John Tyndall, Britain’s most prominent far-right political leader, has been found dead at his home in Sussex only two days before he was due to appear at Leeds Crown Court facing two charges of inciting racial hatred.
Sussex Police said the 71-year-old was found by his wife this morning in Hove. “His death is not suspicious,” a spokesman said.
Tyndall, an inveterate schemer and plotter, was involved in neo-Nazi politics for some 50 years, first joining AK Chesterton’s League of Empire Loyalists before going on to lead a succession of race-based groups and parties including the National Front and the British National Party (BNP), which he founded in 1982.
Tyndall led the BNP party for 17 years until 1999 when he lost a leadership challenge to its current leader, Nick Griffin. Tyndall’s most recent brush with the law came last year when he was secretly filmed by the BBC giving a racist speech in Burnley. Both Tyndall and Mr Griffin were charged in April along with another BNP member with using words or behaviour intended or likely to stir up racial hatred.
Police said Tyndall’s death was reported by his wife at 8.15am today. A coroner’s investigation has been launched and an inquest will be held in due course.
Born on July 14, 1934, Tyndall left Penge and Beckenham Grammar School with three O levels before national service and a stint as a salesman.
He joined the League of Empire Loyalists in 1957 but soon left to form the National Labour Party under John Bean. The Labour Party forced the group to change its name and in 1960 it merged with Colin Jordan’s White Defence League to form the original British National Party.
With Colin Jordan, Tyndall also led a stormtrooper-style private army known as Spearhead and left the first BNP to set up the National Socialist Movement.
Both men were prosecuted for paramilitary activities but they fell out after Tyndall, still in jail, discovered that Mr Jordan had married Tyndall’s own fianceé, the French perfume heiress Francoise Dior. Pictures of the wedding showing the two of them mingling their blood over a copy of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf appeared in the press.
Tyndall next formed the Greater Britain Movement in 1965, which was disbanded after Chesterton’s formation of the National Front in 1967, by which time Tyndall had become a leading neo-Nazi ideologue. Tyndall soon rose to head the National Front and under its guidance it became the most successful far-right party in recent British politics, fielding a peak of 303 candidates in the 1979 general election.
Tyndall split from the National Front the following year to form the New National Front, which was soon renamed, confusingly enough, the British National Party. He headed that party for 17 years until losing control to Mr Griffin. He was convicted of incitement to racial hatred in 1986 and was jailed three times.
A spokesman for the BNP, Phil Edwards, said today that although Tyndall had been expelled from the party twice—in 2003, and again this year after being re-admitted—he was an “excellent chap with a keen analytical mind”. Mr Edwards said that Tyndall was sacked from the BNP for criticising the party leadership after he lost his position in 1999.
“John was a great fellow who knew exactly what our movement was about. But it is fair to say that he was not able to carry that forward to electoral success. It is a pity he did not just stand down. He tried to criticise the current leadership, and he should not have done that,” said the spokesman.
Tyndall remained involved in BNP activity by speaking at meetings, including the one at which he was filmed by the BBC for the documentary A Secret Agent. Mr Edwards said: “He was a marvellous speaker. He could hold a room and mesmerise them, but he did not have the answer to the problems. I am sure he would have denied the charges against him.”
Greg Mulholland, a Liberal Democrat MP in Leeds, said he had formally asked for Thursday’s BNP trial to be moved to avoid inflaming racial tensions in the city only two weeks after the July 7 suicide bombings in London. Three of the bombers were young Leeds Muslims of Pakistani origin.