Coroner Rules There Will Be Fresh Birmingham Pub Bombing Inquests
1 June 2016, 10:59
Inquests into the deaths of 21 people who were killed at the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974 are to be reopened.
The families of those who died hope the new inquest into their deaths will give them answers.
It's been 41 years since the attacks on the Tavern in the Town and Mulberry Bush pubs in the city centre.
Coroner Louise Hunt in February ordered West Midlands Police to hand over any information they had in connection with a central claim by some of the victims' families that the British security services knew the attacks were going to happen.
At the hearing today, the Coroner said she believed there were two occasions where West Midlands Police missed opportunities to prevent the attacks. One of those was a witness overheard in a pub.
Coroner Hunt also added that although the events happened more than 40 years ago, that's no excuse to not try and find answers.
Relatives want the fresh inquests to re-examine the events of the night of November 21 1974, when two bomb blasts destroyed the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town in the worst act of terrorism in mainland UK until the London 7/7 bombings.
The bombings remain Britain's biggest unsolved mass murder, and the victim's families have made repeated claims of a police cover up and, more recently, state conspiracy.
Julie Hambleton's 18 year old sister was handing out invitations to a party, when she was killed by the bomb at the Tavern in the Town. She was with her friend, 17 year old Jane Davis, who was the youngest victim of the attacks.
Julie has been campaigning for a fresh inquest for years, under the banner Justice 4 the 21 and spoke to Heart outside the coroner's court:
Paul Bodman's dad Stanley, was killed in the attack on the Mulberry Bush, where he was having a drink after work. He told Heart he wants the police to back the victims' families:
Lesley Robinson, his girlfriend and 7 friends survived the bomb blast at the Tavern in the Town. He was 22 at the time.
He'd just arrived and was playing at the bat and ball machine moments before the explosion:
Members of the IRA are believed to have carried out the attacks but no one has ever been held accountable. The men wrongly convicted over the attacks, known as the Birmingham Six, were freed by the Court of Appeal in 1991 and later awarded damages.
Paddy Hill was acquitted back in 1991 and told Heart he doesn't expect justice for what happened but hopes the new inquest will finally get the truth about what happened that night:
Chief Constable Dave Thompson said: ''I support the Coroner’s decision and West Midlands Police will assist the process now underway.
''The Birmingham Pub Bombings of 1974 are one of the most serious terrorist attacks in the UK. West Midlands Police not only failed to catch those responsible but caused a miscarriage of justice. I have said and reiterate again, it is the most serious failing in this force's history.
''It is almost 42 years since these events. I understand families of those who lost their lives are frustrated, disappointed and angry.
''Since 2012 and directly as a result of the campaign by families of those who died we have carefully reassessed the opportunities to bring the people responsible to justice. Despite an intense scrutiny we have not been able to see, at this time, a prospect of doing this. That has been an authentic and painstaking search for the truth.
Mr Thompson added: ''We have not nor will not close this investigation.
''West Midlands Police will support this enquiry as we have done through the recent hearings by the Coroner which determined whether the inquest should re-open. I hope the new inquest provides answers to families."
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said: "I support the coroner's decision to reopen the inquests.
"I sincerely hope the inquests brings the answers the families of the victims have been seeking.
"The Chief Constable has assured me West Midlands Police will co-operate fully with the inquests and I will hold the Chief Constable to account to deliver on that assurance.
"West Midlands Police had no principled objection to the resumption of the inquests. That was a position I supported."
At previous hearings held to consider the families' application, the senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, Louise Hunt, asked West Midlands Police to disclose their records.
The documents she has asked for relate to lost evidence, response times on the night, and falsified documents, which campaigners allege may have been forged to protect an IRA informant.
Ms Hunt said the sensitive information was 'significant' and raised concerns that the security services had advanced notice of the bombings.
Another request for information, which the coroner made to three government departments, regarding a potential IRA informant.
Kieran Conway was the chief of intelligence for the IRA at the time of the bombings. He says claims that the British Security Services knew about the attacks are credible: