New inquests into Birmingham pub bombings will be 'independent and thorough'

The Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Met Police have been asked for any information that they had advanced notice of the pub bombings.

This was revealed at a pre-inquest review, attended by some of the victim's families, which took place at Birmingham's Civil Justice Centre.

The hearing was told that three agencies including HM Prison Service had been written to, in order to ask about victims' families claims that the state may have "covered-up" its involvement in the double bombings.

On the night of November 21 1974, two bombs ripped through the Tavern in the Town and Mulberry Bush pubs, killing 21 and injuring 182.

Some of the families heading into the hearing in Birmingham. Credit: ITV News Central

Coroner Peter Thornton QC said he wanted the fresh hearings into the deaths of the 21 people killed to start in late September.

Last year, the senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull heard that West Midlands Police had said it had no information on any cover-up claims.

During the packed hearing today, it emerged that that same question had now been put to the prisons and police services.

Mr Thornton told the room that "further investigation work" would also continue by the independent team up until the inquests open later this year.

He also said that the hearing would be an Article 2 inquest, seeking to establish answers about how the victims met their deaths but also the surrounding circumstances that led up to them.

Julie Hambleton, who lost her 18-year-old sister Maxine Hambleton, said this was "fantastic news" for the families:

More information about the possible shape of the forthcoming inquests, which will be heard in front of a jury, was also discussed.

The hearings will include written summaries of the victims which will be readout to the inquest jury.

Also included in evidence will be what the coroner called the "distressing"post-mortem examination reports.

As well as a website being set up to keep the public up-to-date on the hearings' progress.

Another pre-inquest review hearing will explore the scope of the new inquest, and decide on which experts and witnesses should be called.

This will take place in Birmingham on Wednesday 31 May.

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