Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham pub bombings victims' families lobby for inquest

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Media captionCampaigners said there had been "no justice" for the 21 people killed in the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974

Families of the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings have met the home secretary to call for an inquest into the deaths.

Twenty one people were killed and 182 injured when bombs exploded at two pubs in the city centre on 21 November 1974.

Six men were jailed in 1975 but their convictions were quashed in 1991.

An inquest was opened days after the bombings but closed without hearing evidence in 1975 after the guilty verdicts.

Julie Hambleton, part of the Justice 4 the 21 campaign group, said the meeting with Home Secretary Theresa May and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers had gone well.

"The home secretary was most sympathetic and came across very positive," she said.

"We are asking her for three things: firstly to support our quest for truth and justice, secondly to support our application for a new inquest and lastly for our legal team to gain access to files put under a 75-year embargo."

Despite describing the meeting as "highly significant", Ms Hambleton said it was "what happens next" that was important.

She said no firm commitments had been made by the home secretary, but that the government was looking into the embargo.

Image caption Bombs exploded at the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town on 21 November 1974
Image copyright Picture supplied by family
Image caption Maxine Hambleton, 18, was one of the 21 people killed

Ms Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister Maxine was killed, said: "What completely stumps us is the fact when the men were released... nobody stood up and said 'Right, we've got to go back through the motions, we need to have a coroner's inquest, we need to have another investigation, we need to go above and beyond and go and look for the murderers'."

An application for a fresh inquest has been lodged with the attorney general.

Birmingham Yardley MP John Hemming has also called for an inquiry into what happened at the time.

Lawyer Christopher Stanley, who accompanied the families to the meeting, said: "We reiterated that prosecution is one aspect of an investigation and that an inquest would examine all the circumstances surrounding the Birmingham pub bombings, including the failures in previous investigations and prosecutions," he said.

After the convictions were quashed, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Barbara Mills, placed a 75-year embargo on files relating to a Devon and Cornwall Police inquiry into the West Midlands Police investigation.

It means those files are not due to be released until 2069.

Image copyright West midlands police
Image caption Paddy Hill, Gerry Hunter, Johnny Walker, Hugh Callaghan, Richard McIlkenny and Billy Power had their convictions quashed in 1991

Birmingham pub bombings

  • Two bombs exploded at the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in The Town pubs in November 1974, killing 21 people
  • Paddy Hill, Gerry Hunter, Johnny Walker, Hugh Callaghan, Richard McIlkenny and Billy Power - dubbed the Birmingham Six - were jailed for life in August 1975
  • The case was referred back to the Court of Appeal but the convictions were upheld in 1988
  • The convictions were quashed at London's Old Bailey in March 1991
  • The Court of Appeal ruled the convictions were unsafe because they were based on unreliable forensic evidence and "confessions" obtained using violence
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption An inquest opened soon after the bombings but closed without evidence being heard

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