CAIN Web Service

'The Birmingham Framework' by Fr. Denis Faul and Fr. Raymond Murray (1976)



[CAIN_Home]
[Key_Events] Key_Issues] [Conflict_Background]

Text: Fr. Denis Faul and Fr. Raymond Murray ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna

The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the members of the CAIN Project. The CAIN Project would welcome other material which meets our guidelines for contributions.

book cover The Birmingham Framework
Six Innocent Men Framed for the Birmingham Bombings

by Fr. Denis Faul and Fr. Raymond Murray (1976)
Paperback 82pp Out of Print

Originally published in Ireland 1976 by the authors

These extracts are copyright Fr. Denis Faul and Fr. Raymond Murray. You may not edit, adapt, or redistribute changed versions of this for other than your personal use without the express written permission of the author. Redistribution for commercial purposes is not permitted.


The
Birmingham
Framework

by FR. DENIS FAUL
     FR. RAYMOND MURRAY

Although we’ve done nothing
The police are to blame
They’ve slandered our families
They’ve brought on us shame.

Our wives are all weeping
Our homes are in ruin
Our mothers are crying
Our sisters the same.

They’ve spat on our children
What a crying shame
The things we’ve put up with
The torture, the pain

And if they convict us
And our prayers were in vain
I’ll still pray and forgive them
In God’s Holy Name.

WILLIAM POWER


Contents

SIX INNOCENT MEN

STATEMENTS OF THE ACCUSED

 

William Power

 

Robert Gerard Hunter

 

Patrick Joseph Hill

 

Noel Richard McIlkenny

 

John Francis Walker

 

Hugh Daniel Callaghan

THE "CONFESSIONS"

 

William Power

 

John Francis Walker

 

Noel Richard McIlkenny

 

Hugh Daniel Callaghan

STATEMENTS OF THE WIVES AND JAMES WALKER

 

Nora Power

 

Sandra Hunter

 

Patricia Hill

 

Kathleen McIlkenny

 

Teresa Walker

 

James Walker

 

Ellen Callaghan

LETTERS OF WILLIAM POWER

TRIAL OF THE WINSON GREEN WARDERS

BRIAN GIBSON AND THE BIRMINGHAM BOMBS

APPENDIX

 

Warders beat remanded men

 

Accused Irishmen’s pictures published

 

The bombers who got away?

 

Call for probe into beatings

 

Abuse of prisoners

 

Getting confessions

 

Seeking Justice in Gaol

 

Birmingham’s other victims

 

Irishmen in British Jails

 

Winson Green

 

Who beat up the bombers?

 

The deafening wall of silence

 

Who dunnit?

 

Winson Green Prison beatings

 

Warders’ trial


SIX INNOCENT MEN

On Thursday 21 November 1974, 21 Innocent people were killed by bombs In two pubs near the centre of Birmingham city. Many others received injury of extreme gravity. In all 182 were injured. The number of fatal casualties exceeded any previous bombing except the explosions in Dublin on May 17 by Ulster Protestant extremists which killed 25 people. The bombings were followed by protest demonstrations and outbursts of anti-Irish violence in Birmingham, which has an Irish community of about 100,000. The Provisional IRA Issued a statement In Dublin on 23 November declaring that "It has never been and Is not the policy of the IRA to bomb non-military targets without giving adequate warnings to ensure the safety of civilians", and that a "detailed investigation" was in progress to determine the extent, If any, of IRA involvement in the bombings"; Daithi ÓConaill said in an interview with the Sunday Press published 1 December that the investigation had established that none of the six men charged with the bombings was a member of the Republican movement, but not whether any unit of the IRA had been involved, If It were found that there had been "a violation of operational policy", the leadership would enact "the standard procedure of courts of Inquiry and courts martial". No further report from the Provisional IRA has appeared and they have never taken responsibility.

We challenge the Provisional IRA on the publication of this book to reveal the results of their detailed investigations.

Any human being who studies the outrage of the Birmingham pub bombings must experience compassion and sorrow for the deceased and their relatives and for the injured and their families. This atrocity was one of the terrible horrors of the troubles stemming from Northern Ireland and those who caused It merit the most severe condemnation.

