ITV’s Exposure to name prime suspects in Birmingham pub bombings

James Francis Gavin (left) and Michael Patrick Reilly (right) have been named by ITV as the prime suspects in the Birmingham pub bombings. Credit: ITV

ITV’s Exposure programme will tonight (Monday) reveal evidence pointing to two prime suspects in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings.

For more than four decades, mystery has surrounded the identities of the men who planted the bombs which killed 21 people and injured more than 200.

As recently as last week, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of coroner Sir Peter Thornton QC, deciding that an investigation into who was responsible would not form part of the inquest into the victims’ deaths.

But now an extensive ITV investigation names former British soldier James Francis Gavin and Michael Patrick Reilly as the prime suspects for planting the bombs. Reilly has never before been publicly named as a suspect. Gavin has been named previously in connection with the bombings but not as a bomb-planter.

The programme, The Hunt For The Birmingham Bombers, which airs at 10.45pm on ITV, features reporter John Ware confronting Reilly about the allegations outside a supermarket in Belfast.

The investigation has built on the work of former Government minister, Chris Mullin, who campaigned for the release of the wrongly convicted Birmingham Six.

21 people were killed in the 1974 bombings and more than 200 people were injured. Credit: ITV News

Mullin twice interviewed a man who admitted to the bombing on the condition that he would never reveal his name.

And he hasn’t… but through cross referencing information in Mullin’s book with police transcripts and birth records, speaking to witnesses and a former IRA man, journalist John Ware believes the evidence points to Reilly and Gavin.

Reilly, who was a teenager living in Birmingham at the time of the bombing, was interviewed by West Midlands Police in 1975.

He admitted bombing some local businesses in Birmingham and that he knew about the bombings in advance, but he did not admit to being involved. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiracy and causing explosions.

Michael Patrick Reilly was confronted by ITV in Belfast. He denies the allegations. Credit: ITV

After his release he moved to Northern Ireland. ITV tracked him down to Belfast where he was confronted with the allegations, which he denies.

Reilly’s solicitor told ITV: "Our client denies all the allegations ... and does not intend to respond any further to the unfounded allegations you have made."

Gavin died in 2002.

West Midlands Police said: "The pub bombing investigation, while not an active enquiry, has never closed and we will respond to any new significant information to bring those responsible to justice. It would be inappropriate to comment on any individual while the inquest proceedings are on-going."

  • ITV Exposure: The Hunt for the Birmingham Bombers will air at 10:45pm tonight.