Home Decades 1980s 1988



04 – Karni Bheel, who boasted the longest moustache in India at 2.3m (7ft 10in) from tip to tip, is found decapitated.

17 – President Ortega offers a cease-fire to US-backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua, hoping to stop American aid.

19 – Writer Christopher Nolan, who cannot move or speak because of an accident at birth, wins the Whitbread Book of the Year. The 21-year-old Dubliner, who has cerebral palsy, is awarded this year’s £18,750 prize at the brewery’s London headquarters for his autobiographical view of his life, Under the Clock.

20 – Two earthquakes, one registering seven on the Richter scale, are felt from Adelaide to Cairns in Australia.

24Arthur Scargill is narrowly re-elected as President of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

25 – Prince and Princess of Wales visit Australia.

26 – The biggest crowd Australia has ever seen crushes around Sydney Harbour to commemorate the arrival of the First Fleet 200 years ago. More than 1.5 million people cram every vantage point on the Harbour to watch the Bicentenary spectacular. An estimated 10,000 small craft fill the Harbour and are entertained by an RAAF flypast and a gigantic fireworks display that sees the Sydney Harbour Bridge shooting off light like a Roman Candle and the sky ablaze with colour.

27 – Australian Reserve Bank issues a polymer $10 note.

28 – An appeal by six Irishmen convicted of the Birmingham pub bombing in 1975 is rejected at the Old Bailey.


01 – Jewish settlers on the West Bank kill two Palestinians as violence escalates.

05 – Panama’s General Noriega arrested on drug charges.

05Gorbachev rehabilitates 21 “un-persons” executed and erased from history by Stalin.

07 – At least 127 are feared killed by floods and mudslides in Rio de Janeiro.

08Mikhail Gorbachev announces Soviet troops will begin withdrawal from Afghanistan on May 15.

18Gorbachev sacks Boris Yeltsin following his complaints last year about the slow pace of reform.

21 – Only a year after calling Jim Bakker a “cancer on the body of Christ,” Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart makes a tearful television confession to an illicit affair with Debra Murphree, a Louisiana prostitute.

24 – South African government announces new curbs on the anti-apartheid movement.

26Gorbachev makes a television appeal for calm following nationalist unrest in Armenia.

29 – Archbishop Desmond Tutu and 100 clergy are arrested in Cape Town while petitioning parliament.


03 – US Senate approves support for the Nicaraguan Contras and aid for children caught in the fighting.

03 – Afghanistan and Pakistan agree a nine-month timetable in Geneva for a Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.

07 – Three suspected IRA bombers – Mairead Farrell, Daniel McCann and Sean Savage – are shot dead in Gibraltar by British SAS forces in an event that becomes known as the “Death on the Rock” saga.

10 – The Prince of Wales narrowly escapes death near Klosters in Switzerland as an avalanche sweeps into the group with whom he is skiing. The snow slide sweeps one member of the royal ski party to his death and seriously injures another as what the Prince describes as “a whirling maelstrom” catches them as they ski off-piste. The dead man is Major Hugh Lindsay, 34, a former equerry to the Queen and a close friend of Prince Charles. The injured woman is Mrs Palmer Tomkinson, wife of one of the Prince’s oldest friends.

10 – Singer Andy Gibb dies at the age of 30 of inflammation of the heart.

11 – Robert C McFarlane, former US National Security Adviser, pleads guilty in Iran-Contra case.

15 – In South Africa, President Botha rules that the Sharpeville Six, who took part in the killing of a black councillor, must die.

15 – Sydney Sun newspaper ceases publication.

16 – Over 3,000 people are killed and between 7,000 and 10,000 injured in a poison gas attack on a Kurdish city in northern Iraq. Up to 20 aircraft, said to include Iraqi Migs and Mirages, are seen overhead at around 1100 local time in Halabja.

16 – Mayhem erupts as the three IRA members who were killed in Gibraltar, are buried in Belfast. A lone loyalist gunman kills three mourners and injures at least 50 people attending the funeral. He also throws four grenades into the crowd of 10,000 people gathered at Milltown Cemetery in Roman Catholic west Belfast.

16 – Lt. Col. Oliver North is indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he conspired to defraud the government in connection with the Iran-Contra Affair. Two days later, North resigns from the Marine Corps.

19 – Two British soldiers blunder into an IRA funeral cortege in West Belfast and meet their deaths at the hands of a lynch mob in full view of television cameras. No explanation is given by the Army of why the two men are driving through the staunchly Republican area of the city at the very time the burials were taking place. Corporal Derek Wood, aged 24, and Corporal Robert Howes, aged 23, are caught up in the melee and unable to escape. Although they draw their guns, they are dragged out of the car and severely bludgeoned. They are then driven to some waste ground where, despite spirited resistance observed by a hovering but helpless Army helicopter, they are stripped and shot.

