Belfast Telegraph

Pub bombings families demand justice following inquest verdict

Julie Hambleton after the conclusion of the Birmingham Inquests
Julie Hambleton after the conclusion of the Birmingham Inquests
Victims (top row, from left) Michael Beasley (30), Stan Bodman (47), James Craig (34), Paul Davies (17), Trevor Thrupp (33), Desmond Reilly (20) and James Caddick (40); (second row, from left) Maxine Hambleton (18), Jane Davis (17), Maureen Roberts (20), Lynn Bennett (18), Anne Hayes (18), Marilyn Nash (22) and Pamela Palmer (19); (bottom row, from left) Thomas Chaytor (28), Eugene Reilly (23), Stephen Whalley (21), John Rowlands (46), John ‘Cliff’ Jones (51), Charles Gray (44) and Neil Marsh (16) (no picture available)

By Richard Vernalls

Relatives of people killed in the Birmingham pub bombings have urged police to "redouble" their efforts to bring those responsible to justice.

It comes after an inquest jury found a botched IRA warning call led to the deaths of 21 people unlawfully killed in the 1974 atrocity.

Two massive detonations caused what one witness described as "pure carnage", ripping apart the packed Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs on the night of November 21, killing 21 and injuring 220.

The 11-member jury, which sat for almost six weeks and deliberated for almost five hours, unanimously concluded an inadequate warning call by the Provisional IRA, which carried out the attacks, cost police vital minutes.

Jurors also determined the victims were unlawfully killed.

They also found there was "not sufficient evidence" of any failings, errors or omissions by West Midlands Police's response to the bomb warning call, or in regards to two alleged tip-offs to the force, giving advanced warning of the blasts.

Qualifying the jury findings in relation to the police's response, the foreman told the court: "The decision was based on the balance of the evidence provided."

Victims' families called on police to bring the killers "to justice". Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was one of those who died, said: "West Midlands Police have always told us when they get new evidence they will act on it, well here you go, you have the new evidence and I'm sure there is more to be had and more to be found."

She did not describe the inquests' conclusion of unlawful killing as "vindication", but said it "gives us hope to move forward to get those who are still alive caught and for justice to be had".

West Midlands Police Chief Constable Dave Thompson described the pursuit of any suspects in connection with the bombings as "a very active investigation".

Asked if, as was suggested in the inquest, the Good Friday Agreement had blocked any realistic prospect of bringing the killers to justice, he said it would not "prevent" that process.

He said: "This is simply about the evidence. The criminal investigation will take the direction it is going to take.

"We will bring people to justice within our ability to do that.

"I don't see anything in terms of any political arrangement that prevents us carrying out that enquiry."

In a separate development last night the DUP called on Sinn Fein leaders Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill to condemn the Birmingham bombings and support the victims' call for the culprits to be brought to justice.

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said: "Whilst Michelle O'Neill has met the Birmingham families, the Sinn Fein leadership should explain their position on justice for the families.

"Do Michelle O'Neill and Mary Lou McDonald condemn the Birmingham bombers and do they support the bombers being brought to justice?"

Sinn Fein said the party had met the Birmingham families and extended sympathies to those killed and injured.

"All victims of the conflict and their relatives are entitled to access to the truth about what happened to their loved ones," the party said.

"Mechanisms to deal with the legacy of the conflict were agreed in the Stormont House Agreement in 2014 by the two governments and the political parties. Six months have now passed since the end of the public consultation on those mechanisms, so the British Government should stop delaying their implementation and set up the legacy structures."

Giving conclusions yesterday, the jury found a coded telephone warning by the IRA to the Birmingham Post and Mail at 8.11pm was wholly inadequate.

The call gave the bomb locations as the famous Rotunda building and the nearby Tax Office in New Street, making no mention of pubs.

Police first on the scene searched the Rotunda office block, wrongly believing one of the bombs was inside.

In evidence, it emerged front line officers had no standardised training or procedures to work from when dealing with bomb warnings.

During evidence, medical experts said those killed suffered "unsurvivable" injuries but that hospital medical care had been "very impressive", even by modern standards.

However, there were not enough ambulances to go around, and taxi drivers had to take casualties to hospitals.

The inquests 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, who was said to have planned the operation, died in 2014, and Gavin in 2002, while Hayes, who is alive, has previously said he took "collective responsibility" for the bombings.

Murray, who died in 1999, is said to have called in the botched warning.

Former MP Chris Mullin, who helped free the Birmingham Six, was called a "disgrace" by Julie Hambleton when he refused to name any of the still-living bombers during his evidence.

He had to be escorted from the building by security and police.

The pub bombings were the deadliest post-Second World War attack in Britain until the 7/7 London terrorist attacks in 2005.

A botched investigation by West Midlands Police led to the 1975 convictions of the Birmingham Six, but their convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 1991.

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