Inquest into Birmingham bombings to be re-opened

21 people died when bombs exploded in two pubs on 21st November 1974

A senior coroner has ordered fresh inquests into the deaths of 21 people in the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974.

The original hearings were stopped after a group of men, known as the 'Birmingham Six', were arrested and wrongly jailed for 16 years for the attacks at two pubs in the English city. 

Their convictions were quashed in 1991, and the men subsequently received compensation. 

Birmingham coroner Louise Hunt's decision follows years of campaigning by relatives of those killed in the twin explosions.

She said "significant" new information had come to light about the blasts at the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs.

The coroner also stated there were two occasions where evidence supported that the state had advance warnings of the attacks.

The IRA is widely thought to have been responsible for the bombings, which also injured 182 people.

Missed warnings

Ms Hunt said there was evidence that West Midlands Police had missed two potential warnings of the blasts, including a comment made by men linked to IRA that "Birmingham would be hit next week".

The first potential warning was an overheard conversation reported to police on November 10, 1974 - 11 days before the explosions.

Ms Hunt said there was "no indication that the police took any active steps in response to it".

A second tip-off to police was received on the day of the attacks but was not followed up, she added.

"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," the coroner said. 

Ms Hunt said claims that police were protecting a mole in an IRA cell were unfounded. She added that the response of the emergency services on the night of the blasts did not contribute to the deaths.

Julie Hambleton, sister of victim Maxine Hambleton and leader of the Justice4the21 group, welcomed today's announcement. 

“We believe it is only right for the inquest to be re-opened, even after the passing of the years, because it is an opportunity for the truth to be told and a chance for all those left bereaved to find out more about what happened to their loved ones," she said.