Terrible incidents often result in serious consequences to other innocent people in the vicinity; a chance of history, a coincidence of facts can result in other Innocent people having their lives and those of their families destroyed in the vortex of the whirlpool. We think this happened as a result of the Birmingham bombings. We believe that the six Irishmen condemned to life Imprisonment for the bombings are innocent. Their lives and the lives of their families can be added to the long list of Innocent victims of those diabolic explosions. Their families have asked us to take up their cases.

Whether the conviction of these six innocent men was the result of error, six men in the wrong place at the wrong time, hysteria with a racial bias, or political expediency designed to get quick victims to still racial tension, or some kind of craft unscrupulous enough to say, "any six Irish will do", are questions that we will present to the public in Ireland, Britain and the U.S.A. We are sending this study to human rights organisations, the legal faculties of Universities, to the media and other people who value justice and fair play and are prepared to speak up for the underdog.

We believe these men to be Innocent. We dislike the trial they received. We feel It was not fair. We are hoping that studies by legal and forensic experts will hear this non legal opinion of ours out. We resent the fact that the men were refused leave to appeal. We feel that the case will have to be reopened. At present we feel they are hostages for the good behaviour of other Irish in England.

An idea of the extent of the injustice against these men, mainly middle aged and family men, can be gleaned from the fact that the warders who beat them up in Winson Green Prison were not convicted by a British Jury. It is important to stress that the men’s story distinguished two atrocious beatings received from officers of the Crown, one by the British Police and another in the Prison, to which they were committed by the Court. Neither beating reflects credit on the administration of law and order In England.

It has been suggested to us that it is vain to try to prove the innocence of these six men of humble origin because the admission that a serious miscarriage of justice took place’ or that a deliberately contrived plot to pervert justice was concocted, would so seriously indict the British Police and the British Judiciary that the British Government could not entertain the possibility, but must frustrate all efforts to clear these innocent men and restore them to their families.

We reject this argument, we believe that there are many fairminded men in Britain, in the media and the professions, who will consider this grave matter seriously. We believe that the truth has a power of its own. It emerges almost by Its own power.

Anglo-Irish history, for example, records a line of judicial decisions against Irish men on political charges, decisions that were travesties of justice or serious mistakes and are now recognised by the British themselves as examples of judicial prejudice or hysteria.

THE FRAMEWORK

On 14 November 1974, a Belfast man, James McDade, was killed when the bomb he was planting at Coventry telephone exchange exploded prematurely.

Raymond Mc Laughlin was arrested near the scene of the explosion. He was charged with unlawfully killing Mc Dade and causing an explosion.

There was considerable delay making the arrangements for Mc Dade’s funeral. The IRA campaign of bombing in Britain had brought death, suffering, shock, terror. It had aroused ill-feeling towards the Irish community. Considerable tension had been aroused in. Britain following the military-style funeral given to Michael Gaughan who died of hunger-strike on 3 June 1974. Public opinion in Birmingham was much opposed to a similar style funeral for James McDade. Elaborate police precautions had been taken to prevent it. Archbishop Dwyer of Birmingham refused a public Requiem Mass. The British Home Secretary said he would not allow a parade of any kind to accompany the transfer of the remains to Ireland. Tension had been aroused by the bomb itself and then by the funeral delays.

On 21 November Aer Lingus flew McDade’s body to Dublin. On the same day at 8.25p.m. there was an explosion at the Mulberry Bush public house situated at the base of the great circular Rotunda office block close to New Street railway station, Birmingham. Ten people died as a result of that explosion. Two minutes later there was another explosion close by in the Tavern in the Town public house in New Street. Eleven people died in that explosion.

