Men al­leged to have planted 1974 de­vices named pub­licly for first time

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Andy Richards News Edi­tor

TWO new prime sus­pects have been named as the men who al­legedly planted the IRA bombs that killed 21 peo­ple in two Birm­ing­ham pubs in 1974.

An ITV doc­u­men­tary this week iden­ti­fied Michael Pa­trick Reilly and James Fran­cis Gavin as part of the cell al­legedly re­spon­si­ble for the atroc­ity that also in­jured 182 peo­ple.

Reilly, who is still alive, has never been pub­licly named as a sus­pect be­fore, while Gavin has been con­nected but not as one of those sus­pected of plant­ing the de­vices.

Reilly, who lives in Belfast, de­nied any in­volve­ment.

Ev­i­dence un­cov­ered in the ITV probe im­pli­cated both as hav­ing key roles in the 1974 atroc­ity, when two bombs ex­ploded in crowded pubs in the city cen­tre.

The blasts at the Mul­berry Bush and the Tav­ern In the Town on the evening of Novem­ber 21, 1974, were the dead­li­est on the main­land dur­ing the Trou­bles.

A man with an Ir­ish ac­cent tele­phoned the Birm­ing­ham Post with a warn­ing at 8.11pm but it was too late. At 8.18pm a bomb in a duf­fel bag ex­ploded in the Mul­berry Bush un­der the Ro­tunda, killing ten peo­ple. Two min­utes later an­other blast at the Tav­ern In The Town, in New Street, killed 11 peo­ple.

Six men were orig­i­nally con­victed – known as the Birm­ing­ham Six – but had their con­vic­tions quashed in 1991 af­ter 16 years in prison.

But in this week’s ITV Ex­po­sure pro­gramme, court doc­u­ments re­vealed Reilly – a mem­ber of the Birm­ing­ham IRA cell – was ques­tioned about the pub at­tacks in the 1970s.

How­ever, Reilly was in­stead charged in con­nec­tion with six un­re­lated bomb­ings and con­spir­acy.

He pleaded guilty to four of the seven charges and got ten years.

The ITV team looked at ma­te­rial in the Na­tional Archives and in­ter­viewed of­fi­cers from the orig­i­nal has in­quiry. Bill Squires, a for­mer de­tec­tive in­spec­tor for West Mid­lands Po­lice anti-ter­ror squad, orig­i­nally ar­rested Reilly in 1975 as a sus­pected IRA mem­ber.

“I thought he’d done some­thing se­ri­ous,” Squires told the pro­gramme.

“And that he was happy to make ad­mis­sions and ac­cept a sen­tence be­cause there was more se­ri­ous mat­ters in the locker.”

Con­fronted re­cently in Belfast by ITV’s John Ware, Reilly de­nied plant­ing the bombs, or know­ing the bomb­ings were go­ing to take place.

He did not com­ment on the al­le­ga­tion that he was the un­named man who pre­vi­ously ad­mit­ted in­volve­ment to for­mer MP Chris Mullen who cam­paigned for the re­lease of the Birm­ing­ham Six.

“I’ve got noth­ing to say,” he told Ware. “You can ask what you want, but I’m not go­ing to an­swer. You’re wast­ing your time.”

James Gavin, who died in 2002, mur­dered a sus­pected IRA in­for­mant in 1977 and was sen­tenced to life.

Gavin, then 34, was a for­mer Bri­tish soldier liv­ing in Bordes­ley Green and had pre­vi­ously been re­ported to have taken de­liv­ery of the bombs.

Gavin, un­der the alias James Kelly, ac­tu­ally stood trial along­side the Birm­ing­ham Six and was con­victed of han­dling ex­plo­sives and handed a one-year sen­tence, flee­ing to Ire­land upon his re­lease.

The lat­est rev­e­la­tions come as the Court of Ap­peal ruled a new in­quest into the at­tacks will not con­sider the iden­tity of the bombers.

But rel­a­tives are still des­per­ate for an­swers.

Spokes­woman for cam­paign group Jus­tice4the21 Julie Ham­ble­ton, whose sis­ter Maxine was killed, aged 18, in the blast at the Tav­ern, said: “We could have walked past him [Reilly] when we were in Belfast. When peo­ple ask you how’d you feel if you met them or saw them, you can never an­swer that ques­tion.

“What do I want? Me, per­son­ally, I want the b*****ds who killed my sis­ter and the other 20 to be brought to jus­tice.”

She added: “If these men are go­ing to be named on tele­vi­sion it is ab­surd they can­not be named in the in­quests. It makes a mock­ery of our jus­tice sys­tem.

“We don’t know if these men are re­spon­si­ble but we would like that to be ex­am­ined and the in­quest should be do­ing that.”

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

In July last year self-con­fessed exIRA bomber Michael Christo­pher Hayes also claimed he was in­volved with the group re­spon­si­ble for the Birm­ing­ham pub bomb­ings.

Dur­ing the in­ter­view, Hayes, now 70 and liv­ing in Dublin, said he took “col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity” and apol­o­gised, of­fered “heart­felt sym­pa­thies” to rel­a­tives of the vic­tims of the atroc­ity that claimed 21 lives.

He de­nied plant­ing the de­vices him­self but re­fused to iden­tify those who had. He said he was speak­ing out to give “the point of view of a par­tic­i­pant”.

He said the bombs had not been in­tended to kill. He added that when he be­came aware of the death toll from the two blasts, he per­son­ally de­fused a third bomb left on Ha­gley Road in Edg­bas­ton.

An­other man, Mick Mur­ray, has been named pre­vi­ously by the Post & Mail as the mas­ter­mind be­hind the bombs plot.

He also shared the dock with the Birm­ing­ham Six in the pub bomb­ings trial on sep­a­rate charges of con­spir­acy to cause ex­plo­sions but stayed silent through­out. Mur­ray, who died in 1999, was sen­tenced to nine years in jail.

He was said to have se­lected the tar­gets and had later placed the warn­ing call to the Birm­ing­ham Post, which was de­layed by a half-hour due to the fact that the pre-se­lected tele­phone had been van­dalised and an­other needed to be lo­cated, lead­ing to the fate­ful de­lay in the warn­ing calls.

> Michael Pa­trick Reilly, left, who was con­fronted by John Ware of the ITV doc­u­men­tary this week

> Mick Mur­ray who was pre­vi­ously named

> Michael Hayes ad­mit­ted in­volve­ment

> Michael Reilly, de­nies in­volve­ment

> James Gavin, who died in 2002

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