April 20. Dozens were killed and hundreds injured when
a federal building in Oklahoma City was torn apart. Terrorism,
so long something that happened to other people, had arrived in
the sleepy heart of a state best known for the musical Oklahoma!
To make it worse, this outrage could not be blamed on foreigners.
This was home-grown rebellion of the most sinister sort and it
was spreading across the United States. With weapon sales out
of control and a long historical tradition of dissent, extreme
right-wing militias were arming themselves and stockpiling explosives.
Some believed they were preparing for a God-sent Armageddon,
others were simply rebelling against a Government in Washington
which seemed increasingly isolated from the needs of ordinary
It was significant that the Oklahoma bomb was planted on the
second anniversary of troops and police destroying the headquarters
of the bizarre Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas, with heavy
loss of life. Many felt that the authorities had used excessive
force at Waco.
For some fanatics, Oklahoma was a matter of getting even. Although
government offices were the target, a children's creche took the
full force of the blast. The image of a rescuer cradling a dead
or dying baby brought the reality of terrorism home to middle
February 27. Britain's oldest bank, Barings, came crashing
down after the Bank of England failed to put together a rescue
package. The villain of the piece was 26-year-old Nick Leeson,
a trader employed by the bank in Singapore whose reckless dealing
on the futures market led to losses of more than 620 million.
Leeson went missing but was eventually brought before the court
in Singapore and sent to jail where he later developed cancer.
The Barings affair sent a shudder of alarm through bankers and
savers everywhere. How could it be in a modern, sophisticated
banking system, that one man could bring down an entire bank?
January 17. A sudden earthquake wrecked the Japanese
city of Kobe, killing 6,000 residents, injuring 30,000 and destroying
at least 100,000 homes. The catastrophe was not only a human tragedy
but a body blow to the Japanese economy, already beginning to
show cracks after years of boom. It also called into question
the skills of scientists in predicting such tremors. Kobe had
virtually no warning of what was coming. And despite being in
a known earthquake zone, buildings and highways collapsed and
the whole area was left with no electricity or means of getting
help to the suffering.
June 27. Hugh Grant, the tousle-headed star of Four Weddings
and a Funeral, was arrested in Los Angeles after being caught
in a compromising situation with a prostitute. He immediately
issued a statement expressing regret for his behaviour but it
was not enough to draw a line under the showbiz-scandal story
of the year. The prostitute, Divine Brown, was offered huge sums
of money to "kiss and tell" and Grant returned home to face not
only the media but also his girlfriend, Liz Hurley.
22. Rose West, a plump, cardigan-clad housewife from Cromwell
Street, Gloucester, was convicted on ten counts of murder and
sent to prison for life. Her husband, Fred West, had earlier committed
suicide in prison rather than face trial for a string of crimes
which horrified the world.
At their seemingly quiet home, the Wests had abducted, tortured
and murdered a string of people, including young girls and West's
first wife. More bodies were found at West's previous home. The
way in which the victims had been used as sexual playthings by
this depraved couple shocked even hardened detectives. In order
to erase the memory and keep sick sightseers away, the local council
eventually demolished the house in Cromwell Street.
January 1. Mass murderer Fred West
hangs himself in Winson Green prison, Birmingham.
January 19. Protesters managed
to prevent the export of live animals from Shoreham harbour,
January 23. Plans for a 1,600-seat,
2.75 million bingo hall unveiled at Bilston.
January 25. Manchester United star
Eric Cantona was in disgrace after kung-fu kicking a fan
March 17. Master criminal Ronnie
Kray died in hospital
April 4. Kenny Everett, comedian
and TV star, died of Aids.
April 10. The first national database
of DNA was unveiled in Birmingham.
May 16. Police in Japan arrested
41 members of a cult following a nerve-gas attack on the
Tokyo underground which killed 12.
June 29. More than 600 killed in
South Korea when a shopping centre collapsed.
August 1. Six men were jailed after
Britain's biggest High Street fraud, a 5.6 million scam involving
Co-Op societies in the West Midlands
August 6. As licensing laws were
relaxed, English pubs could open on Sunday afternoons.
August 24. Pleasure boats trapped at
Stourbridge after 100,000 gallons of raw sewage flooded into
October 1. Stores are crowded out
as fans clamour for the second album from Oasis, (What's
the Story?) Morning Glory.
October 26. Complaints about noisy
pubs in Wolverhampton reached an all-time high with one in
ten of the town's 240 pubs the subject of protests.
November 4. Israeli prime minister
Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a fanatic who told police:
"I acted alone on God's orders."
November 28. The £20,000
Turner Prize for art goes to Damien Hirst whose work includes
four glass tanks containing the preserved halves of a cow
and her calf.
November 30. President Bill Clinton
became the first US president to visit Northern Ireland.