Man arrested in connection with 1974 Birmingham pub bombings

A man has been arrested in connection with the murders of 21 people in the 1974 pub bombings in Birmingham.

The arrest comes just days before the 46th anniversary of the two deadly November 21 blasts which ripped apart the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs.

West Midlands Police said officers from the West Midlands counter terrorism unit, working with colleagues from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), arrested a 65-year-old man at his home in Belfast on Wednesday.

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Tavern in the Town, Pub. Bomb Damage, Fire Brigade Police Investigation, 23rd November 1974. Birmingham Pub Bombings 1974. Tavern in the Town, a central Birmingham pub, bombed 21st November 1974, one of several bombings. Altogether, 21 people were killed and 182 people were injured. (Photo by Birmingham Post and Mail Archive/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
File photo dated 22/11/74 of bomb damaged and shattered bus shelter in New street, Birmingham, after two pubs were bombed. The inquest into the Birmingham pub bombings opens at Birmingham Civil Justice Centre today.
File photo dated 22/11/74 of the aftermath of the fatal bomb attack on the Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham. West Midlands Police said a 65-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the murders of 21 people in the 1974 pub bombings in Birmingham.
File photo dated 22/11/74 of a mass of rubble, the remnants of the Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham, one of the two pubs in Birmingham where bombs exploded. The inquest into the Birmingham pub bombings opens at Birmingham Civil Justice Centre today.
File photo dated 22/11/74 of the wreckage left at The Tavern in the Town pub in Birmingham after a bomb exploded in an underground bar. The inquest into the Birmingham pub bombings opens at Birmingham Civil Justice Centre today.
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh visits the scene of the Birmingham Pub Bombings, 25th November 1974. (Photo by Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh visits the Mulberry Bush pub, one of the scene's of the Birmingham Pub Bombings, 25th November 1974. (Photo by Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
The Birmingham pub bombings took place on Thursday 21st November 1974 and were attributed to the Provisional IRA. The devices were placed in two central Birmingham pubs: the Mulberry Bush at the foot of the Rotunda, and the Tavern in the Town, a basement pub on New Street. The resulting explosions, at 20:25 and 20:27, 21 people were killed (ten at the Mulberry Bush and eleven at the Tavern in the Town) and 182 people were injured. A third device, outside a bank on Hagley Road, failed to detonate. Pictured: Scenes outside court where men accused of bombings were being arraigned, 25th November 1974. (Photo by Birmingham Post and Mail Archive/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Damage and debris at the Mulberry Bush, location of one of the two pub bombings on 21st November 1974, in Birmingham, West Midlands, England, 23rd November 1974. The bombings, which were attributed to the Provisional IRA, took place in two central Birmingham pubs, killing 21 and injuring 182 people. (Photo by David Cairns/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Damage and debris at the Mulberry Bush, location of one of the two pub bombings on 21st November 1974, in Birmingham, West Midlands, England, 23rd November 1974. The bombings, which were attributed to the Provisional IRA, took place in two central Birmingham pubs, killing 21 and injuring 182 people. (Photo by David Cairns/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A police officer stands before the damage caused by one of the two pub bombings which hit the city on 21st November 1974, in Birmingham, West Midlands, England, 23rd November 1974. The bombings, which were attributed to the Provisional IRA, took place in two central Birmingham pubs, killing 21 and injuring 182 people. (Photo by Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The Birmingham pub bombings took place on Thursday 21st November 1974 and were attributed to the Provisional IRA. The devices were placed in two central Birmingham pubs: the Mulberry Bush at the foot of the Rotunda, and the Tavern in the Town, a basement pub on New Street. The resulting explosions, at 20:25 and 20:27, 21 people were killed (ten at the Mulberry Bush and eleven at the Tavern in the Town) and 182 people were injured. A third device, outside a bank on Hagley Road, failed to detonate. Pictured: A fireman searches through the wreckage of the Mulberry Bush pub underneath the Rotunda in Birmingham City Centre, 22nd November 1974. (Photo by Arthur Sidey/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Tavern in the Town, Pub, 22nd November 1974. Police officers inspect bomb damage. Birmingham Pub Bombings 1974. The Tavern in the Town, a central Birmingham pub was bombed 21st November 1974, one of several bombings. Altogether, 21 people were killed and 182 people were injured. (Photo by Birmingham Post and Mail Archive/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
22nd November 1974: Firemen survey the damage outside the Birmingham pub, 'Tavern in the Town', after an IRA bomb blast. (Photo by Wesley/Keystone/Getty Images)
22nd November 1974: The wrecked interior of the Mulberry Bush public house, Birmingham, after the explosion of a bomb planted by the IRA. Another bomb exploded on the same night (21st November) at the Tavern in the Town, Birmingham. 19 people lost their lives in the two explosions and many were injured. (Photo by Wesley/Keystone/Getty Images)
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The man was arrested under the Terrorism Act and a search of his home is being carried out.

The force said he would be interviewed under caution at a police station in Northern Ireland.

It comes just a month after Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would consider holding a public inquiry into the bombings.

Ms Patel also wanted to visit Birmingham to meet justice campaigners, including Julie Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister Maxine died in the bombings.

Responding to news of the arrest Ms Hambleton called it "the most monumental event" in the criminal investigation into the bombings since the quashing of the convictions of the Birmingham Six in 1991.

When she was telephoned by a senior West Midlands Police officer with news of the arrest on Wednesday, she told of how she broke down in tears.

Birmingham pub bombings
Julie Hambleton (PA)

"I couldn't speak, I was just inconsolable and was just looking at the picture of Maxine," she said.

"It's welcome news. It's overwhelming news.

"It's tangible progress."

Ms Hambleton, who is part of campaign group Justice for the 21, said: "It's something we have been waiting a long time for.

"Having this development – whatever happens – does not in any way lessen our desire for a full public inquiry to be held.

"There are wider issues which need to be examined and so much that went wrong, like why six men were arrested for a crime they didn't commit."

Ms Hambleton added: "The fact is we have had to beg and campaign and give up our lives as we knew them to fight for justice.

"Justice that was never facilitated by the authorities whose job it was to do so.

"How was it that for so long, after 21 people were blown up and more than 200 other innocent souls were injured, nobody was looking for the perpetrators?"

Police search a property in south Belfast in connection with the bombings
Police search a property in south Belfast in connection with the bombings investigation (Niall Carson/PA)

James Craig, known as Jimmy, was among those fatally injured in the bombings, with the factory worker and former Birmingham City FC trialist dying of his wounds on December 9 1974.

His 73-year-old brother Bill Craig, an ex-West Midlands Police officer, said he welcomed the arrest, adding there were still "more questions than answers" surrounding the bomb attacks.

Paul Rowlands, whose father John Rowlands was killed in the Mulberry Bush, said: "It's a positive step.

"It is, however, just a step and it does not detract from the fact that we need a public inquiry."

John "Cliff" Jones, a postman at New Street station who had survived wounds serving in France and Belgium during the Second World War, died in the Mulberry Bush blast.

Reacting to the arrest, his 72-year-old son George Jones said: "Obviously it's something positive, and it's happened just with the anniversary (of the bombings) coming up.

"I hope this time West Midlands Police is more efficient than the original investigation team were."

In April last year, an inquest jury found a botched IRA warning call led to the deaths of 21 people unlawfully killed in the atrocity.

The two bombs planted in the two pubs also injured up to 220 other victims.

A flawed investigation by West Midlands Police led to the wrongful convictions of the Birmingham Six – one of the worst miscarriages of justice in British legal history.

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