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Regional daily wins fight to reopen 42-year-old pub bombing inquests

A regional daily-backed fight to reopen inquests into the deaths of 21 people who died in a terrorist attack on its patch has been successful.

The Birmingham Mail has vowed to be “down in the trenches” with the families of those killed in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings after a coroner agreed to reopen the inquests.

The Provisional IRA was blamed but never accepted responsibility for the atrocity, while six men convicted of the mass killings were cleared in 1991 having been declared innocent of the crime and named as victims of a miscarriage of justice after a botched investigation by West Midlands Police.

The coroner of the time, George Billington, had stuck to normal procedure of opening and adjourning the inquests pending the trial involving the men, who became known as the ‘Birmingham Six’.

The Mail's front page yesterday prior to the decision being announced

The Mail’s front page yesterday prior to the decision being announced

However, the inquests were never concluded and in February law firm KRW applied to current Birmingham and Solihull Coroner Louise Hunt for the inquests to be reopened after the Mail highlighted this.

Yesterday Ms Hunt announced the inquests would be reopened after holding several review hearings and receiving “significant” new information about the bombings.

Mail editor Marc Reeves told HTFP: “I’d like to pay tribute to the diligence and persistence of one of my news editors Andy Richards, who has been the power behind this campaign for six or seven years now – if not more.

“It was he, while researching for our 40th anniversary coverage of the bombings two years ago, who discovered that the inquests had never been reopened.

“He fed that through to our larger team and that led to the whole campaign pledge. He’s been on top of it for such a long time.”

The Mail worked with campaign group Justice4the21 to keep up pressure on the authorities – and brought new evidence to bear, including an interview with IRA inteligence chief Keiron Conway, who admitted for the first time that the terror group carried out the bombings.

Speaking after the coroner’s ruling, Julie Hambleton, who leads the campaign group, and who lost her sister Maxine in the bombings, said: “I would like to thank the Birmingham Mail for supporting our campaign. The newspaper played a crucial role in having the inquests resumed.”

The Mail’s ongoing campaign last year won the newspaper the Digital Award at the Regional Press Awards, after it ran a real-time 24-hour news blog detailing the events of November 21, 1974 on the anniversary of the tragedy.

Andy was also named Reporter of the Year at the Midlands Media Awards for his campaigning journalism.

Marc added he hoped to emulate the Liverpool Echo in the way it supported the families of the Hillsborough disaster victims, who received a verdict of unlawful killing in April – 27 years after beginning their own fight for justice over the tragedy.

He continued: “For the paper, it’s the start of the next stage. We’ve been waiting for 40 years to get this far, and I think the families deserve for the truth to come out.

“What the Echo did, and what we now hope we can do in a similar way, is make sure we can be down in the trenches with the families of the victims.”


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  • June 2, 2016 at 11:53 am

    I had the privilege of working with Andy Richards for many years in the 1990s and 2000s and, while I’ve moved on, I still feel very proud of his determined journalism. Once he’s got the bit between his teeth on such subjects, Andy never lets go, always doing the Mail’s reputation a huge amount of good in readers’ eyes. Well done, Andy, and in the team supporting you, and in Marc Reeves for believing in your efforts.

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  • June 3, 2016 at 8:10 am

    I was in Solihull last Wednesday. Julie Hambleton didn’t just thank the Birmingham Evening Mail after the hearing, she said it on her arrival, during talks with the National Press and made it the first thank you name to mention in most TV interviews. A great testimony to the paper and so called local (whatever that is these days) journalism.

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