Trades Hall bombing remains unsolved, 24 years on

01:43, Jan 31 2009
BOMBING DEATH: On March 27 1984 a suitcase loaded with over a kilogram of unknown explosive blew up in the foyer of Trades Hall in Wellington, taking the life of cleaner Ernie Abbott.

Today marks the 24th anniversary of the Trades Hall Bombing in Wellington.

On March 27, 1984 a green, ragged suitcase loaded with about a kilogram of an unknown explosive blew up, taking the life of cleaner Ernie Abbott.

The suitcase had sat untouched for seven hours in the foyer before it exploded, detonated by a mercury switch when it was moved.

Storemen and Packers Union secretary Phil Mansor recalled the explosion, when talking to the Dominion Post in 2004.

"It sounded like a clap of thunder hit the building.

"The whole building seemed to jump," he said.

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The late Pat Kelly, close friend and Trades Council president at the time, described Mr Abbott as a real Vivian Street character when talking to the Dominion newspaper the day after the bombing.

"He liked everybody.

"He loved a pint and would chat to the young ladies around Trades Hall."

Intense speculation ensued about the bomber's motive for the attack.

The most popular theory at the time was that the bomb was directed against a particular union, activist or activists, or the union movement in general, although scant evidence was ever found.

Speaking at the time, then Wellington Coroner Andrew McGregor said that the bombing appeared to have political overtones, and that was "utterly abhorrent" to all New Zealanders.

"Another fact that makes it so appalling is that Mr Abbott was an innocent victim," he said.

A $25,000 reward - then the largest ever put up in New Zealand - was offered for information that led to the capture of those responsible for the bombing. This was doubled to $50,000 in 1985.

The case remains unsolved.

Fairfax Media