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'Botched IRA warning' led to Birmingham pub bombings deaths, inquest finds

Emergency services at the aftermath of one of the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974
Emergency services at the aftermath of one of the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974
The Mulberry Bush bomb killed 10 people (PA)
The Birmingham bombings
The former site of the Mulberry Bush pub off St Martin’s Queensway, Birmingham, as it looks today (Richard Vernalls/PA)

A botched warning call by the IRA caused or contributed to the deaths of 21 people killed in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, an inquest jury at the city's civil court has concluded.

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 more.

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

They also found there were no failings, errors or omissions by West Midlands Police's 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 six female and five male jurors concluded all the victims were unlawfully killed, following a direction from coroner Sir Peter Thornton QC.

Sir Peter said: "The atrocities of the night of Thursday 21 November 1974 are now etched in the history of Birmingham.

"Those dreadful events will never be forgotten because the people of Birmingham will never forget the 21 lives that were tragically lost."

He added: "I wish to express my condolences to the families and friends who lost loved ones in these terrible bombings.

"I wish to express my admiration and respect for the dignity in which you have conducted yourselves during the difficult time of the inquests."

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

The inquests, at the civil courts building in Birmingham, came about after years of campaigning by relatives of the dead for a full account into what happened that night.

The pub bombings were the deadliest post-Second World War attack on the British mainland, 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.

Julie Hambleton, who lost her older sister in the bombings, said before the hearings that bereaved families wanted “truth, justice and accountability”.

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(PA Graphics)

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