Birmingham families: ‘Time justice was served’

Julie Hambleton (centre) speaks to the media outside the Civil Justice Centre in Birmingham after the conclusion of the Birmingham Inquests. Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Wire
Julie Hambleton (centre) speaks to the media outside the Civil Justice Centre in Birmingham after the conclusion of the Birmingham Inquests. Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

It’s “time justice was served” the sister of a Birmingham pub bomb victim has said following the inquest into the 21 IRA murders in 1974.

Julie Hambleton – whose sister Maxine was killed by one of two bombs which exploded following inadequate warnings – said the coroner heard new evidence “that two of the murderers are out there” and that action must now be taken.

The inquest sat for almost six weeks with the 11-member panel deliberating its verdict for five hours on Friday.

It unanimously concluded that the phone call made by the Provisional IRA cost the stretched police resources vital minutes before the “pur carnage” caused by the explosive devices which ripped through the packed Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs on the night of November 21. A further 220 people were injured.

Ms Hambleton said the police must now pursue the surviving members of the IRA named as being involved.

“We want them captured, investigated and prosecuted accordingly in front of their peers,” she told the News Letter.

“We have waited long enough – it’s time for justice to be served. There is no statute of limitations on murder so time is not the issue.”

Ms Hambleton told reporters that the West Midlands chief constable should now “tie his shoe laces and do the job because we’ve heard new evidence that two of the murderers are out there.”

In a statement, chief constable Dave Thompson stressed that the “IRA terrorists planted these bombs...they are responsible for the atrocity,” and added: “I am prepared to say that we are following a number of further enquiries.”

Mr Thompson said: “The inquest heard from a man, called Witness O, claiming to be from the IRA. He named three men as the bombers who are now dead: Mick Murray, James Gavin and Seamus McLoughlin.

“I cannot say whether these three men were or were not the Birmingham pub bombers. What I can now say is that all three men were interviewed and investigated.”

The chief constable added: “Mick Murray was arrested in November 1974. He denied any involvement with the pub bombings and, once again, there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him.

“In 1993, when contacted by Operation Review officers, he refused to be interviewed or answer any questions.

“Witness O also claimed Michael Hayes was one of the bombers. I can make no comment on him or any other individual because, as I have said on many occasions, the investigation into the pub bombings continues.

“Our approach is when and if significant new information comes to light we scrutinise it to see if anyone can be brought to justice.”

However, Ms Hambleton said the police can “no longer run and hide behind excuses”.

She said: “Twenty one of our loved ones went out one evening to meet friends and family and they never saw the light of day again.

“Today the inquest has found they were unlawfully killed by murder.”

Ms Hambleton added: “The information is out there, evidence has been given in a court of law, and God help them if they try to bury this new evidence. There is no such thing as closure with murder.”