UK

No new charges in Birmingham pub bombings re-investigation

The families of the Birmingham pub bombings victims continue to campaign for a public enquiry into their deaths (Birmingham Inquests/PA)
The families of the Birmingham pub bombings victims continue to campaign for a public enquiry into their deaths (Birmingham Inquests/PA) The families of the Birmingham pub bombings victims continue to campaign for a public enquiry into their deaths (Birmingham Inquests/PA)

A police re-investigation into the Birmingham pub bombings which killed 21 people will not lead to criminal charges due to insufficient evidence.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that it could not bring charges despite a “thorough and careful” review of evidence related to the 1974 atrocities.

21 people were killed in what remains the worst unsolved terrorist attack on the UK mainland.

There was hope that a new investigation by West Midlands Police could bring justice but the CPS has said that it could not positively identify who planted the bombs.

West Midlands Police Assistant Chief Constable Jayne Meir said: “We submitted all the evidence available to the Crown Prosecution Service for their consideration and we note their decision.

“Our thoughts remain with the families and victims of this terrible atrocity.

“We remain committed to bringing to justice those responsible for the Birmingham pub bombings.”

The CPS said that it reviewed a new file of evidence collected by West Midlands Police but could not bring charges due to there being insufficient evidence to identify who planted the bombs.

It said that it would continue to support police should there be further lines of enquiry.

As well as those killed, more than 200 people were injured after twin blasts tore through the Tavern in the Town and Mulberry Bush pubs on November 21, 1974.

The remnants of the Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham on November 22, 1974. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the attacks (PA)
The remnants of the Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham on November 22, 1974. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the attacks (PA) The remains of the Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham on November 22, 1974. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the attacks (PA)

A third bomb failed to go off and was recovered, but later lost, by West Midlands Police.

Six Irishmen – Hugh Callaghan, Paddy Hill, Gerry Hunter, John Walker, Richard McIlkenny and Billy Power – were wrongly convicted over the attacks and jailed for life in 1975, but were freed in 1991 after the Court of Appeal ruled their convictions were unsafe.

West Midlands Police lost a court appeal in 2020 to force the journalist Chris Mullin to hand over source material from the 1980s which was said to contain a confession from the true perpetrator of the crimes.

The Guardian reported that in a letter to the victims’ families, the CPS said that it did not have sufficient evidence to identify who made the confession to Mr Mullin and that it was unlikely that a new court order compelling him to reveal the source would be granted.

On Monday, Nick Price, head of the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said: “The Birmingham pub bombings were a terrorist atrocity which cut short the lives of 21 people and injured many more who were simply seeking to enjoy their evening.

“The attack has brought such unimaginable grief and our thoughts remain with the family, friends and every one of the victims.”

The victims’ families, through the Justice4the21 campaign group, have long been calling for a public inquiry into the attack, which was spotlighted after the announcement of an inquiry into the 1998 Omagh bombing in February this year.

Justice4the21 has been approached for comment.

Inquests into the deaths were held in Birmingham in 2019, where an anonymous witness, named Witness O, named the perpetrators as Mick Murray, Seamus McLoughlin and James Francis Gavin, who have since died, and Michael Hayes, who admitted on television in 2017 to being involved in the bomb plot.

Meanwhile, Margaret Smith, the mother of bombings victim Maxine Hambleton, has issued a civil writ against a fifth man, Michael Patrick Reilly, who was arrested in November 2020 and later unconditionally released as police investigated the bombings.

Ms Smith is also suing the former chief constable of West Midlands Police, Sir David Thompson, claiming the force’s investigation was conducted negligently and in breach of its statutory duty.