On the 21st night McLaughlin, and other Irish prisoners, Gerry Young and Thomas Madigan, were beaten by prison warders in Winson Green Prison. On that same night five Irishmen had met in the New Street station. All were on their way to attend McDade’s funeral in Belfast. All had known Mc Dade. The five men were Robert Gerard Hunter, Patrick Joseph Hill, Noel Richard McIlkenny, William Power, John Francis Walker. They were joined at New Street station by Hugh Daniel Callaghan who saw them off but he did not intend going to Belfast. All these six men except Walker, . native of Derry, were native of Belfast. Gerard Hunter was a friend of McDade. He was at school with him, shared the same trade, house-painting, and had worked with him for a period in Birmingham. Patrick Hill too had been at school with him and had some contact with him in Birmingham. William Power also went to the same school but only vaguely knew him then. He met both

Hunter and Mc Dade in Birmingham. used to drink with them, sometimes worked for the same painting firms, lived close to them in Aston. Their wives were friends. Power says he hadn’t seen McDade since

January 1974. Richard Mc likenny knew McDade slightly, but wouldn’t regard him as a friend. His wife was distantly related to him by marriage. He knew McDade’s parents in Belfast as ho came from that area. McDade was a much younger person. Hugh Callaghan knew McDade’s parents in Belfast 28 years ago, didn’t recall ever meeting him in Ireland, but met him fairly frequently at Lozeil’s Working Men’s Club and the local pubs. Mc Dade was a popular singer. John Walker knew McDade for two years. The primary object of these men’s visits to Belfast was to attend the funeral. But for most of them it was also an opportunity to visit their families. Gerard Hunter intended bringing his mother back with him again to Birmingham to stay a while. His father had recently died, in a broad sense most of the six men were Republicans in outlook and some of them had helped to raise funds for internees’ dependants.

The arrangements these men made to go to Belfast were quite haphazard and, as some of them were out of work, they were short of money. There is detailed evidence of how they made up the money. Power was reluctant to go and only finally went at his wife's persuasion. He had been staying in the house a lot. He hadn’t been working and was depressed. His wife thought it would do him good to have a change. Hill just made it and no more. Hugh Callaghan didn’t go to Belfast. The arrangement was to take the five to seven train for the boat. But that wasn’t crucial. The five to eight would get them there in time.

As It turned out Power arrived at the station about 6.30p.m. At five to seven the train was about to leave and as the others had not turned up he was about to go home when he saw Walker, Hunter, McIlkenny, and Callaghan arriving. They had not time to board the train. They bought their tickets. Three got returns - Walker, McIlkenny, Power. Walker got a single for Hunter. They had a drink in the Taurus bar in the station while they waited for the train. Hill arrived about 7.45 p.m. as they were about to go to the platform. Hill got a single ticket. Callaghan saw them off. They played a game of cards on the train. They changed at Crews and arrived at Heysham. As they passed through the ticket barrier they were directed to a table where Special Branch were looking through people’s luggage.

At this stage Power alleges that the Special Branch there did not know about the Birmingham bombs. it was routine searching. There were elaborate measures because of Mc Dade’s funeral arrangements and the tension. Even at New Street station Power and McIlkenny had noticed being watched. Power is even able to identify the Special Branch man who saw them at New Street waiting for the train. This man, Power thinks. knows they are innocent. There is a pointer too that this Special Branch man was the fourth man to get the consecutive return ticket, and therefore followed them on the train. Much was made at the trial that the men did not say they were going to the funeral of McDade when they were questioned at Heysham. A mockery was made of their excuses - going to visit their mothers and a sick aunt, Walker going to visit McIlkenny’s mother. But could it not be argued that even innocent men would not reveal that they were going to McDade’s funeral? To do so would have brought even delay, further searching, harassment, and perhaps detention. Their explanation is simple and acceptable they did not want to bring trouble on themselves. The statement of Power and his letter (printed below) indicate that the Special Branch searching them at Heysham did not at that stage know about the bombs. They let Hill on to the boat, even without an identification. He was there twenty minutes to half an hour. The others were waiting and chatting to a Special Branch officer when another Special Branch man came through the barrier and told everyone that bombs had gone off in Birmingham killing and injuring people. Hill was taken of f. They were asked to go for forensic tests. They agreed.

