Belfast Telegraph

Birmingham Six's Paddy Hill backs appeals for fresh probe into pub bombings

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

One of the men wrongly jailed for the Birmingham pub bombings has thrown his weight behind calls for a fresh inquest.

Twenty-one people were killed and 182 injured when the bombs, which are believed to have been planted by the IRA, exploded in two city centre pubs in November 1974.

Paddy Hill and five others - the Birmingham Six - were released after 16 years when their convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 1991.

He has offered lawyers for the victims' families access to more than 200 boxes of previously unseen legal documents.

Mr Hill, who last year launched an online petition for a public inquiry, said: "We won't stop. I want to see an inquest too. It is the only way we are going to get to the truth of what happened.

"They have done nothing but cover up and lie, lie, lie for over 40 years.

"My solicitor has about 200 boxes of legal files. I kept copies of everything from day one. I kept all the police paperwork, and the families can have whatever they want or they need."

An inquest was opened days after the bombings at the Tavern in the Town and Mulberry Bush bars, but it closed without hearing evidence in 1975 after the Birmingham Six were wrongly convicted.

An application for a fresh probe has now been lodged with Attorney General Jeremy Wright.

Bereaved relatives have met Home Secretary Theresa May and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers to push for a new inquest. They are also seeking to challenge the Government over claims that an embargo on releasing state files on the attacks has been extended to 75 years.

Julie Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister, Maxine, was killed in the Tavern in the Town bomb, said: "Paddy Hill has been one of our staunchest supporters.

"This was a man whom the world was told was responsible for the murder of my sister. Now we have come to realise he and the five others were sent to prison for something they did not do.

"Not only has he been one of our greatest supporters, but he has also helped to open other doors and files.

"He has made available all of the legal files relating to his case. That is 200 boxes, but he says that we can have access to them whenever we want.

"A new inquest is of paramount importance to us because it would provide an opportunity to get truth and justice. We have been blocked with barrier after barrier.

"The Birmingham and Solihull coroner has an excellent reputation for getting truth and justice."

James Craig was the last person to die, aged 34, from injuries sustained in the bombings.

His brother, Bill, who retired from West Midlands Police in 2001, said an inquest was crucial in the quest for truth.

He added: "I hope an inquest will discover what is behind this conspiracy involving the Birmingham pub bombings. Could this tragedy have been prevented?"

The families of the victims are being represented by leading human rights lawyer Kevin Winters, whose firm, KRW Law, is based in Belfast.

Mr Winters said: "The Birmingham pub bombings should not be forgotten.

"The rights to truth, justice and accountability for the relatives of the victims in Birmingham apply just as much to them as to all the victims of the conflict in the north of Ireland.

"The application for a resumed inquest is an important step in this move toward a sense of closure for them.

"We have an open door to the coroner for Birmingham and Solihull to assist her in making this important decision on the application."

Belfast Telegraph

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