Birmingham pub bombings: 21 victims murdered after ‘botched’ call

Birmingham Pub Bombings

A botched warning call made by the IRA caused or contributed to the deaths of 21 people killed in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, an inquest into the attacks has concluded.

The 11 jurors sitting at the inquest into the deaths of the 21 people killed in the 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings, one of the deadliest atrocities of the Troubles, delivered their verdicts after days of deliberations.

Two massive detonations caused what one witness described as “pure carnage”, ripping apart the packed Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs on the night of November 21, killing 21 and injuring 220 more.

The 11-member jury panel, which sat for almost six weeks and deliberated for almost five hours, unanimously determined that an inadequate warning call by the Provisional IRA, which carried out the attacks, cost the stretched police vital minutes.

They also found there were no failings, errors or omissions by West Midlands Police’s response to the bomb warning call.

The jurors concluded all the victims were unlawfully killed, following a direction from coroner Sir Peter Thornton QC.

President Higgins visiting Birmingham Bombings Memorial (Pic Maxwell’s)

They sat through almost six weeks of evidence and were tasked with completing a questionnaire, listing their narrative findings.

Sir Peter spent all of Wednesday and part of Thursday summing up evidence which has included testimony from a convicted ex-IRA bomber, the police on duty that night, rescuers, and survivors.

He paid tribute to the “many who were very brave volunteers that night” helping the emergency services.

Earlier in the proceedings, a former IRA member named four of the men he claimed were involved in the bombings as Seamus McLoughlin, Mick Murray, Michael Hayes and James Francis Gavin.

The man, identified in court only as “Witness O”, said he had been authorised to give those names by the current head of the IRA in Dublin.

Murray, who died in 1999, reportedly called in the bomb warning at 8.11pm to newspaper telephonist Ian Cropper, giving the code word “Double X”.

Jurors heard that the warning had only given the locations as the landmark Rotunda building and the nearby Tax Office in New Street, making no mention of pubs.

In his evidence to the inquests, the then IRA head of intelligence in Ireland, Kieran Conway, described the victims’ deaths as “accidental”, in an “IRA operation that went badly wrong”.

The inquests, which are being held at the civil courts building in Birmingham, came about after years of campaigning by relatives of the dead for a full account into the circumstances of what happened that night.

The pub bombings were the deadliest post-Second World War attack on the British mainland, until the 7/7 London terrorist attacks in 2005.

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