special crime and counter-terrorism at the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “It is alleged that Downey is responsible for the improvised explosive device contained in a car parked in South Carriage Drive, SW1, London, which resulted in the deaths of four members of the Household Cavalry, Blues and Royals, as they travelled on their daily route from their barracks to Buckingham Palace.”

Downey stands accused of the murders of Roy John Bright, Dennis Richard Anthony Daly, Simon Andrew Tipper, and Geoffrey Vernon Young.

He has also been charged with intending to cause an explosion likely to endanger life.

“We have determined that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and that these charges are in the public interest,” Hemming said.

Downey appeared in Westminster Magistrates’ Court last week via a video link from prison and was remanded in custody until June 5.

Cavalry horse Sefton, 19 at the time of the blast, suffered 38 penetrating wounds to his body and a piece of metal severed a main artery in his neck in the blast.

It was a miracle of expert and prompt veterinary attention which saved Sefton’s life, and he underwent eight hours of surgery to remove the shrapnel and tend to his wound. He required further surgery and three weeks later was moved to the Veterinary Hospital of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps at the Defence Animal Centre at Melton Mowbray, where more pieces of metal were removed.

After recovering from his injuries he returned to service in the Household Cavalry for two years, before retiring to The Home of Rest for Horses, run by the The Horse Trust in Britain, where he lived until his death in 1993.

He was buried at the Defence Animal Centre.

Born in Ireland and purchased by the army in 1967 for the Household Cavalry, the 16-hand black gelding with a blaze and four socks was known for his bold and wilful character.

Quite head-strong at times, The Horse Trust reported that Sefton was at his happiest grazing in the fields with his horsey friends.

One of those friends was the 16.1-hand grey gelding, Echo, the Metropolitan Police horse who carried the marks of the same attack with a piece of shrapnel embedded in his side.

Echo had made a good recovery from his wounds but was unable to continue with his duties as the explosion had made him nervous of traffic and crowds. He was retired to The Horse Trust in 1983.

He was described as a sweet-natured and amiable and contentedly lived at the sanctuary for 20 years until his death from recurring colic in December 2003 at the age of 33.

Sefton did not return to regimental duties for some time, but was a horse very much in demand by the public.

One of his first appearances was at the Horse of the Year Show in October 1982, where he was joined by Echo, which immediately brought the audience to a standing and emotional ovation.

Sefton’s last ceremonial outing was at The Queen’s Birthday Parade in June 1984. He was then retired to The Horse Trust at the age of 21.

The last of the surviving horses at the charity was the 16-hand gelding Yeti. He was known as the little horse that everyone forgot. Yeti endeared himself to everyone and was the epitome of an old gentleman.

Horse Trust yard manager Shirley Abbott commented: “Yeti and Echo were inseparable. With the care and expertise of our staff they were able to grow old together and live a long and peaceful life.

“It was a privilege to be able to repay these horses, who had given a life of service, with the companionable peace of the Home of Rest for Horses.”

A commemorative, life-size, bronze sculpture of Sefton by artist Camilla Le May is being cast and finished. It is planned to unveil the statue at the Royal Veterinary College soon.

Sefton’s memory endures in other ways. The British Horse Society holds the annual Sefton Awards, which honour
outstanding contributions in the field of riding and road safety. The awards were established in 1984.

The Hyde Park blast was one of two Irish Republican Army bombings in London that day. The other, just over two hours later in Regent’s Park, peppered a crowd of 120 during a musical performance, killing seven band members and injuring more than 50 people.

 

 

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