At 1.a.m. at police headquarters in Lloyd House two of the West Midlands senior police officers met the press, Colin Gaskell, the deputy chief constable, and Maurice Buck, Assistant Chief Constable crime. Buck announced that he was certain the police had "got the men primarily responsible." If true this was quick police work! But such speed might point to the theory that the police "had to get somebody," considering the nervous tense city Birmingham was and the fear of reprisals. These particular Irishmen were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The five men detained at Heysham were brought to Morecambe police station, a few miles north along the seafront from Heysham; they were in the custody of the Lancashire police. Dot. Supt. Ibison of Lancashire Police was in charge of the case. At 3.a.m. Frank Skuse, a Home Office civil servant. a scientific officer in the North West Forensic Laboratories arrived. So did the Birmingham police (West Midlands). The Lancashire police could not hand the prisoners over to the Birmingham police until routine questioning and forensic had been carried out. Obviously they could be contaminated by Birmingham police who may have visited the scene of the explosion etc.

According to police evidence in the trial the prisoners were not handed over to the Birmingham police for interviewing until 9.30 on the morning of Friday 22 November. Before that only minimal interviewing had taken place, routine questioning.

Power alleges that he was interviewed by Birmingham police between 7.a.m. and 9.a.m. Friday morning. He describes the beating, punching, kicking, vocal abuse he received. He was struck on the back of the hand with a pair of handcuffs. He was told that even if he and the others hadn’t done it, the police were going to fix it. They threatened to throw him from the car on the way back to Birmingham. They told him a mob was outside his home ready to lynch his wife and children, if he admitted to the bombing, they would call them away. They punched him on the side of the heed so that marks wouldn’t show on his face. They dragged him by the hair of the head. They brought him into the CID waiting room where he was beaten again. There followed long severe beatings of punching and kicking, shouts of "stretch his balls", threats to throw him out of the window. They kicked him until he fouled his trousers and left him long hours like that without changing his clothes. Finally when he could take no more a written paper was handed to him and he signed it. He wasn’t clear what he was doing. The statement was composed by the police. He was made sign it under duress.

The other prisoners also allege that they were ill-treated. They are detailed in their statements below. John Walker, Richard McIlkenny, and Hugh Callaghan also signed police statements. Hugh Callaghan was picked up at his home on Friday night, the night after the explosions. He was taken to the Police Station at Aston. There he was slapped a few times round the face. He was then moved to Sutton Coldfield Police Station. They intimidated him there, shouting at him, depriving him of sleep, letting alsation dogs into his cell, kicking him persistently on the shin. When they had him in such a nervous state of terror and crying he made a statement to their questions and promptings.

Meanwhile on the Friday night the police raided the homes of the men. They treated the women shabbily, according to the statements of the defendants’ wives; they never told them where their husbands were or the reason for the raid. They dropped phrases like - "You’ll never see your husband again." The suffering and agony of the men’s families come out in the statements. The women knew nothing of their husbands’ arrest until It came out on television on Sunday night when the names were revealed. In some cases it was the children heard it first and broke the news screaming.

In the early evening of Friday 22nd November the prisoners were brought by car to Queen’s Road police station in Birmingham. The men were barefooted. Gerard Hunter describes his treatment there. He was hit across the mouth, kicked in the back, handcuffed tight for half an hour, the lights were switched on and off during the night. His feet were freezing. Policemen came often to taunt him. On the Saturday he was kicked on the ankles by policemen in the corridors. He was then beaten during interrogation which lasted for 12 hours without a break. Again the threat of a mob on the house. He was taunted with the so-called statement of Power. He was offered no refreshment during the interview. He was threatened with a dog straining at the leash. He was kept awake on Saturday night and made to stand up as before. On Sunday morning he was interviewed again. Tripped and kicked. More taunts and threats.

On Sunday night they were taken to Steelhouse Police Station. Deprived of sleep and threatened to be shot (Hunter).

