Home Decades 1980s 1986



01 – Spain and Portugal join the European Economic Community (EEC).

04Thin Lizzy bass player and vocalist, Phil Lynott dies of heart failure after laying in a coma for a week following a drug overdose. He is 34 years old (b. 20 August 1951).

07President Reagan announces economic sanctions against Libya, in response to their involvement in terrorist attacks on the Rome and Vienna airports last month.

09 – British Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine resigns after a Cabinet row about the procurement of helicopters in the “Westland Affair”.

20 – Britain and France agree (again) to construct a tunnel beneath the English Channel linking the two countries.

24Voyager 2 space probe flies past the planet Uranus.

28 – The American space shuttle Challenger explodes seconds after lift-off, killing its crew of seven. Among them is Christa McAuliffe, a school teacher selected as the first to fly in the “citizen in space” programme. Her husband and children, along with the families of other astronauts, witness the disaster.


02 – Nurse Anita Cobby is raped and murdered in Sydney, Australia.

04 – Electrification of the Illawarra railway line in NSW, Australia.

06 – The mother and sister of The Undertones‘ vocalist Feargal Sharkey are held at gunpoint by terrorists in Londonderry.

07 – Lindy Chamberlain is released from jail in Darwin (Australia) today, three years and three months after being jailed for life for the murder of her baby daughter, Azaria. She has been given an unconditional release by the Northern Territory Government following the discovery of further evidence at the alleged murder scene at Ayers Rock. Mrs Chamberlain has always maintained a dingo took her baby.

07 – Haitian president-for-life Baby Doc Duvalier flees to France after demonstrations against his regime.

15 – President Ferdinand Marcos flees the Philippines to the USA. Mrs Corazon Aquino is sworn in as president.

15 – Eight police officers are injured and 58 people arrested in the worst outbreak of violence yet outside the News International printing plant in Wapping, east London, since the start of a strike three weeks ago.

16 – 700 rescued from sinking Russian cruise ship in New Zealand.

20 – The Soviets launch the world’s biggest space station, Mir, which will provide a base for a permanently manned complex orbiting the Earth.

28 – Swedish PM Olof Palme is assassinated in a Stockholm street. He is gunned down by a lone sniper as he and his wife, Lisbeth, walk home from a night out at the cinema.


02 – “The Australia Bill” becomes law, cutting Australia’s legal ties with Britain.

07 – The state of emergency imposed in South Africa in 1985 is lifted.

20Jacques Chirac becomes Prime Minister of France.

24 – Libya launches a missile attack on US Navy vessels in the Gulf of Sidra. The US fleet responds with missile attacks that damage a Libyan missile site and destroy two Libyan patrol boats.

25 – US Congress approves $20 million in military aid to Honduras, where Nicaraguan Contra rebels have set up bases just inside the country’s border.

27 – Police HQ in Melbourne, Australia, is bombed.

28 – Singer Lady Gaga is born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, New York City.

30 – Actor James Cagney dies in New York.

31 – The Greater London Council (GLC) is abolished, ending 97 years of local rule in London. Six other metropolitan county councils also come to an end today: the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Tyne and Wear, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire councils.


02 – A bomb explodes in mid-air on board a TWA Boeing 727 and sucks four people to their deaths while on a flight from Rome to Athens. A shepherd reports seeing bodies tumbling from the sky and Greek police later find three bodies and an aircraft seat near the town of Argos. A fourth body is recovered from the sea. The victims are a Colombian-born American man and grandmother, daughter and granddaughter from the same Greek-American family. Nine others are injured. The plane lands safely.

04 – Film star Clint Eastwood is elected mayor of Carmel, California, with 72% of the vote.

05 – Three Americans die as a bomb explodes in a West Berlin discothèque. US officials blame Libya for the bombing and retaliate ten days later by bombing Libya.

07 – Home-computing pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair sells the marketing and merchandising rights to his computer business for £5m to computing rival Amstrad, who will continue to produce the ZX Spectrum for two more years.

14 – The US launches an air strike from British bases against targets in Tripoli and Benghazi, Libya, in retaliation for the West Berlin night club bombing on 5 April. 60 people are killed, including Colonel Gadaffi’s adopted daughter.

24 – Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson, dies in Paris. She is laid to rest alongside her husband, the abdicated King Edward VIII, at Frogmore in Windsor.

26 – Soviet nuclear power plant at Chernobyl, Ukraine, explodes releasing dangerous radiation into the air across Europe.


03 – Twenty-one people are killed and 41 injured after a bomb explodes in an aircraft at Colombo airport in Sri Lanka. The bomb is the work of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a Tamil guerrilla group.

