Man questioned over 1974 Birmingham pub bombings released

By Josh Payne, PA
·2-min read

A 65-year-old man held in connection with the murders of 21 people in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings has been released.

The arrest on Wednesday came 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.

Michael Patrick Reilly was arrested under the Terrorism Act at an address in Belfast by officers from West Midlands Police assisted by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), before being taken to the city’s Musgrave Street custody block.

Mulberry Bush
A mass of rubble was the remnants of the Mulberry Bush pub (PA)

West Midlands Police said he was interviewed under caution and released on Thursday, after a search of his home was carried out.

Detective Chief Superintendent Kenny Bell, head of Counter Terrorism Policing West Midlands CTU, said: “We are committed to finding those responsible for the terrible murders of 21 innocent victims almost 46 years ago.

“Let me assure families of the victims and the people of Birmingham that we’re working relentlessly to find the bombers and bring them to justice.”

Mr Reilly’s lawyer Padraig O’Muirigh said his client had been questioned by West Midlands officers “in relation to a number of historic matters” before being released unconditionally.

Mr O’Muirigh added: “My client denies any involvement in the matters for which he was questioned including any knowledge of – or role in – the ‘Birmingham Bombs’.”

He said: “It is a matter of grave concern that photographs of our client’s home address being searched by police have appeared in media reports.

“The publication of these photographs has implications for the safety of my client and his family.

“I will be raising this serious development with police and the Police Ombudsman.”

At an inquest into the bombings last year, a jury concluded a botched IRA warning call on the night led to 21 people being unlawfully killed.

The bungled West Midlands Police inquiry in the immediate aftermath of the bombings led to the wrongful convictions of the Birmingham Six, one of the worst miscarriages of justice in legal history.

They were freed in 1991 after their convictions were quashed.

During evidence given at last year’s inquest, an anonymous IRA volunteer named the men he said had been involved in the attacks.

The individual – identified at the hearing only as Witness O – said those who took part were Mick Murray, Seamus McLoughlin and James Francis Gavin, as well as a fourth man, Michael Hayes, who now lives in Dublin.

The arrest came a month after Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would consider holding a public inquiry into the bombings.

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

Ms Hambleton, who is part of the victims’ families’ campaign group Justice 4 The 21, had called the arrest “monumental”.