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Birmingham pub bombings: Inquests into 1974 deaths to resume

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Twenty-one people died when two bombs were detonated in Birmingham in 1974

Inquests for the 21 victims of the Birmingham pub bombings are set to reopen later after a long legal fight by families.

Two bombs planted by the IRA on 21 November 1974 ripped through the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs, killing 21 and injuring 182.

The individual inquests are expected to last nine weeks and a jury will return verdicts on how all the victims died.

The hearings will begin with a “pen portrait” of each person killed.

Judge Sir Peter Thornton QC will preside over the legal proceedings.

An inquest was opened days after the bombings but adjourned because the case was subject to a criminal investigation.

The Birmingham Six were jailed for the murders and served 17 years behind bars before their convictions were quashed.

Despite the subsequent overturning of the verdicts, the inquest was never reopened.

Fresh inquests were ordered in 2016 but were delayed because victims’ families disagreed with the coroner, who ruled out naming those suspected of carrying out the bombings.

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Media captionSheila’s son Stephen Whalley died in the bombing – she wants to know who was responsible

But the Court of Appeal in September upheld the coroner’s decision.

Some of the family members are considering whether to boycott or walk out of upcoming inquests.

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The families of the victims have fought for years to have inquests reopened

Analysis

By Midlands correspondent Sima Kotecha

Today marks a significant moment in this long running story.

These attacks on Birmingham happened more than four decades ago – and still the families of those killed have many unanswered questions.

Some of them have fought with every ounce of their energy to have the inquests into the bombings reopened to try and establish some of the detail that has been missing.

Today, the coroner will begin that process of attempting to fill some of the gaps – but will it be enough?

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Image caption

Ten people were killed in the Mulberry Bush explosion

Already the scope of the inquest has been narrowed – and the crucial perpetrator issue will not be addressed so the families will not discover who was behind the killings.

So what will they learn over these five weeks – and will it add anything new to what they already know, even though it may not be in the public domain?

The answer to the latter will assess the effectiveness of the process in their eyes.

However, for the coroner and the courts, a much sought after inquest taking place in the first place is likely to be viewed as a triumph.

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