03 – Castleford RLFC wins the Rugby League Challenge Cup for the fourth time.

06Michael Jackson is paid $15 million to become a sponsor for Pepsi, the biggest sponsorship deal of its kind to date.

13 – A US Justice Department commission on pornography, headed by Attorney General Edwin Meese, rules that such material is potentially harmful and can lead to violent behaviour against women and children.

16Elvis Costello marries Cait O’Riordan of The Pogues.

19 – South African troops launch raids on three neighbouring countries in an effort to destroy bases purportedly used by the anti-apartheid organisation the African National Congress (ANC). At least three people are reported dead after the coordinated attacks on cities in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana by South African warplanes, helicopters and commandos.

25 – To raise money for the homeless, six million Americans form a ‘Hands Across America‘ human chain across the continent.


04 – Ex-US Navy analyst, Jonathan Jay Pollard, 31, found guilty as spy for Israel.

08 – Kurt Waldheim elected Austrian President, despite allegations of wartime Nazi involvement.

10 – Patrick Joseph Magee, 35, is convicted of the IRA bombing that ripped through the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the 1984 Conservative Party conference, killing five people and injuring 34. He is given eight life sentences.

12 – British government dissolves the Northern Ireland Assembly set up in 1982.

12 – Derek Hatton, the controversial deputy leader of Liverpool Council, is expelled from the Labour Party for belonging to the left-wing Militant faction.

13 – Jazz clarinet legend Benny Goodman dies.

16 – Millions of South African blacks refuse to go to work following the government’s declaration of a state of emergency and the arrest of over 1,000 black activists.

17 – Chief Justice Warren Burger retires from the US Supreme Court. Reagan names the more conservative William Rehnquist as his successor and also names Antonin Scalia to the court.

22 – Maradona knocks England out of the soccer World Cup with “the hand of God”.

24 – Hard-line Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley is forcibly carried out from the Assembly building in Northern Ireland by police after an outburst where he claimed that Northern Ireland is on the verge of civil war.

26  – Entrepreneur Richard Branson sets off from New York on his second attempt to claim the Blue Riband (for the transatlantic crossing record) for Britain in the 72 ft powerboat Virgin Challenger II.

27 – The International Court of Justice in The Hague rules that US aid to Contra rebels in Nicaragua is illegal.

27 – After New Zealand bans US nuclear-armed warships in its waters, the US declares it cannot be bound by the 1951 ANZUS pact on NZ defence.

29 – Argentina wins the soccer World Cup in Mexico, beating West Germany 3-2.

29 – Millionaire Richard Branson smashes the world record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic in his 72-ft powerboat, the Virgin Atlantic Challenger II. Branson completes the voyage more than two hours faster than the previous record-holder, the SS United States, which held the title since 1952, but he is denied the Blue Riband by the trustees of the award because his vessel did not have a commercial maritime purpose and he had stopped to refuel.

30 – US Supreme Court rules 5-4 that homosexual activity between consenting adults in the privacy of the home is not protected by the Constitution.


04 – The Statue of Liberty celebrates her 100th birthday by reopening her newly-refurbished doors to visitors. America’s great symbol of hope is now restored to full health. The first visitor on Independence Day is, perhaps appropriately, an English tourist.

04 – In Australia, Neville Wran retires. Barrie Unsworth is new NSW Premier.

07 – Australians Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers are hanged in Pudu Prison in Malaysia for heroin trafficking.

08 – ‘Classic’ Coke is reintroduced after New Coke’s failed ten week run on the market.

12 – Dozens are injured as violence flares in Portadown, County Armagh when protestant ‘Orangemen’ converge on the town after their annual march to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne.

23 – Prince Andrew marries Sarah Ferguson at Westminster Abbey watched by a worldwide tv audience of 500 million.

27 – The International Court of Justice orders the US to stop training and arming Nicaragua’s Contra rebels, and to pay restitution to Nicaragua.

30 – Boy George of Culture Club is fined £250 for possession of heroin.


21 – More than 1700 people are killed in Cameroon, West Africa when a cloud of lethal gas escapes from the volcanic Lake Nyos. Most of the victims die in their sleep as the gas kills all living things within a 15-mile (25km) radius of the lake.

29 – Britain’s oldest twins, May and Marjorie Chavasse, receive telegrams from the Queen as they celebrate their 100th birthday with a joint birthday party.

30 – American journalist Nicholas Daniloff is seized by Soviet authorities and accused of being a spy, seven days after the FBI arrest a Soviet diplomat to the UN on charges of espionage. In September Daniloff will be exchanged for the diplomat, though the White House denies it negotiated a swap.

