Fresh inquests called into deaths of 21 people in 1974 Birmingham pub bombings

Fresh inquests are to be held into the deaths of 21 people in the Birmingham pub bombings after years of campaigning by victims' relatives.

Wednesday, 1st June 2016, 12:32 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st June 2016, 1:33 pm
Paddy Hill, one of the Birmingham Six who were wrongly convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings, outside Council House in Solihull where it was announced that fresh inquests are to be held into the deaths of 21 people in the bombings after years of campaigning by victims' relatives

The senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull Louise Hunt announced the decision after holding several review hearings and receiving “significant” new information about the double bombing on November 21, 1974.

During the recent hearings, families of some of those killed in the blasts in the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs put forward a claim that the British state had knowledge of the attacks planned by the IRA before they were carried out.

Setting out the reasons for her ruling, Ms Hunt said there was evidence that West Midlands Police had missed two potential warnings of the bomb attacks, including a comment made by men linked to IRA that “Birmingham would be hit next week”.

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That overheard conversation was reported to police on November 10 1974, but Ms Hunt said there was “no indication that the police took any active steps in response to it”.

On the day of the attack, a second tip-off to the police was not followed up, she added.

Ms Hunt went on: “I have serious concerns that advanced notice of the bombs may have been available to the police and that they failed to take the necessary steps to protect life.”

Concluding, she said: “This is specifically in respect of the two matters I have identified.

“It is only in respect of that issue that I consider there is sufficient reason to resume an inquest to investigate the circumstances of these deaths.

“So I am satisfied that the inquest should be resumed.”

She said claims that police were protecting a mole in the IRA cell were unfounded, and neither did the emergency services response that night contribute to the deaths.

Speaking outside court, Paddy Hill, one of the six men wrongly convicted of the bombings, welcomed the decision to order new inquests.

He said: “I’ve known the truth all along. It’s about time the British public knew the truth.”

But he said he was “sceptical” the truth would actually emerge.

“Birmingham police couldn’t spell the word truth. They’re rotten,” he told reporters.

Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was among the victims, welcomed the decision, saying it was “way beyond our expectations” as she urged the Government to ensure victims’ families were given Legal Aid.

She added: “All we want is to be heard so we can get the truth, justice and accountability.”