Belfast Telegraph

Families 'positive' on bomb inquest

Bereaved relatives campaigning for a new inquest for the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings have described a meeting with Home Secretary Theresa May as "positive" .

Families are also seeking the lifting of a 75-year embargo apparently placed on state papers related to the 1974 attacks and the subsequent police investigation by West Midlands Police.

Twenty-one people were killed and 182 injured when the suspected IRA bombs exploded in two city centre pubs on November 21 1974.

Six men wrongly convicted of the murders - the Birmingham Six - were released in 1991 after their convictions were overturned by the Court of Appeal.

An inquest opened days after the bombings was closed without hearing evidence in 1975 in response to the guilty verdicts.

Campaign group Justice 4 the 21, which represents relatives of a number of the victims, are calling for a new inquest to be ordered.

An application requesting a fresh inquest has been lodged with Attorney General Jeremy Wright.

While the decision rests with Mr Wright, relatives urged Mrs May and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers today to voice support for their application during a meeting at the Home Office.

Julie Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister Maxine was killed, said she would now "wait and see" what the Government's response was.

Ms Hambleton said the meeting had gone "better than expected".

"It was positive. The Home Secretary was very sympathetic and very responsive to everything we said, but then what else could she be?" she said.

The campaigner said the coronial route would give the families the best chance of getting answers to their questions.

"It will give us the opportunity to get to the truth and potentially justice at the end of the day, which is what we want," she said.

Ms Hambleton said she also challenged Mrs May on the files embargo : "She said she is going to get in contact with us, she said she is going to follow up on the points we raised - we raised so many I don't know where she is going to start - but she said she is going to get back to us."

John Hemming, MP for Birmingham Yardley, said an inquiry should be held into what happened.

"It needs to be looked at. What we need to do is to identify who committed the offence," he said.

Lawyer Christopher Stanley, from KRW Law in Belfast, accompanied the relatives to the meeting today.

"We reiterated that prosecution is one aspect of an investigation and that an inquest would examine all the circumstances surrounding the Birmingham pub bombings 1974 including the failures in previous investigations and prosecutions," he said.

"The Home Secretary heard the grief of the victims and was sympathetic and therefore we reiterate our request to her and her colleagues to support the application for a new inquest."

A Government spokesman said: "The Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland today held a constructive meeting with relatives of some of the victims of the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, an appalling act of murder which, intolerably, remains unsolved.

"Both ministers made clear the Government's absolute determination that those responsible for this heinous crime be brought to justice and committed to seek assurances that all avenues of investigation have been, and are being, exhausted to get to the truth.

"The Government's deep and heartfelt sympathies remain with the families and friends of all those innocent people who lost their lives in the terrible atrocities committed in Birmingham on that day more than 40 years ago."

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