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Brighton bombing police officer loses battle with cancer

By Allan Preston

Published 18/12/2015

Attack: 1984 Brighton bombing
Attack: 1984 Brighton bombing

A former detective has died from lung cancer 31 years after being exposed to asbestos at the scene of the Brighton bomb.

Jonathan Woods, an anti-terror officer for the Metropolitan Police, was among the first officers to arrive at the scene of the devastating IRA bomb on October 12, 1984 which killed five and injured 39.

The prime target was then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

While sifting through the tons of rubble of the Grand Hotel, it's understood Mr Woods inhaled the deadly particles. He was later diagnosed with mesothelioma, an incurable form of cancer which can remain undetected for decades.

Clues discovered at the scene by colleagues of Mr Woods led to the conviction of IRA man Patrick Magee, who was released from prison in 1999 following the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Woods retired in 2002 and moved to France with his wife Sharon and was in his late 60s when he died last weekend in a French hospital.

After becoming ill, he issued a writ against the Sussex police saying they failed to protect him from the risks of the bomb site. It's reported that his family will continue his case, which is believed to be the first civil suit of its kind from a police officer working at the scene of a terrorist attack.

On the eve of the Conservative Party conference, the bomb had been planted in the bathroom of a sixth-floor hotel room by Patrick Magee. He had been staying at the hotel under the pseudonym Roy Walsh. It was the most ambitious murder bid of the IRA to date, hoping to wipe out the Prime Minister and most of her cabinet.

While Mrs Thatcher and her husband Denis were the intended targets, they narrowly escaped injury.

Lord Tebbit, the former Tory minister, received serious injuries along with his wife Margaret who was paralysed from the neck down and requires 24-hour care.

In 1986 Magee was given eight life sentences. Last year he returned to Brighton to take part in a panel discussion with Jo Berry, the daughter of Sir Anthony Berry who was killed in the explosion.

While she chose to forgive Magee, it was not something Lord Tebbit could not do.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph he said: "I am often asked if I can find it in my heart to forgive the creature, Patrick Magee, who planted the bomb. That, of course, is not possible, for Magee has never repented."

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