1974 Birmingham pub bombings: Belfast man released after arrest

Michael Reilly, 65, was on Wednesday arrested under the Terrorism Act by West Midlands Police officers, assisted by Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI)

Michael Reilly, 65, was on Wednesday arrested under the Terrorism Act by West Midlands Police officers, assisted by Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) 

A Belfast man arrested over the murders of 21 people in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings has been released after police trawled his home in a dawn raid.

Michael Reilly, 65, was on Wednesday arrested under the Terrorism Act by West Midlands Police officers, assisted by Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

He was taken to Musgrave Street PSNI custody block in the city and interviewed under caution while his end-terrace house was searched. 

West Midlands Police announced he had been released yesterday. 

It 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.

Families of the victims hailed the arrest as the most ‘monumental’ landmark in the case since the release of the Birmingham Six.

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.’ 

The arrest came days before the 46th anniversary of the IRA attacks, which killed 21 and injured 220 when devices exploded within minutes of each other in two city centre pubs

The arrest came days before the 46th anniversary of the IRA attacks, which killed 21 and injured 220 when devices exploded within minutes of each other in two city centre pubs

Counter-terror police were searching this house after the arrest on Wednesday in Belfast

Counter-terror police were searching this house after the arrest on Wednesday in Belfast

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.

They were freed in 1991 after their convictions were quashed, correcting one of the worst miscarriages of justice in legal history.

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. Hayes has vehemently denied any involvement in the atrocity.

A third bomb outside a bank on the Hagley Road failed to explode. The victims who died were all aged between 17 and 51

A third bomb outside a bank on the Hagley Road failed to explode. The victims who died were all aged between 17 and 51

The Birmingham Six outside the Old Bailey in London, after their convictions were quashed. Left-right: John Walker, Paddy Hill. Hugh Callaghan, Chris Mullen MP, Richard McIlkenny, Gerry Hunter and William Power

The Birmingham Six outside the Old Bailey in London, after their convictions were quashed. Left-right: John Walker, Paddy Hill. Hugh Callaghan, Chris Mullen MP, Richard McIlkenny, Gerry Hunter and William Power

Ten minutes later a second bomb went off in the Tavern in the Town pub, killing 11 more and injuring 182

Ten minutes later a second bomb went off in the Tavern in the Town pub, killing 11 more and injuring 182

In a statement issued at the time, Mr Reilly’s lawyer Padraig O Muirigh strongly denied allegations he was involved as being ‘without any foundation’.

Police did not name Mr Reilly as the suspect but officers were seen searching his Belfast home.

He is believed to have been arrested on suspicion of being the man referred to as the ‘young planter’ in a book about the November 21, 1974 murders.

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’.  

Who were the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings?  

The victims in the Mulberry Bush pub, in the base of the Rotunda, were:

Trevor Thrupp, 47, and a rail guard was a married father of three, who loved taking his son and daughters on holidays to Sandy Bay in Devon and Great Yarmouth.

He had an ‘infectious’ laugh, loved Laurel and Hardy, The Goons and especially Spike Milligan.

‘His love for his family is still with us today and always will be,’ his son Paul Thrupp said.

John Rowlands, 46, was a qualified electrician and worked as a foreman at Land Rover in Tyseley, Birmingham.

A married father of two sons, he served with the Fleet Air Arm in the Second World War, and the Mulberry Bush was his favourite pub.

His youngest son Paul Rowlands remembered him as ‘a bit of a card, a joker’ and a ‘good dad’, while his oldest child Stephen said they lost ‘a great friend’ when he died.

Trevor Thrupp

John Rowlands

Trevor Thrupp (left) and John Rowlands (right)

William Michael ‘Mick’ Beasley, 30, was a stock controller at a motor company, whose father had died four months before the bombings.

He led a quiet but full and active life, collected coins, and had a keen interest in film and cinema.

Mick owned an 8mm camera, and was a regular in the projector room of the Odeon in New Street.

The night of the bombing, the wife of the Mulberry Bush landlord, Mary Jones, recalled he had found a lucky Cornish pixie charm on the night bus into town, and gave it to her.

She survived the bombing, and told how she had kept it ever since.

John Clifford ‘Cliff’ Jones, 51, was a railway station postal worker, and a father-of-four.