On Monday morning 25 November they appeared in court and were remanded. Since the relatives of the men had been given no notice of their being charged they had no opportunity to seek legal advice. The men were assigned duty solicitors, Ian Gold for Power, Callaghan, and Hill, and Anthony Curtis for Hunter, McIlkenny, and Walker. Hunter says he saw his solicitor in his cell about 8.30 and showed him the marks on his chest. Curtis told him he would arrange for a doctor to come and see him as soon as possible. Power also says that shortly before they appeared in court Curtis came into his cell and he showed him his chest and started to show him his sides, but Curtis told him to sit down and not to worry, that ho had to get down some legal particulars first and then he left; he was in a hurry, and said ‘something about "under duress." McIlkenny says that when he saw Curtis on Monday morning he told him that he had been assaulted and thought he had signed a statement. Curtis told him that he would arrange for him to be seen by a doctor as soon as possible. Walker says - "I only have the vaguest recollections of seeing Mr Curtis the following morning soon after 8 o’clock. I only have a vague recollection of insisting that a Police Officer stop. I didn’t know Mr Curtis and thought he was some further representative of the Police. When I was asked about the black eye I said I fell down." Walker’s black eye was noticed in court. He alleges he was afraid to say it was the police when he was in the court cell, thinking he was among police and being still in a state of terror. It would seem that he had received the blackeye on the journey from Morecambe to Birmingham in the police car when his head was covered with a coat. After being told to go to sleep he was struck by a fist under the left eye and seems to have lost consciousness.

Anthony Graham Curtis solicitor, who gave evidence of seeing injuries on the men when as duty solicitor at the Birmingham City Magistrates Court he was appointed to represent Hunter, McIlkenny, and . Walker, on Monday 25 November 1974, said in a statement:

"I interviewed Hunter first, completed a legal aid form. He told me briefly of the circumstances leading to his arrest at Heysham after he had got off the train from Birmingham. He told me that he had been treated badly since his arrest by the police. He told me he had had no sleep, that he had been made to stand up, and that he had been beaten. He undid his shirt and showed me his chest. His chest was covered from his navel up to his shoulders with diagonal scratch marks. These ran at an angle and reminded me of the type of mark that would be left by a scratch from a briar brush. The scratches ran from his right hand side near the waist, to the left hand side at the shoulder, and were parallel or nearly parallel, and were close together. I did not count the number of marks, nor did I make a more detailed examination. The cell was not well lit.

I then saw McIlkenny in the adjoining cell and I had a similar conversation with him. He told me that he had signed some sort of statement after he had been beaten. He told me that he had bruises on his body. I did not see these. I told him I would have him examined by a Doctor as quickly as possible. The cell was dimly lit.

I then went in to see Walker in another cell. I recall he was standing at attention in the cell very stiffly. His eyes had what I would describe as a ‘wild’ frightened look. He appeared to me to be an extremely strange man. He insisted that a Police Officer remain in the cell while I spoke to him. I asked him to sit down; he was reluctant to do so. I completed a legal aid form and advised him that he couldn’t obtain bail. He said to me something like - ’I'll admit to anything else, but I wasn’t responsible for these bombs’. He had a very noticeable black eye. His left eye. I asked him how he had come by this. He said -’I fell down Sir’. In view of the presence of the Police Officer and his strange attitude, I asked him nothing further.

On subsequent interviews with Walker, he has appeared to me to be quite different from the man I interviewed on that Monday morning."

William Power and Patrick Hill also drew the attention of their duty solicitor, Ian Gold, to the injuries on their chests.

After being remanded on Monday morning the men were brought to Winson Green Prison. Walker says he was kicked out of the police escort van. He fell to the ground hitting the lower part of his face and lost his four top front teeth. The prisoners were then assaulted in reception, and viciously in the prison wings.

On Thursday 28 November they appeared in court again. There were obvious signs on their faces that they had been seriously assaulted since Monday and this was noted by those present in the court. The prisoners were seen by the prison doctor, Dr Arthur Harwood, between 2 and 3 o’clock on the Monday. He found them extensively injured not only on their faces but on their bodies as well. In fact the men had been beaten twice. By the police and by prison officers. It should be possible for a forensic doctor to distinguish between the old bruises and the new. Dr. Harwood failed to distinguish between them. Perhaps he wished to shield the prison warders and therefore he gave testimony in the trial that in each and every case the bruises were at least 12 hours old. That would throw suspicion for all the injuries on the police. To all in court this was patently false, to all who had seen the men on the Monday in court and then Thursday. He did great damage to the defence.

