Birmingham pub bombings: Officers 'were not told' about coded warnings

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Back row: Steven Whalley, Ann Hayes, Charles Gray, John Clifford Jones, James Caddick, Neil Marsh (silhouette), Eugene Reilly; Second row: James Craig, Thomas Chaytor, John Rowlands, Maxine Hambleton, Lynn Bennett, Marilyn Nash, Maureen Roberts; Third row: Michael Beasley, Pamela Palmer, Trevor Thrupp, Stanley Bodman, Paul Davies, Desmond Reilly, Jane Davis
Image caption,
Twenty-one people died when two bombs were detonated in Birmingham in 1974

Police officers responding to the Birmingham pub bombings have told the inquests they did not know bomb warnings had been backed up by IRA code words.

The code given with telephoned bomb warnings distinguished them from hoaxes, during the early 1970s.

Ex-detective John Plimmer said it made no practical difference to individual officers' responses.

The Irish Republican Army is believed to have carried out the bombings, but no-one has admitted responsibility.

On the night the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs were bombed, the caller used the phrase "Double X", the inquests hearing heard.

Image caption,
Ten people died in the first blast at the Mulberry Bush, below the Rotunda building

Frontline officers sent to both scenes told the jury they were never told the initial bomb warnings, called in at 8.11pm, had been accompanied with the code.

Mr Plimmer, now in his seventies, said: "It was very rare it was [passed down].

"We usually found out that it was a coded warning after the event."

He added he did not think it made a difference, except for raising "adrenaline" levels.

Although, he accepted there "could have been a more rigid system" of passing on the fact of coded warnings, when asked by Lesley Thomas QC, representing nine of the bereaved families.

Ex-constable Rod Hazlewood, who recovered six dead bodies from the Mulberry Bush, said he "would have expected" to have been told about the coded warnings from his station controller.

He added if he had been told about the coded warnings it "would have directed you more appropriately".

The jury also heard, his sub-division was at "half-strength" that evening.

Trouble had been expected prior to the bombs by the authorities, who directed more than 1,600 police officers to secure the funeral cortege of IRA bomber James McDade to Birmingham Airport.

The inquests continue.

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