Police must produce evidence over Birmingham bomb claim

Richard Vernalls
11 February, 2016 01:00

WEST Midlands Police's chief constable has been ordered to produce any information surrounding a claim the force may have been tipped off in advance of the Birmingham pub bombings by an IRA "mole".

A coroner made the order yesterday after hearing legal submissions on whether there was enough evidence to resume an inquest into the 21 deaths in 1974.

The fatal bombings at the Tavern in the Town and the Mulberry Bush pubs on November 21 1974, which also left 182 people injured, are widely acknowledged to have been carried out by the IRA.

In a high-profile miscarriage of justice, the Birmingham Six were wrongly convicted of murder. They were later released in 1991 after their convictions were overturned by the Court of Appeal.

One of the Birmingham Six, Paddy Hill, was at the coroner's court yesterday to hear proceedings.

Inquests were opened and adjourned at the time, but never resumed as a result of the Birmingham Six's convictions in August 1975.

Louise Hunt, the senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, said she was adjourning proceedings because of an "evidential vacuum" around claims made by the victims' families' lawyers.

Earlier, Ashley Underwood QC representing three of families, had said: "There is reason to believe the gang of murderers had an informant in their ranks and that the police knew in advance.

"And there is reason to believe the police had sufficient time, between the telephone warnings and the first bomb going off, to evacuate - and that the emergency services could have arrived earlier - but that records about those things were falsified."

He added: "But if it is (true), then the police had a mole in the gang which raises the question, did they know it was going to happen and did they lie to the (criminal) court to cover their knowledge of that, and cover their mole."

The force's barrister Jeremy Johnson QC said it would comply with the coroner's direction to supply any documents, statements and supporting evidence on a number of key factors raised by the families.

He also said the criminal investigation was still open.

Making her order, the coroner asked for any information held by the police "in relation to the timing of the bombings and any evidence that the State had advance notice of the bombings".

She also asked the force for any evidence held surrounding "whether or not there was an informant", and whether the response to telephoned bomb warnings was delayed.

The police must also now disclose anything relating to "falsification of documents by West Midlands Police for the purposes of protecting any informants or anyone else".

A summary of the previous police investigations carried out since 1991 was also requested, along with a list of "lost" and destroyed evidence from the original criminal investigation.

All the information must be provided to the coroner by March 4.

A provisional decision date has been set by the coroner for April 6.

11 February, 2016 01:00 News