20 – 54 men die in an Iraqi attack on an Iranian oil terminal at Kharg Island.


01 – Iran claims Iraq is dropping mustard gas on Kurdish villages in north-west Iraq.

03Rajiv Gandhi seals border between Punjab and Pakistan.

03 – Ethiopia and Somalia conclude a peace agreement, ending 11 years of border disputes.

05 – 24 women passengers and one man with a heart condition are released by hijackers who took control of a Kuwait Airways jumbo jet as it travelled from Bangkok in Thailand to Kuwait.

14 – The Soviet Union signs an agreement pledging to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. The pact has been drawn up in negotiations between the United States, the USSR, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

16PLO deputy Abu Jihad murdered in Tunisia.

18 – Retired US car worker John Demjanjuk, 68, is found guilty of Nazi war crimes. Three Israeli judges ruled that Demjanjuk was the guard known as “Ivan the Terrible” at the Treblinka death camp in Poland during World War II.

18 – US forces destroy Iranian oil installations in retaliation for Iranian damaging of a US frigate on April 14.

20 – Senate votes 69-27 to give $20,000 and an official apology to each of the Japanese-Americans interned during World War II who are still living.

23 – US Stealth bomber officially unveiled.

30 – Massive crowds flock to Expo in Brisbane, Australia.


04 – The Queen opens Darling Harbour, a new tourist retail park in Sydney, Australia.

04 – Australian yacht designer Ben Lexcen (born Robert Miller) dies.

05 – Polish riot police smash shipyard and steelworks strikes.

06 – Graeme Hick, Worcestershire’s 21-year-old prodigy, scores more than 400 runs in a county championship cricket match – the highest innings in England this century.

08 – François Mitterrand is re-elected president of France.

09 – The Queen opens Australia’s new Parliament House.

11 – British spy Harold Adrian Russell (Kim) Philby dies.

13 – Jazz great, Chet Baker dies.

14 – Iraq attacks Iran’s Larak oil terminal.

16 – Communist President Najibullah thanks Soviet troops in Kabul who are preparing to leave Afghanistan.

18 – Sikh militants give up their siege of the Golden Temple at Amritsar after ten days.

25 – Iraq takes Basra from Iran, a reversal of fortunes in the Gulf War.


02 – Australian High Court approves the publication of Peter Wright’s book Spycatcher despite UK government opposition.

05 – Australian Kay Cottee becomes the first woman to sail the world non-stop.

11 – More than 80,000 people pack into Wembley Stadium in London for a day-long concert to mark Nelson Mandela‘s 70th birthday (his actual birthday is five weeks later on 18 July).

20 – The Australian $2 coin goes into circulation.

27 – Mike Tyson takes all of 91 seconds to win $20 million by defeating Michael Spinks in an Atlantic City championship fight.


01 – The National Conference of the USSR Communist party resolves to implement Perestroika (reform of the Soviet system).

03 – US warship Vincennes patrolling in the Persian Gulf shoots down an Iranian passenger Airbus A300 and kills 286 people.

05 – US Attorney General Edwin Meese, under fire for various alleged criminal misdeeds, announces his resignation.

06 – 167 people die in an explosion and fire on the North Sea oil rig Piper Alpha, 120 miles (193km) off the north-east coast of Scotland.

10 – Ethnic disputes flare up in Burundi between the dominant Tutsi and the Hutus, leaving thousands dead.

11 – Terrorists kill nine tourists on Aegean cruise.

18Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico dies.

18Nelson Mandela‘s 70th birthday.

18/21 – Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis is nominated for president by the Democratic National Convention. Texas Senator Lloyd Bensten, Jr is nominated as his running mate.

21 – Sydney monorail begins operating.

28 – The MP for Yeovil, Paddy Ashdown, is elected the first leader of the new Social and Liberal Democrat Party (later the Liberal Democrats).


08Iran-Iraq war ends in a ceasefire. The war has lasted eight years and more than one million people have died.

15/18 – The Republican National Convention nominates George Bush for president and Indiana Senator Dan Quayle for Vice-President.

17 – Pakistan president Zia-ul-Haq killed in plane crash.

25 – Space probe Voyager II passes the planet, Neptune.


04 – Floods devastate Bangladesh – 25 million people are left homeless.

09 – English cricket captain Graham Gooch and seven other members of his squad are refused visas to travel to India. The banned players – all of whom have played in South Africa – were due to take part in a tour to the subcontinent this winter, but it is now almost certain to be called off.

