Sunday 15 September 2019

UK pub bombs probe 'still live' as botched IRA call blamed for victims' deaths

Carnage: The Mulberry Bush pub after the bombing in 1974. Photo: PA
Carnage: The Mulberry Bush pub after the bombing in 1974. Photo: PA

Richard Vernalis

A senior police officer overseeing the investigation into the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings has described it as a "very active investigation".

West Midlands Police Chief Constable Dave Thompson made the comment after a jury at the inquest into the deaths of 21 people in the Birmingham pub bombs concluded a botched warning call from the Provisional IRA cost an already stretched police force vital minutes.

The 11-member jury panel sat for almost six weeks of evidence into the bombings of the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town pubs on the night of November 21.

Two massive detonations caused what one witness described as "pure carnage", ripping apart the packed pubs, killing 21 and injuring 220 more.

Yesterday, the jury unanimously determined that an inadequate warning call by the Provisional IRA, which carried out the attacks, cost the stretched police vital minutes.

The six female and five male jurors concluded all the victims were unlawfully killed, following a direction from coroner Peter Thornton.

They also found there were no failings, errors or omissions by the police response to the bomb warning call, and further concluded there was no tip-off to the force, giving advanced warning the blasts were going to happen.

The families of those killed have called on the police to "redouble" efforts to bring those responsible to justice.

The jury found a coded telephone warning by the IRA to the 'Birmingham Post and Mail' at 8.11pm was wholly inadequate.

The inquest threw up dramatic evidence when a former IRA member named four of the men he claimed were involved in the bombings as Seamus McLoughlin, Mick Murray, Michael Hayes and James Francis Gavin.

The man, identified in court only as "Witness O", said he had been authorised to give those names by the current head of the IRA in Dublin.

McLoughlin died in 2014, and Gavin in 2002, while Hayes, who is alive, has said he took "collective responsibility" for the bombings.

Murray, who died in 1999, is said to have called in the botched warning, giving the code word "Double X", but always maintained it had been "a proper warning".

Then former IRA head of intelligence in Ireland, Kieran Conway, in his evidence, also described the victims' deaths as "accidental" in an "operation that went badly wrong".

Afterwards, when asked if the Good Friday Agreement could block any progress - as suggested at the inquest - Chief Constable Thompson said this would not "prevent" that process.

Irish Independent

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