London has 35 bridges, but one is part of the British skate culture for the worst reasons.
The Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges are a pair of pedestrian bridges in London, England, that span the River Thames.
The Hungerford Bridge, officially known as the Hungerford Footbridges, is a historic railway bridge that was originally built in 1864.
It was designed by Sir John Hawkshaw and served as a railway bridge connecting Charing Cross station on the north side of the river with Waterloo station on the south side.
The bridge is characterized by its cast-iron lattice girder design and ornate ironwork.
The Golden Jubilee Bridges, also known as the Jubilee Footbridges, are two pedestrian bridges that run alongside the Hungerford Bridge.
They were built in 2002 and designed by architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II.
The two parallel bridges are for pedestrian use only and offer excellent views of the river and London’s iconic landmarks, including the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament.
On the northern side of the Golden Jubilee Bridge, passersby can witness an unusual, post-industrial scenario – a collection of discarded skateboards on a ledge above a side support platform.
It could be a contemporary art installation taken outdoors by the nearby Tate Modern, just like Olafur Eliasson made a recreation of the sun in the Turbine Hall in 2003.
But the Skateboard Graveyard is a London landmark for very different and tragic reasons.
The Fateful Night
On June 18, 1999, life took different turns for eight different people.
Timothy Baxter was a passionate skater and a young philosophy graduate who had spent time with his old friend Gabriel Cornish riding the concrete obstacles of the Undercroft skate space.
Locals proudly hail the Undercroft as “the world’s longest continually-used skate spot.”
The place hidden beneath the Queen Elizabeth Hall has seen many changes since it became London’s main skateboarding hub in the 1970s for free skating and later for more street-oriented riding.
Baxter and Cornish enjoyed several sessions there, together and surrounded by many other fellow riders and skate-inspired graffiti.
Iain Borden, author of “Skateboarding and the City: A Complete History,” calls it “British skateboarding’s most precious home, its original Garden of Eden, oldest sparring partner and most famous Wembley arena.”
Timo, 24, and Gabriel, 24, were having fun.
In the evening, they had a few drinks at the indie music venue Break For The Border, just like everybody else.
At 4 a.m., they headed home, taking the Hungerford Bridge.
While they were crossing the Thames, a group of teenagers and young adults confronted the duo and took Timothy’s rucksack.
Soon after, they were thrown into the dark, cold, and muddy waters.
Gabriel survived by keeping afloat by his backpack and was rescued two miles downstream in hypothermia.
Timo never regained consciousness, and his body was only found 36 hours later.
A Young Skater’s Life Taken
In court, Gabriel recalled the murderers’ last words: “Let’s throw them in the river. It will be fun.”
But he didn’t remember much.
“Someone hit me over the head. I fell. I remember being kicked in the mouth, the nose and the back, and the back of the head. I passed out,” Cornish said in court.
The prosecutor, Nigel Sweeney, told the jury that “none of them did a thing to help the two men in the water.”
They were either homeless or troubled individuals who had replaced families with low-morale street companies.
While walking off the bridge, the five males and the 16-year-old girl covered their faces from CCTV cameras, but they were later caught by other security cameras laughing and smiling at Waterloo Station.
Sam and Linda Baxter, the father and mother of Timo, went through the ten-week trial, witnessing shocking evidence related to their son’s death.
In the end, Sam said, “The perpetrators of this crime have mindlessly killed our only child.”
Linda revealed that “The pain, grief, and anger are still there, and they don’t go away.”
“Despite the fact that one carries on with one’s life, the emotions are still there and are very strong.”
“I’ll never forgive them. There was no reason for them to do that. It [the attack] was completely unprovoked and unnecessary.”
Justice and Remembrance
In April 2000, the gang of six – three adults and three teenagers – were found guilty of murder and attempted murder by an Old Bailey jury.
Each one gave a different version of what happened in the early hours of June 18, 1999.
In May 2000, Judge Ann Goddard underlined the “heartless, gratuitous violence” of the crime and delivered the sentence.
The three adults (John Riches, Cameron Cyrus, and Sonni Reid) and three juveniles (Alan West, Shaun Copeland, and Toni Blankson) were jailed for life.
“It was the most callous of acts by a group of young people,” later said Detective Chief Inspector Dave Shipperlee.
“They not only beat these two young people unconscious, but they – it would appear for fun – picked them up and threw them over railings into the River Thames.”
“Anyone in their right mind would have known it would cause someone’s death.”
In 20004, Linda Baxter released “Losing Timo,” an emotional tribute book to her son.
The former modern languages teacher told the BBC that she “realized I could put my feelings into poems, and then I could write something more meaningful.”
For the London skateboarding community, the Skateboard Graveyard and the Hungerford Bridge stand as more than just a path across the Thames.
They’re a memorial for a dear and cherished rider whose life was cut short by a hideous crime.