As a soldier with the Durham Light Infantry in the Second World War, he survived being machine-gunned in combat in 1945, and spent weeks convalescing in a Carlisle hospital.

He was a keen gardener and the Cliff Jones Memorial Trophy is still awarded to Birmingham’s best kept allotment, his son George Jones said.

Mr Jones said his father was ‘ cruelly robbed’ of the chance to live and see his family grow.

Michael Beasley

John Clifford Jones

Michael Beasley (left) and John Clifford Jones (right)

James Caddick, 56, was a porter at nearby Birmingham markets, a divorcee, and father-of-two.

A Mulberry Bush regular, Mr Caddick was stood with his friends, Mr Bodman, Mr Thrupp, Mr Rowlands, Mr Beasley, and Mr Jones in their usual spot at the end of the bar – just feet from where the bomb was planted.

– Father-of-three Stan Bodman, 47, an electrician, was ‘larger than life’ and ‘very popular’, his son Paul Bodman said.

An ex-RAF wartime serviceman, Stan told his son there was nothing to fear from IRA bombs, as they were not ‘military or political’ targets.

‘We certainly got that wrong,’ he said.

‘The carnage of that night will never be forgotten and as a family we hope the inquest will finally bring some answers to what really happened on that devastating night,’ added Mr Bodman.

James Caddick

Stan Bodman

James Caddick (left) and Stan Bodman (right)

Charles Gray, 44, was a mechanic at British Leyland in Longbridge, and had never been in the Mulberry Bush before the night the bomb went off.

He never missed a day’s work, and those who knew him said he had ‘an easy charm and a slight air of mystery’.

His family said he was a ‘lovely, quiet man’ and a ‘gentleman, mild-mannered and agreeable’, always known for being well-dressed.

Pamela Palmer, 19, was an office worker, who used to take her three-year-old niece shopping.

Her older sister Pauline Curzon said: ‘She was a lovely sister. She helped me in numerous ways.

‘Her companionship and kindness is a memory I treasure.’

She was there with her boyfriend, Derek Blake, who was in intensive care for days afterwards and lost a leg in the blast.

Charles Gray

Pamela Palmer

 Charles Gray (left) and Pamela Palmer (right)

Walking past and caught in the blast, outside, were Paul Davies, 17, and Bruce Lee fan, Neil ‘Tommy’ Marsh who, at 16 years old, was the youngest victim.

Mr Marsh’s cousin, Danielle Fairweather-Tipping, said Tommy and Paul had a ‘very strong’ bond, and enjoyed the ‘carefree life’ of teenagers.

She said: ‘His death has been a devastation to our family and words really can never explain this.’

Victim Paul Davies

Victim Paul Davies

Mr Davies supported Aston Villa, was ‘a massive Bruce Lee fan’ and had already earned his karate black belt before his 17th birthday, son Paul Bridgewater said.

It was the son he never got to meet, as he died three months before Paul was born, but ‘I feel his spirit still lives on it me’. 

Thomas ‘Tom’ Chaytor, 28, born in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, was a retail assistant at Willoughby Tailoring and part-time barman.

Adopted as a child, he was a divorcee and father-of-two, who three weeks before the bombs had started a job on the bar at the Tavern to earn extra money, his then fiance Susan Hands said.

He died of his injuries on November 27, a week after the blast.

Maxine Hambleton, 18, was a shop assistant at Miss Selfridge in Lewis’s department store, in the city centre.

She was a ‘beautiful soul’, her sister Julie Hambleton said, and died not knowing she had been the first in her family to earn a place reading law at university.

Maxine Hambleton was one of 11 people killed in the Tavern in the Town pub

Maxine Hambleton was one of 11 people killed in the Tavern in the Town pub

Maxine Hambleton was one of 11 people killed in the Tavern in the Town pub

Jane Davis, 17, who had her eyes set on being a nuclear physicist, was with her co-worker and close friend Miss Hambleton in the Tavern in the Town when she was killed.

She and Miss Hambleton had gone on a coming-of-age grape-picking holiday to the vineyards of France earlier that year, and she sent a postcard home describing how ‘my back is bloody killing me’.

Her family remembered their ‘loyal’ and ‘much-loved’ daughter, sister and friend, who had the chance of being a mother and a wife ‘taken from her’.

Anne Hayes, 19, was another retail assistant working at Miss Selfridge, who was in the Tavern that night.

