March 6: As the Townsend Thoresen ferry, Herald of Free
Enterprise, sailed out of Zeebrugge harbour it suddenly capsized.
Nearly 200 passengers perished in a few minutes which saw not
only panic but also deeds of great courage and self-sacrifice.
had it happened? As the facts emerged, ordinary members of the
public were horrified and the bereaved families outraged. The
ferry had apparently set sail before the vast bow door, big enough
to admit coaches and lorries, had fully closed. As thousands of
gallons of water poured into the ship, she became unstable and
turned turtle. The official report concluded that the ferry company
was "infected by a disease of sloppiness."
It was not until the end of April that the Herald of Free Enterprise
was refloated. It was a harrowing and poignant moment as the sea
gave up its dead.
January 20. The Archbishop of Canterbury's special envoy
Terry Waite was abducted in Beirut. He was in Lebanon trying to
negotiate the release of other hostages taken by the Islamic fundamentalist
Hezbollah group. The giant bearded negotiator left a seafront
hotel in West Beirut after dismissing his armed Druze guards.
He insisted he was safe and was being taken to see hostages. Mr
Waite was not to be seen again until his eventual release in November
August 19. Gunman Michael Ryan went on the rampage in
the quiet Berkshire town of Hungerford. He left a trail of 13
dead and 15 wounded before he turned his gun on himself in a local
school. Ryan first shot a young mother in Savernake Forest before
returning to his home and shooting his mother and setting fire
to the house. Ryan, who had a licence for several pistols and
rifles, then opened fire on neighbours.
October 16. The Great Hurricane hit Britain - the worst
storm in 250 years caused havoc in southern England. Winds of
up to 110mph were recorded as about 15 million trees were felled
and buildings and cars were destroyed. The storm of the century
left 17 dead in its wake. The Meteorological Office was criticised
for its failure to predict the hurricane which caused destruction
estimated at 300 million.
May 28. West German novice pilot Mathias Rust, aged 19,
causes red faces in the Kremlin when he flies his light aircraft
undetected through Soviet air defences to land in Red Square,
Moscow. He signs autographs for amazed Russians before being arrested.
October 19. A massive downward spiral on the world's
stock markets, dubbed Black Monday, wiped billions from share
prices. The FT Index in London lost 10 per cent of its value -
the sharpest ever one-day fall.