Forty years ago today, I was a reporter at ATV (the forerunner of Central Television covering the English Midlands) covering the Birmingham pub bombings. Two pubs in the city centre were blown up by the IRA, killing 21 people and injuring more than 180 others in what was then the worst terrorist attack in British history.
Today we still do not know who was responsible. The ‘Birmingham Six’ were wrongly convicted of the crime, and were released in 1991. Devon and Cornwall Police later conducted an inquiry into the West Midlands Police investigation. The authorities have decreed its contents must remain secret for another 55 years.
Julie Hambleton, whose sister was killed in the bombings, has been highly critical of this decision. The current Chief Constable for the West Midlands, Chris Sims, has maintained the investigation remains open, but Ms Hambleton has accused the police of lack of commitment to investigating Britain’s ‘largest unsolved mass murder,’ saying they seemed to be waiting for evidence to ‘drop on their desks’.
Another blow to those wanting to bring the killers to justice was the revelation that 35 pieces of evidence had gone missing, including a bomb that failed to explode. Mr Sims said it seems the items had been disposed of in the 1980’s, and that this was ‘not unusual at the time.’