She lived with her parents, and had been an apprentice hairdresser, before taking up retail.

Marilyn Nash, 22, was a supervisor at Miss Selfridge, and was out with her friend, Miss Hayes when she died.

Jane Davies

Marilyn Paula Nash

Jane Davies (left) and Marilyn Paula Nash (right)

Eugene Reilly, 23, was a Deep Purple and Black Sabbath fan and his younger sister Mary recalled seeing him play air guitar to his LPs in the lounge of the family home at weekends.

Shy, but ‘very sociable’, he a was a keen roller skater, and went to the rink several times a week.

He was out with his married younger brother, that night, in the Tavern.

Desmond Reilly, 21, had invited his brother into the city, to celebrate news his wife Elaine was pregnant – though he would not live to see his son’s birth.

Their family said: ‘Eugene never had the opportunity to get married and have children, and Desmond never got to meet his son – part of us died with them on the day they died.’

Eugene Thomas Reilly

Desmond Reilly

Eugene Thomas Reilly (left) and Desmond Reilly (right)

Stephen Whalley, 21, was a quantity surveyor in town on a date arranged through the New Musical Express (NME’s) lonely hearts club page.

In a statement read to the inquest, his elderly mother said: ‘While I would love the world to know about my son Stephen, and the lovely young man he was, it is just too difficult and painful for me to recall any memories I have because it is too traumatic to remember.

‘Stephen was our only child, who had his whole life ahead of him.’

Mr Whalley’s date was Lynn Bennett, 18, a punch-card operator, and the two died together in the Tavern in the Town.

She was ‘very petite and looked great in miniskirts and platforms’, her sister Claire Luckman said.

A passionate Birmingham City Football Club, her grieving father never set foot in the ground again after her death.

Stephen Whalley (pictured in childhood) was 21 when he died

Lynn Bennett

Stephen Whalley (pictured, left, in childhood) was 21 when he died. Right: Lynn Bennett

Maureen Roberts, 20, was a wages clerk at Dowding and Mills, and was due to be engaged to her boyfriend, Fred Bromley.

An only child, with a ‘happy-go-lucky’ side, she also had a caring nature, buying Christmas presents for neighbours.

Mr Bromley said she had striking auburn hair, ‘the colour of gold, when the sun shone on it’.

‘Everyone would remark on it wherever she went,’ he added.

James ‘Jimmy’ Craig, 34, was an automotive plant worker and keen amateur footballer who once had a trial with Birmingham City Football Club.

He was the last victim of the bombings, dying on December 9, 1974, of injuries he sustained in the Tavern.

Jimmy Craig, who could neither read nor write, was only in the pub that night to meet a girl who had written to him, making the arrangement.

His brother, Bill Craig, said he would never have been at the Tavern, had the letter remained unread but his brother had asked their mother to read it for him. 

THE MEN SUSPECTED OF CARRYING OUT THE BOMBINGS 

Mick Murray

In 1974 Mick Murray (pictured) was said to be second-in-command of the Birmingham IRA unit – and described as the mastermind behind the 1974 bombings.

After the attacks he was questioned alongside the Birmingham Six but was never charged with murder. Eventually he was convicted of possessing explosives and later sentenced to 12 years for separate terrorist offences.

Throughout his trial he refused to say a single word because he refused to acknowledge the court.

Murray was said to have delivered the devices to the home of associate James Gavin, a former British soldier, in Birmingham.

On his release, he was welcomed back into the IRA and remained a member until his death in 1999. He never expressed any remorse for the bombings. 

James Gavin

James Francis Gavin, also known as Jimmy Kelly, has been accused of putting together the explosives for the bombs.

He also stood trial alongside the Birmingham Six and was cleared on the conspiracy charge – the only not guilty verdict returned in the trial – but was found guilty of possessing explosives.

He was given one year in jail, but because of time on remand he walked free. 

He died in 2002, a free man.

Seamus McLoughlin

Seamus McLoughlin is alleged to have been the IRA quartermaster in Birmingham. ‘Belfast Jimmy’, as he was known, was accused of being the planner.

But he had an alibi because he flew to Dublin on the day of the bombings.

When he died in Ireland in 2014 masked men fired shot over his coffin, which was covered in the Irish flag outside a relative’s home in the Ardoyne district of North Belfast. 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk