Fresh probe into UK's 1974 Birmingham bombings

1st June 2016, Comments 0 comments

A coroner on Wednesday ordered a re-examination of the deaths of 21 people in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, one of Britain's worst ever terror attacks, including claims that police failed to act on two warnings.

Coroner Louise Hunt ordered new inquests for the victims of the twin bombings, which were widely blamed on the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) paramilitary group, although it never formally claimed responsibility.

She said there was evidence that West Midlands Police missed one warning 11 days before the attack on November 21, 1974, which left 182 people injured, and another on the day itself.

The bombing of the two pubs in Britain's second biggest city, the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town, came at the height of the IRA's bloody campaign to end British rule in the province of Northern Ireland.

"I have serious concerns that advanced notice of the bombs may have been available to the police and that they failed to take the necessary steps to protect life," Hunt said.

"I am satisfied that the inquest should be resumed."

But Hunt said claims that police were protecting a mole in the IRA cell responsible for the attack were unfounded, and that the emergency services' response was not a contributing factor towards the deaths.

The original inquests -- judicial fact-finding investigations that do not apportion blame -- were halted by a police probe that led to six men being wrongly jailed.

The conviction of the so-called Birmingham Six, who were convicted in 1975, was ruled unsafe by the Court of Appeal in 1991 and they were freed in what is seen as one of Britain's greatest miscarriages of justice.

No one has since been convicted.

One of the six, Paddy Hill, said the new inquests were "the first step on the road to hopefully getting a bit nearer to the truth".

"I want this for the families," he told reporters outside the coroners' court in Solihull, near Birmingham.

An estimated 3,500 people, the vast majority of them in Northern Ireland, were killed during three decades of violence on both sides that was largely ended by the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.

© 2016 AFP

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