 

In summing up Bridge J. said - "if this gentleman has come to this Court deliberately to give you false evidence to protect his cronies in the Prison Service, then not only is he not fit to be in the Prison Service but he is certainly not fit to be a member of the honourable profession upon which if he has perjured himself he has brought terrible shame." The Judge made no effort to point Out the possibility of the two beatings, by police and then by warders, even accepting Harwood’s poor evidence. He made an all-out attack on Harwood.

On 13 December 1974 an Irishman just released from Winson Green described to an Irish Press reporter the savage beatings the six men had suffered in Winson Green. The report of December 14 by David Brazil described in great detal this eyewitness account. (See appendix).

An Irish constituent sent the Labour M.P. for Hemel Hempstead, Mr. Robin Corbett, a photostat of the Irish Press article. The Guardian printed a similar story having established for themselves that the Irish informant was genuine. Mr Corbett made a stand on the issue. immediately a statement came from the British Home Secretary, Mr Roy Jenkins, in the House of Commons, announcing that an internal Investigation into the whole matter was already under way and that it would be headed by Assistant Chief Constable of the Lincoinshire police force, Mr David Owen. The inquiry lasted 5 months, it was the prisoners’ allegations against the police that led to the police inquiry in the first place. After interviewing detectives at the West Midlands police headquarters Owen satisfied himself that there was no breach of police discipline. Owen then interviewed in the prison before presenting a report to the British Director of Public Prosecutions who eventually recommended that 14 prison warders be charged with assault. The officers were suspended on 30 December 1975. The 14 prison officers variously summonsed for assault occasioning actual bodily harm were: Geoffrey Herbert Abbott, James Joseph Bluett, Peter Frank Bourne, John Gowenlock, William Green, George Eric Hughes, Brian Manders, Patrick Norman, John Murtagh, David Parling, Arthur Powell, Brian Leonard Sharp, Gerald Ivor Vincent, Derek William Warner, and Gordon Garforth Willingham. On 15 July 1976 all 14 were found not guilty of 90 separate charges at Birmingham Crown Court. David Pallister reported in The Guardian 16 July 1976: "The conclusion of the six-week trial is remarkable since there had been no dispute that the six Irishmen, convicted for the murder of 21 people, were beaten up in Winson Green gaol. Both the Judge and the prosecution at the Lancaster trial of the Irishmen last year accepted that their injuries were received in prison. The trial Judge, Mr Justice Bridge, said that they had been ‘quite outrageously assaulted’ shortly after arriving at the prison. He hoped that those responsible would be found and prosecuted. But the Birmingham jury yesterday decided that the 14 men in the dock, many of whom had been in the reception area that day, were not the men who inflicted black eyes and cuts on the Irishmen’s faces. During the course of the trial only 10 of the warders agreed to make statements from the dock. And although none of them admitted seeing or hearing any assaults one spoke of an ‘explosion’ of physical and verbal violence. Another said he saw decent family men lose control of themselves. But none of the warders was prepared to Incriminate any of his colleagues." The Winson Green Trial is important. The six Irishmen, in this case prosecution witnesses, carried themselves with dignity. They emphasised the police beatings before they were put in prison and how they were forced to sign statements made up by the police. (See appendix documents on Winson Green Trial). These truths even seeped accurately into the Birmingham papers.

In conclusion, one can say that there is substantial evidence indicating that the six men sustained injury while in police custody. The defendants before, during, and after the trial continuously alleged it. An immediate complaint had been made to Solicitor Ian Gold. There is the medical evidence of Dr. Harwood which cannot be completely dismissed out of hand. Furthermore there is the forensic medical evidence of Dr. Paul at the trial of the Winson Green warders. He distinguished between the two sets of bruises, basing his evidence on photographs of the men taken in police custody. Evidence was also indicated by some of the warders at their trial that the six men already had injuries when seen in reception.

