Birmingham pub bombings information ‘significant’

A “significant” piece of information has been sent to the coroner who is considering reopening the Birmingham pub bombings inquests.

Louise Hunt, senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, said she received “sensitive information” from an undisclosed source in a submission sent to her office on April 27, just days before a key hearing.

Speaking ahead of what is due to be her final decision on whether to reopen the inquests on June 1, Ms Hunt said the material was “significant” and related to an allegation the security services had some advanced notice of the bombings on the night of November 21 1974.

She said: “It’s significant and does raise concerns in relation to potential advanced notice. That’s as much as I can say.”

Ms Hunt said she was not aware the information had ever appeared in the public domain.

Lawyers for the families of the 21 people killed in the double bombing of the Tavern in the Town and Mulberry Bush pubs in 1974, have already alleged the security services may have had prior knowledge of the attacks.

Loved ones of some of the victims who attended yesterday’s hearing in Solihull, West Midlands, said they had not been told what was contained in the secret memo.

It will be 42 years this November since the blasts ripped apart the two pubs , in attacks which are widely acknowledged to have been the work of the IRA.

A third bomb found in a bag on the Hagley Rd in Edgbaston, Birmingham, failed to go off and was later lost by West Midlands Police.

The investigation into the bombings, which injured 182 people, led to the jailing of the Birmingham Six, who were later released in 1991 after their convictions for murder were overturned by the Court of Appeal.

Ms Hunt confirmed she would now make a long-awaited ruling on whether to reopen the inquests on June 1. The original hearings were suspended in 1975 after being overtaken by the criminal inquiry.

The coroner said she had written to the home secretary, foreign secretary and defence secretary asking them to look through their records and deliver any relevant documentation from around the time.

However, after being told such a search may take at least three months, she agreed that process should be put on hold, subject to her decision in June.

The coroner also heard final remarks from West Midlands Police’s lawyer and the families’ barrister Ashley Underwood.

Jeremy Johnson, on behalf of the police, said: “We have no principle objection to you resuming these inquests but we do say, having regard to the material you have, it has not been shown it’s appropriate to resume.”

He added there was “no evidential basis” for victims’ families’ allegation that the police or security services had any prior warning of the bombings.

Mr Johnson added there was also no evidence the use of taxis as ambulances to ferry casualties to hospitals in the chaotic aftermath led to more deaths.

He said there were also no grounds to have new hearings simply to look at alleged police misconduct in follow-up criminal probes.


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