Paddy Hill, one of the six men wrongly convicted of the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, has welcomed the decision to hold fresh inquests into the deaths of the 21 victims.
The senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, Louise Hunt, announced the decision, after holding several review hearings and receiving “significant” new information about the double bombing on November 21, 1974.
During the hearings, families of those killed in the blasts, in the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs, put forward a claim that the British state had knowledge of the IRA plan before the attacks.
Ms Hunt said there was evidence that West Midlands Police had missed two potential warnings of the bomb attacks, including a comment made by men linked to the IRA that “Birmingham would be hit next week”.
That overheard conversation was reported to police on November 10, 1974, but Ms Hunt said there was “no indication that the police took any active steps in response to it”.
On the day of the attack, a second tip-off to the police was not followed up, she added.
Ms Hunt said: “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.”
Concluding, she said: “This is specifically in respect of the two matters I have identified. It is only in respect of that issue that I consider there is sufficient reason to resume an inquest to investigate the circumstances of these deaths.
“So, I am satisfied that the inquest should be resumed.”
She said claims that police were protecting a mole in the IRA cell were unfounded, and neither did the emergency services’ response that night contribute to the deaths.
Speaking outside court, Paddy Hill said: “I’ve known the truth all along. It’s about time the British public knew the truth.”
But he said he was “sceptical” the truth would actually emerge.
“Birmingham police couldn’t spell the word ‘truth’. They’re rotten,” he told reporters.
Julie Hambleton, whose sister, Maxine, was among the victims, welcomed the decision, saying it was “way beyond our expectations”, as she urged the British government to ensure victims’ families were given legal aid.
She added: “All we want is to be heard, so we can get the truth, justice, and accountability.”
West Midlands chief constable, Dave Thompson, pledged to support the new inquests, saying the botched initial investigation was “the most serious failing in this force’s history”.
“The Birmingham pub bombings of 1974 are one of the most serious terrorist attacks in the UK. West Midlands Police not only failed to catch those responsible, but caused a miscarriage of justice.
“I have said, and reiterate again, it is the most serious failing in this force’s history.
“It is almost 42 years since these events. I understand families of those who lost their lives are frustrated, disappointed, and angry.
“Since 2012, and directly as a result of the campaign by families of those who died, we have carefully reassessed the opportunities to bring the people responsible to justice.
“Despite an intense scrutiny, we have not been able to see, at this time, a prospect of doing this. That has been an authentic and painstaking search for the truth.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved