A botched warning call by the IRA caused or contributed to the deaths of 21 people killed in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, an inquest jury at the city's civil court has concluded.

The court heard that 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 21 November killing 21 people 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.

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They also found there were no failings, errors or omissions by West Midlands Police's response to the bomb warning call, and further concluded there was no tip-off to the force, giving advanced warning the blasts were going to happen.

The six female and five male jurors concluded all the victims were unlawfully killed, following a direction from coroner Peter Thornton QC.


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Coroner Thornton said: "The atrocities of the night of Thursday 21 November 1974 are now etched in the history of Birmingham.

"Those dreadful events will never be forgotten because the people of Birmingham will never forget the 21 lives that were tragically lost.

"I wish to express my condolences to the families and friends who lost loved ones in these terrible bombings.

"I wish to express my admiration and respect for the dignity in which you have conducted yourselves during the difficult time of the inquests."

Qualifying the jury findings in relation to the police's response, the panel's foreman told the court: "The decision was based on the balance of the evidence provided."

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

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

A botched investigation by West Midlands Police led to the 1975 convictions of the Birmingham Six, but their convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 1991.

Families call for justice

Speaking to reporters, Julie Hambleton, whose sister was killed in the attack, said: "Our reaction to the inquest and the conclusions is today is the day for West Midlands Police's senior officers, Dave Thompson the chief constable, we now put it in his court, the garda's court in Ireland and also the PSNI's door, for them to go ahead and prosecute and bring to justice those who remain living, through the court process to hopefully to bring them and charge them with what is now officially known for murder."

Ms Hambleton said the inquest had "brought to light" new evidence.

She added: "West Midlands Police have always told us when they get new evidence they will act on it, well here you go, you have the new evidence and I'm sure there is more to be had and more to be found."

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

He added: "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."


Timeline of events related to the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974:

14 November 1974: Bomber James McDade, 28, a lieutenant in the Birmingham IRA, is blown up planting explosives at the Coventry telephone exchange.

21 November 1974: Fearing violent disorder between pro and anti-IRA factions, 1,600 West Midlands Police officers are deployed to Coventry and Birmingham airport for McDade's funeral transportation to Belfast. It leaves just 15 officers on duty at Birmingham's two city centre stations that night - among them just six uniformed constables.

8.11pm: Ian Cropper, a telephonist at the Birmingham Post and Mail, receives a call. A male Irish voice tells him: "There is a bomb planted in the Rotunda and there is a bomb in New Street... in the tax office. The code word is Double X". The line goes dead and Mr Cropper calls the warning in to police.

8.14pm: The central police control room notifies officers on the ground in Birmingham city centre to head to the Rotunda and New Street.

8.14pm-8.18pm: Six officers arrive at the Rotunda. Some of their number then go inside the office block to begin searching the building, while two others run towards nearby New Street.

8.18pm-8.20pm: Two massive explosions rip apart the packed Tavern in the Town and Mulberry Bush pubs in Birmingham city centre, instantly killing 19 people, and wounding more than 220.

8.18pm: The first bomb, weighing between 11kg-14kg goes off in the Mulberry Bush. It has been left next to a telephone by the bar. Leaving a metre-wide crater, it kills ten, including friends Paul Davies, 17, and youngest victim 16-year-old Neil "Tommy" Marsh, who happen to be outside the pub at the time.

8.20pm: A second bomb weighing 14kg detonates in the Tavern in the Town, blasting a hole in the concrete floor and a nearby basement wall. It is placed in an alcove, near a one-armed bandit games machine. One witness, stood near the bomb, describes hearing a "whirring sound" right before detonation.

8.23pm: A 999 call is passed to officers in the city centre sub-division at Digbeth police station, from a resident at nearby Stephenson Tower, reporting a "bomb" has gone off at the Mulberry Bush.

8.27pm: A 999 call is passed to sub-division officers, from the manager at the Hasty Tasty pancake house two doors down from the Tavern, describing that the "building filled with smoke". It is classified as a fire.

8.33pm: Seventeen minutes after the first bomb, a police station radio operator reports back to the 999 call handlers that "resources sent... with times of involvement". The pub bombings inquests are told none of these records, including the times messages were passed on, have been recovered. Force control memory tapes were wiped.

10.40pm: Five men are arrested after getting off a train travelling from Birmingham New Street railway station and detained at Heysham Harbour, Lancashire. Billy Power, Paddy Hill, Gerry Hunter, Richard McIlkenny and Johnny Walker, who will become five of the Birmingham Six, are taken to Morecambe police station for questioning.

22 November 1974: Under questioning by West Midlands Police serious crime squad officers at Morecambe station, some of the men claim they are made to sign confessions. They undergo forensic tests by scientist Frank Skuse.

5am: A third unexploded IRA bomb is discovered behind Barclay's Bank, Hagley Road, Birmingham, and destroyed in a controlled detonation. The remnants of the bomb are later lost by West Midlands Police.

22 November 1974: Hugh Callaghan, the last of what will become known as the Birmingham Six, is arrested in Birmingham.

27 November 1974: Part-time barman Tom Chaytor, 28, a divorced father of two who took on a bar job at the Tavern in the Town three weeks before the bombing, dies of injuries sustained in the blast. He becomes the 20th victim of the blasts.

28 November 1974: A coroner opens and adjourns inquests into the deaths. The hearings never take place, as they are overtaken by the criminal trial and subsequent convictions of the Birmingham Six.

9 December 1974: James "Jimmy" Craig, 34, a fit amateur footballer and automotive factory worker, out on a date on the night of the bombings, becomes the 21st and final victim after succumbing to his injuries in hospital.

15 August 1975: The Birmingham Six are convicted, after trial, of 21 counts of murder.

27 March 1991: The Birmingham Six are released following a ruling by the Court of Appeal. Their convictions go down as one of the gravest miscarriages of justice in legal history.

1 June 2016: Senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull Louise Hunt rules that the original inquests should resume. Delivering her ruling, she said: "I am of the view that the evidence does now need to be heard publicly, so that a decision can be made based on evidence as to how these 21 people came by their deaths."

February 2019: Fresh inquests into the pub bombings begin.

5 April 2019: More than 44 years after the bombings, the inquests into the deaths of the bereaved loved ones conclude the victims were unlawfully killed.