Birmingham pub bombings: 'I drove my sister to her death'

image captionMaxine Hambleton, 18, was killed while handing out party invitations in one of the pubs

The brother of a Birmingham pub bombings victim felt he had "driven my sister to her death" by giving her a lift to the city on the night she died.

Brian Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was among 21 killed in the 1974 blasts, recalled his final memory of her as inquests into the atrocity resumed.

His was one of a number of emotional "pen portrait" tributes read at the outset of the new hearings.

Family members said the dead were "cruelly robbed" of their lives.

Two bombs ripped through the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs on 21 November, killing 21 and injuring 220.

image captionTwenty-one people died when two bombs were detonated in Birmingham in 1974

Mr Hambleton told the hearing at Birmingham Civil Justice Centre he had driven 18-year-old Maxine into the city in return for her ironing his shirt.

He said: "I will always remember her closing the car door and walking away from me, waving at me. My joyful, carefree, upbeat, talented sister I would never see again."

"I had literally driven my sister to her death," he said.

Jurors also heard one of the victims, Michael Beasley, gave away a "lucky charm" to the wife of the Mulberry Bush's landlord that night.

image captionTen people died in the first blast at the Mulberry Bush, below the Rotunda building

"He told her he'd found a lucky Cornish pixie charm on the bus on the way to town that night and gave the charm to her," said Peter Skelton QC, for the coroner.

"Mary kept the charm and always carried it with her."

The inquest heard statements about 16 victims on Tuesday, including:

  • Neil 'Tommy' Marsh, aged 16, the youngest victim of the bombing. His cousin, Danielle Fairweather-Tipping, said he "died as a child", days before his 17th birthday
  • Neil's friend, 17-year-old Paul Davies. His daughter Michelle Sealey and son Paul Bridgewater paid tribute to their reggae-loving father who "loved martial arts and Bruce Lee"
  • Punchcard operator Lynn Bennett, who met up with fellow victim Stephen Whalley after the pair made contact through the NME's lonely hearts column
  • Motor factory worker James Craig, known as Jimmy, whose family was originally from Northern Ireland. "His only interest was playing football," his brother Bill Craig said
  • John Rowlands, who served in the Second World War with the Fleet Air Arm, was an electrician in peacetime and a "bit of a card and a joker", his son Paul said
  • Trevor Thrupp, a 33-year-old father and a railway guard, had an "infectious" laugh and was the "life and soul of the party", son Paul said
  • Stanley Bodman, who was described by son Paul as "larger-than-life" character. A father-of-three and an electrician, Mr Bodman had served with the RAF in wartime
  • James Caddick, 56, who was a porter at the nearby Birmingham markets and was drinking with friends in the Mulberry Bush the night of the bombings
  • John Clifford Jones, known as Cliff, whose son George described the post office worker as "modest and unassuming"
  • Charles Gray, 44, a toffee factory worker who was said to be a "mild-mannered and agreeable" man
  • Pamela Palmer, whose sister Pauline Curzon said "her companionship and kindness is a memory I treasure"
  • Maureen Roberts, 20, who was said to have striking auburn hair, "the colour of gold", who was "happy-go-lucky" with a great sense of humour
  • Marilyn Nash, 22, who worked at Miss Selfridge and often went for a drink in the Tavern in the Town after work

The remaining statements are due to be heard on Wednesday.

Amendment 14 March 2019: This story has been updated to reflect the most recent information that 220 people were injured in the blasts.

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