31 – Former Boomtown Rats vocalist Bob Geldof marries Paula Yates in Las Vegas.

31 – Sculptor Henry Moore dies.


05 – The 16-hour siege on a Pan Am jet in Pakistan comes to a bloody end with 22 people dead and over 150 injured. Palestinian gunmen boarded the Bombay to New York flight at Karachi Airport disguised as security guards and opened fire on the 390 passengers.

07 – Restrictions on civil liberties are imposed in Chile following an assassination attempt on General Pinochet and his wife while travelling in their presidential car which kills five of his bodyguards and wounds 11 more.

07Desmond Tutu is enthroned as South Africa’s first black archbishop.

16 – At least 177 people die during a lethal fire in a South African gold mine.
Poisonous gas spreads rapidly through the shafts and tunnels of the Kinross mine in the Eastern Transvaal, killing most of the miners where they stood.

19 – Two passenger trains collide in Staffordshire, killing the driver of the Liverpool-London train and injuring almost 100 more. Several carriages derail when the crowded Inter City services crash at Colwich Junction near Rugeley.

28 – Sir Robert Helpmann dies, aged 77.


02 – USA imposes sanctions on South Africa.

05 – Pilot Eugene Hasenfus is captured by the Nicaraguan Sandinistas and admits that the CIA has been involved in privately arming the Contra rebels. Hasenfus is tried in Managua and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

12 – US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev fail to reach an agreement at a disarmament summit in Reykjavik. The two leaders come close to striking a radical arms reduction deal but the talks finally stall over President Reagan’s refusal to abandon his Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI).

20 – Yitzhak Shamir takes over from Shimon Peres as prime minister of Israel.

21 – Australian Labor Party icon Justice Lionel Murphy dies of cancer.

22Reagan signs a revised federal income tax law, lowering taxes for everyone, especially those in the highest tax brackets.

26 – Jeffrey Archer steps down as Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party after reports in the News of the World alleging he tried to pay prostitute Monica Coghlan to go abroad to avoid a scandal.

28 – 24-year-old Jeremy Bamber is jailed for life for killing five members of his family at their farmhouse in Essex.


01 – A catastrophic fire at a chemicals factory near Basel, Switzerland, sends tons of toxic chemicals into the nearby river Rhine, turning it red. Within 10 days the pollution has travelled the length of the Rhine and into the North Sea and an estimated half a million fish are killed, with some species wiped out entirely.

02 – American hostage David Jacobsen is set free in Beirut after 17 months of captivity at the hands of Islamic Jihad.

02Billy Bragg is arrested for cutting through wire fences surrounding a US Air Force base in Norfolk.

06 – 45 people are feared dead after a Chinook helicopter carrying oil rig workers from the Brent field, northeast of Shetland, to Sumburgh airport plunges into the North Sea off the coast of Scotland. The cause of the accident is subsequently discovered to be gear box failure.

13President Reagan admits a secret arms deal with Iran, in the so-called Iran-Contra scandal.

14 – Financier Ivan Boesky agrees to pay the US government $100 million as a penalty for illegal insider trading on the security exchange. The Securities and Exchange Commission bars Boesky from participating in the securities business for the rest of his life. He is also sentenced to three years in prison.

17 – The head of the Renault car company, Georges Besse, is assassinated in Paris by members of the left-wing, anti-capitalist group, Action Directe. Mr Besse is shot several times at about 2030 local time outside his home.

22 – 20-year-old boxer Mike Tyson becomes the youngest ever world heavyweight champion, beating Canadian Trevor Berbick in two rounds.

24 – Pope John Paul II begins tour of Australia.

25 – Vice Admiral Poindexter and Colonel Oliver North are dismissed from the National Security Council after it is revealed that money from arms sales in Iran funded Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

29 – British-born actor Cary Grant dies in Iowa.

30 – “Irangate” row over hostage release.


11 – British church leaders condemn a BBC radio campaign about AIDS for “condoning promiscuity”. The “Play Safe” campaign aims to encourage people to have only one sexual partner and to use a condom as protection against diseases.

19 – Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov and his wife are permitted to return to Moscow after seven years internal exile.

23 – The Voyager, a two manned super-light aeroplane, circles the globe in nine days and requires only one tank of gas.

29 – Lord Stockton, the former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan dies, aged 92, following a short illness.

Also this year . . .

  • Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev institutes a policy of glasnost (openness) in the arts and literature, allowing many previously banned works to be published.
  • Halley’s Comet passes the Earth – An event that only occurs every 76 years.
  • Edinburgh Commonwealth Games opens (minus 23 nations).
  • Launch of NICAM digital stereo sound on television.
  • ‘At Talaq’ wins Melbourne Cup.