West Midlands Police’s chief constable has been ordered to produce any information surrounding a claim the force may have been tipped off in advance of the Birmingham pub bombings by an IRA “mole”.
A coroner made the order yesterday after hearing legal submissions on whether there was enough evidence to resume an inquest into the 21 deaths in 1974.
Louise Hunt, the senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, said she was adjourning proceedings because of an “evidential vacuum” around claims made by the victims’ families’ lawyers.
Earlier, Ashley Underwood QC representing three of families, had said: “There is reason to believe the gang of murderers had an informant in their ranks and that the police knew in advance.
“And there is reason to believe the police had sufficient time, between the telephone warnings and the first bomb going off, to evacuate - and that the emergency services could have arrived earlier - but that records about those things were falsified.”
He added: “But if it is (true), then the police had a mole in the gang which raises the question, did they know it was going to happen and did they lie to the (criminal) court to cover their knowledge of that, and cover their mole.”
The force’s barrister Jeremy Johnson QC told Ms Hunt that chief constable Dave Thompson had “no principled objection to the resumption” but questioned whether the coroner had any legal jurisdiction to do so.
However, he added West Midlands Police would comply with the coroner’s direction to supply any documents, statements and supporting evidence on a number of key factors raised by the families.
He also said the criminal investigation was still open.
On the night of November 21 1974, devastating blasts ripped through the city centre Tavern in the Town and the Mulberry Bush pubs, packed with pre-Christmas revellers.
The fatal bombings, which also left 182 people injured, are widely acknowledged to have been carried out by the IRA.
A subsequent police investigation led to the wrongful convictions of the Birmingham Six, who were released in 1991 after their convictions for murder were overturned by the Court of Appeal. One of their number, Paddy Hill, was at the coroner’s court to hear proceedings.
Ms Hunt said she needed more information before making any decision on a resumption of the original inquests.