10 – The worst hurricane of the century, Hurricane Gilbert, hits the South of Mexico and the Caribbean.

10 – BBC television presenters Mike Smith and Sarah Greene are seriously injured in a helicopter crash in Gloucestershire. Miss Greene breaks both her legs and an arm when the helicopter her partner is piloting smashes into trees close to where he is attempting to land.

29 – The United States successfully launches its first manned space mission since the Challenger disaster two and a half years ago. The space shuttle, Discovery, lifts off from Cape Canaveral at 1637 BST after a 90-minute delay due to unsuitable weather conditions.

30 – Soviet premier Gorbachev is appointed President while retaining his position as General Secretary of the Communist Party.

30 – Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, acclaimed as a hero when he set a world record winning the Olympic 100 metres final last Saturday, is now the villain of world sport. The fastest man on Earth is stripped of his gold medal after being found guilty of using drugs. Johnson flies home to Canada in disgrace. Nine other athletes are disqualified from the Olympics in Seoul, North Korea after failing drug tests. Among them is Britain’s Kerrith Brown who loses his Judo Bronze medal.


01Mikhail Gorbachev is elected President of the USSR.

12 – Australian Police officers shot dead in a Melbourne street.

13Reagan signs a welfare reform bill requiring single parents with children over three years of age to get regular jobs, or enrol in job training or education courses if they can’t find work.

13 – The Turin Shroud, revered for centuries as one of Roman Catholicism’s most sacred relics, is declared a fake. Carbon dating tests conducted at Oxford University and elsewhere prove that the linen of the Shroud once believed to have wrapped the newly crucified Christ, actually dates from between 1260 and 1390. The church accepts the technical evidence, but even the scientists can not explain how this bloodstained piece of mediaeval cloth is imprinted with the image of a crucified man.

21 – Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, former President and first lady of the Philippines, are indicted by a federal grand jury in New York City. The pair are accused of embezzling more than $100 million of their government’s money and using it to buy office buildings in Manhattan, as well as to add to Imelda’s ever-expanding shoe collection.

23 – A dog in Buenos Aires causes three deaths as it falls from a 13th-floor balcony. The dog inflicts a fatal blow as it lands on one woman. Another woman in the crowd that has gathered to watch is knocked over by a passing bus. A man who witnesses both deaths has a heart attack. The dog walks away unharmed . . .


08 – Vice-President George Bush wins the American Presidential election comfortably. The Republican candidate carries 40 states against only 10 for his Democratic opponent, Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts. The President-elect and his controversial running mate, Senator Dan Quayle, receive 54 per cent of the popular vote.

10 – the UK resumes diplomatic links with Iran.

16 – Benazir Bhutto is elected prime minister of Pakistan, the first woman to lead a Muslim country.


02 – Thousands of people die from the most devastating cyclone to strike Bangladesh in almost 20 years. The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs confirms 700 people are known to have died.

03 – Health minister Edwina Currie provokes outrage by saying during a television interview that most of Britain’s egg production is infected with the salmonella bacteria. The British Egg Industry Council is seeking legal advice on whether it can sue Mrs Currie over “factually incorrect and highly irresponsible” remarks.

07Roy Orbison dies aged 52.

07Gorbachev slashes Red Army troops by 500,000.

07PLO leader Arafat renounces terrorism and recognises the state of Israel in a speech to the UN.

10 – Armenian earthquake results in cities “wiped off the face of the earth”. More than 100,000 people are dead, and ten times that amount are left homeless.

12 – Thirty-six people die when a packed train piles into the back of another just outside Clapham Junction in South-West London. Seconds later an empty train ploughs into the wreckage. It is Britain’s worst railway disaster for more than 20 years, with over 100 people injured in addition to those who died.

21 – A Pan American jumbo jet crashes onto the town of Lockerbie in the Scottish Borders, killing all 259 passengers on board and at least 11 people on the ground to make it Britain’s worst air disaster. As accident investigators begin examining the wreckage, it emerges that US Embassies had received a warning that a Pan Am flight would be a terrorist target for a bomb.

31 – Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto sign the first agreement between India and Pakistan in 16 years.

Also this year . . .

  • XXIV Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.
  • XV Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada.
  • Iranian Mehran Nasseri gets stuck at Terminal One of Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris without his passport or a UN document identifying him as a refugee. Initially, he is seen as a victim of uncaring bureaucracy but a decade later the consensus grows that Nasseri actually likes living at the airport.
  • British novelist Salman Rushdie publishes his controversial novel Satanic Verses.
  • ‘Empire Rose’ wins Melbourne Cup.
  • Yellowstone National Park suffers the worst fire in its history. 88,000 acres burned.