Birmingham pub bombing inquests resume after family fight for 21 people killed in 1974

Long-awaited inquests into the deaths of 21 people in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings have resumed after a jury was sworn in.

Hearings lasting up to five weeks will include pen portraits of each of the victims, with the coroner beginning with an opening statement on Monday.

The inquests, which are being held in Birmingham, are the culmination of years of campaigning by relatives of the dead for a full account into the circumstances of what happened on the night of November 21, 1974.

Coroner Sir Peter Thornton QC has already ruled - against the families' wishes - that the question of identifying precisely who the bombers were will not form part of proceedings.

What's the history of the Birmingham bombings?

The IRA bombings of the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs was the deadliest post-Second World War attack on the British mainland, until the July 7 London blasts in 2005.

A botched investigation by West Midlands Police led to the convictions of the Birmingham Six, who were found guilty of the murders a year later.

But their convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 1991, after the men had spent 16 years behind bars.

The aftermath of the deadly blast at the Tavern in the Town pub in Birmingham Credit: PA

Why has the latest inquest been controversial?

Inquests ordered in 2016 were delayed after the families of victims complained about the coroner's decision to rule out naming the bombing suspects.

The Court of Appeal upheld the coroner's ruling in September.

Some family members have considered boycotting or walking out, but Julie Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister Maxine was among those killed, will be attending the inquest.

Speaking before the jury hearings, she has said all the families of the bereaved were seeking was “truth, justice and accountability”.

Julie Hambleton, who lost her older sister in the bombings, has said the bereaved families want ‘truth, justice and accountability’ Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

Sir Peter, the former chief coroner for England and Wales, previously said: “The events of November 21, 1974 brought about the tragic deaths of 21 people.

“These were calamitous events and require full and fair investigation at least as far as the inquest procedures may permit, under law.”

He previously ruled that the hearings will be Article 2 inquests, examining whether the British state or its agents failed to adequately protect the victims.

As well as those who died on the night, 220 were wounded.