Friday 30 September 2016

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

Richard Vernalls

Published 01/06/2016 | 11:15

Desmond Reilly (left) on his wedding day, who died in the Birmingham pub bombings Credit: Family Handout/PA Wire
Desmond Reilly (left) on his wedding day, who died in the Birmingham pub bombings Credit: Family Handout/PA Wire

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

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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".

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".

Read more: Relatives of Birmingham pub bombing victims believe new inquests may help fill 'void'  

The wreckage left at the Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham after a bomb exploded, as a coroner is set to rule on whether to open new inquests for the 21 victims of the Birmingham pub bombings after years of campaigning by relatives Credit: PA Wire
The wreckage left at the Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham after a bomb exploded, as a coroner is set to rule on whether to open new inquests for the 21 victims of the Birmingham pub bombings after years of campaigning by relatives Credit: PA Wire
Pamela Palmer, who died in the Birmingham pub bombings, as a coroner is set to rule on whether to open new inquests for the 21 victims of the attacks after years of campaigning by relatives. Credit: Family Handout/PA Wire
Maureen Roberts, 20, who died in the Birmingham pub bombings, as a coroner is set to rule on whether to open new inquests for the 21 victims of the attacks after years of campaigning by relatives Credit: Family Handout/PA Wire
Paul Rowlands' father John, who was killed in the blast at the Mulberry Bush pub, as Paul has said the Birmingham Pub Bombings had left a "void" in his life and has called for new inquests to be opened so his questions can be answered Credit: Family Handout/PA Wire
Maralyn Paula Nash, 22, who died in the Birmingham pub bombings, as a coroner is set to rule on whether to open new inquests for the 21 victims of the attacks after years of campaigning by relatives Credit: Family Handout/PA Wire
Clifford Jones, of Handsworth, Birmingham, who died in the Birmingham pub bombings, as a coroner is set to rule on whether to open new inquests for the 21 victims of the attacks after years of campaigning by relatives Credit: Family Handout/PA Wire
Jane Davies, 17, who died in the Birmingham pub bombings Credit: Family Handout/PA Wire
Desmond Reilly (left) on his wedding day, who died in the Birmingham pub bombings Credit: Family Handout/PA Wire
James Craig, 34, who died in the Birmingham pub bombings, as a coroner is set to rule on whether to open new inquests for the 21 victims of the attacks after years of campaigning by relatives Credit: Family Handout/PA Wire
Paul Rowlands (left) as a young boy sitting on a beach in Majorca with his father John, who was killed in the blast at the Mulberry Bush pub Credit: Family Handout/PA Wire
Stephen Whalley, 21, of Bloxwich, Staffordshire, who died in the Birmingham pub bombings Credit: Family Handout/PA Wire

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.

Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was among the 21 victims of the Birmingham pub bombings, welcomed the decision to hold new inquests, saying it was "way beyond our expectations" as she urged the Government to ensure victims' families were given Legal Aid funding.

More to follow...

Bill Craig, at his home in Yardley, Birmingham. When his 34-year-old brother James Craig was fatally wounded in the Birmingham Pub Bombings, Bill had to search the city's hospitals himself before he found his sibling lying in a ward Credit: Richard Vernalls/PA Wire
Bill Craig, at his home in Yardley, Birmingham. When his 34-year-old brother James Craig was fatally wounded in the Birmingham Pub Bombings, Bill had to search the city's hospitals himself before he found his sibling lying in a ward Credit: Richard Vernalls/PA Wire
Maxine Hambleton, 18, who died in the Birmingham pub bombings, as a coroner is set to rule on whether to open new inquests for the 21 victims of the attacks after years of campaigning by relatives Credit: Family Handout/PA Wire

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