Birmingham Pub bombings: Victims were unlawfully killed

Evidence shown in the Birmingham Inquests (1974) and reproduced from copyright Birmingham Inquests
Image caption The bombs killed 21 and injured 220 at the two pubs in November 1974

A botched IRA warning contributed to or caused 21 deaths in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, an inquest has found.

The blasts at the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs on the night of 21 November also injured 220 people.

Inquest jurors also concluded there was no error or omission in the police response to the warning call which would have limited the loss of life.

Coroner Sir Peter Thornton QC said the bombings were “etched in the history” of the city.

Jurors at Birmingham Civil Justice Centre found the warning call was not adequate for the purposes of ensuring that lives were not lost in the explosions.

The call from an IRA member was made to the Birmingham Post and Mail at 20:11. The first bomb detonated seven minutes later.

Image caption The victims of the 1974 bombings were aged between 16 and 51

The jury at the six-week hearing said there was “not sufficient evidence” of any failings, errors or omissions by West Midlands Police’s response to the bomb warning call, or in regards two alleged tip-offs to the force giving advanced warning of the blasts.

The six female and five male jurors determined the victims were unlawfully killed, a conclusion they had previously been instructed to reach by the coroner.

Following the conclusions, Sir Peter said the “dreadful events will never be forgotten”.

“It would be not right to leave the inquest without paying tribute to those who helped that dreadful night,” he added.

“We always expect our emergency services, particularly the police and fire fighters to be there for us at the time of disaster and they were.”

The coroner went on to thank the members of the public who “just did the right thing and helped as best they could”.

“These were the people of Birmingham shown at their best; brave generous, selfless.

“A genuinely positive side of humanity in contrast to the devastation and destruction all around them.”

Image copyright Birmingham Inquests
Image caption The first bomb was detonated at the Mulberry Bush pub

Leslie Thomas QC, representing 10 of the bereaved families, added thanks on their behalf to those who helped on the night of the attacks.

“We just hope, in light of the jury’s unequivocal finding that the IRA murdered 21 innocent people, that the West Midlands Police will now redouble their efforts in terms of those bombers who may still be alive to bring them to justice,” he said.

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