West Midlands Police said there was no reason to reopen inquiry

Police had opposed Birmingham bombings inquests, saying ‘no evidential basis’

Julie Hambleton, sister of Birmingham pub bombings victim Maxine Hambleton, reacts as she speaks to the media outside Solihull Civic Suite on June 1st.  Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Julie Hambleton, sister of Birmingham pub bombings victim Maxine Hambleton, reacts as she speaks to the media outside Solihull Civic Suite on June 1st. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

 

The police opposed reopening the Birmingham pub bombings inquests, telling the coroner there was “no evidential basis” to do so.

However, explaining her ruling to resume the inquests yesterday, senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull Louise Hunt said she had “serious concerns advanced notice of the bombs may have been available to the police”.

Chief constable of West Midlands Police Dave Thompson said in a statement after her ruling that he welcomed her decision.

Describing the failure to catch the real culprits for the bombings as “the most serious failing in this force’s history”, Mr Thompson said West Midlands Police had carried out “an authentic and painstaking search for the truth”.

He added: “We have not nor will not close this investigation. West Midlands Police will support this inquiry as we have done through the recent hearings by the coroner which determined whether the inquest should reopen. I hope the new inquest provides answers to families.”

Legal bid

At the last of three special review hearings on May 12th, the force’s barrister, Jeremy Johnson QC, told the coroner the force had no objection in principle to resuming the inquests but that there was no evidence to do so.

He added it was the force’s view that the “pieces of intelligence” it received from time to time about possible attacks could not “on a fair analysis” amount to advance warning of the bombings.

On the night of November 21st, 1974, two bombs widely acknowledged to have been planted by the IRA went off in The Mulberry Bush and The Tavern In The Town pubs, killing 21 and injuring 222.

At the May 12th hearing, Ms Hunt said she had received “significant” new evidence connected to the claim the security services may have had pre-warning.

Over the course of the review hearings in February, April and May this year, West Midlands Police argued the inquests should not be resumed.

Two tip-offs

At the time of the hearing, the coroner had not made public the existence of two tip-offs to West Midlands Police before the bombings, but both the police and victims’ relatives were made aware.

Mr Johnson told Ms Hunt: “I’m not going to comment on the detail of evidence we’ve provided.

“But we do say that there is no support whatsoever that any conspiracy theory that the state were in some way involved in the bombings or knew the bombings would occur and stood by and let them happen, or that there was advance notice.” – (PA)