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Birmingham bombs: Military clothes an insult, says sister of victim

By Linda Stewart

Families of the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings found it laughable that Michael Hayes donned military camouflage gear to issue his apology.

Julie Hambleton, who lost her sister, Maxine, in the 1974 atrocity, branded his apology "an insult".

Hayes had dressed in military gear for the interview with the BBC's Kevin Magee, in which he claimed to have been part of the group behind the IRA attack.

Ms Hambleton said she has friends in the US military and if they saw a man like that wearing their uniform, they would "pull him limb from limb".

"I did find that quite funny. Who does he think he is - Che Guevara?" she said.

Ms Hambleton branded the 69-year-old self-confessed bomber a "coward through and through".

"He didn't tell us anything we didn't already know, he didn't admit to anything, he was talking in riddles," she said.

"They wouldn't know what a moral compass was if it was tattooed on their palms. It was a chance for him to make his own case in history and try to rewrite history. This gesture is empty rhetoric. His words are worthless to us and they mean nothing."

TUV Assembly member and barrister Jim Allister said Hayes was "rubbing it in" as he donned camouflage gear to go on BBC TV and make the claims.

"He was trying to portray himself as a military or a paramilitary type, and the gear is a part of that. I thought it was quite an arrogant performance," he said.

"It was quite clear that on camera he admitted to various conspiracies to cause explosions and therefore he should be pursued over that. The West Midlands police should be coming after him

"They have evidence of what he told the BBC, which would be admissible, and what he was admitting to was at the very least conspiracy to cause explosions."

After Ms Hambleton branded the apology an insult, Mr Allister said: "I can quite understand why she was offended by the suggestion that this was an apology which should make it okay.

"The real challenge coming out of that interview is, what should the law enforcement agencies do?"

Mr Allister said Hayes should be extradited to face charges of conspiracy to cause explosions.

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell called on the Government to reveal whether Hayes was in receipt of an on-the-run letter, informing him that he is not wanted by the police.

"His name has been mentioned previously in connection to the bombings, so it would also be useful to know whether his name was provided by republicans to the Labour government in order to receive one of these letters," he said.

"Similarly, it is vital to know whether police will seek to interview Mr Hayes. The claims he has made must be tested and that can only be done under police questioning."

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