THE TRIAL

After the six men had been ‘beaten up by the prison warders on Monday 25 November 1974 they were seen by Dr Arthur Harwood between 2 and 3 o’clock. William Power, was seen by the solicitor’s doctor at 4 p.m. Two of them, John Walker and Richard McIlkenny, were seen by Dr Alan G. Cohen, an independent doctor, on the afternoon of Tuesday 26 November 1974. Part of his statement of 3.12.74. is as follows: "On the afternoon of Tuesday, 26th November1974, I, Alan Geoffrey Cohen, a Registered Medical Practitioner of 21, St. Lawrence House, Manor Close, Melville Road, Birmingham 16, did visit Winson Green Prison in order to perform medical examinations on three prisoners. The examinations were carried out in a medical consultation room in the Prison Hospital Wing. A Prison Officer asked me whether I would prefer the presence of a Hospital Charge Nurse and I accepted this offer. One prisoner apparently declined to be examined and so I saw the other two, namely. John Francis Walker and Noel Richard McIlkenny, each man separately. Before describing my separate findings on these two men, a few facts common to both will first be mentioned. Both prisoners seemed nervous and reluctant to talk. When asked about the causes of certain skin lesions, the answers of both men seemed evasive. The presence of the Prison Charge Nurse in the room may have played a role. Apart from their skin lesions which will be described below, they were otherwise in good physical shape. in neither man, could I find any clinical evidence of major disease in the eyes, abdomen, cardiovascular, respiratory and central nervous systems. I examined each prisoner for about fifteen minutes.

John Francis Walker, age 39, was examined between 3.00p.m. and 3.15p.m. There were no lacerations. I saw two bruises. The first was situated below his left eye, was dark, roughly circular, and measured about one to one and a half inches in diameter. The second bruise was situated over the area adjoining the front of his chest and abdomen; it was paler, roughly circular and measured about five to six inches in diameter. There were several small superficial abrasions all over his body, the most bizarre of which was situated on the centre of his forehead. it consisted of two overlapping ring-like lesions each the diameter of about ten new pence coin. The circumference of each ring had caused an abrasion whilst the central area of the circumscribed skin was unharmed. The other abrasions were within about half an inch in diameter and were situated over the right eyebrow, on the bridge of the nose, above the right corner of the mouth, on the back overlapping one of the thoracic vertebrae, a right paramedian abdominal scar for a ‘burst duodenal ulcer’ operated upon at Dudley Road Hospital, four years previously. Over the left side of his chest wail there was tenderness which he attributed to his having fallen down some steps two nights previously.

Noel Richard McIlkennvy age 40, was examined between 3.25p.m. and 3.40p.m. There was a laceration under the right side of his chin; this measured about one and a half inches long. it contained fresh blood clot and had recently sutured. He said it was caused the previous night by his falling over in the bathroom. Below both eyes were two dark bruises, roughly circular about one and a half to two inches in diameter. Two dark bruises about six inches in diameter were also seen; one over his left shoulder, the other over the centre of the front of his chest. There were some superficial abrasions within about half an inch in diameter over his head, neck, right arm and hands. Most of the skin lesions had probably been caused within only a few days on my medical examination. The circular bruise over Walker’s chest was pale and could have been caused three to four days previously. ‘The freshly sutured laceration under McIlkenny’s chin seemed about twenty-four hours old. To assess even the approximate age of the remaining lesions would be speculative."


William Power, was seen by the solicitor’s doctor at 4p.m. on Thursday 28th November. He gives some evidence that some of the injuries could have been inflicted as long as a week ago. This doctor, Dr. D. Adlaka, did not appear as a witness in the trial. His medical report is printed below:

"William Power.
I examined your client William Power in Winson Green Prison on 28th November, 1974, at 4.p.m.
This man had multiple bruises as follows:

1) Bruised area all around loft eye.
2) Bruised area over right upper arm, anterior aspect. Approximately 2" x 3".
3) 2 bruises under the left nipple.
4) 3 bruises over the epigastrium.
5) A large area of bruising over the dorsum of right hand. At this stage he told me this had been caused by handcuffs.
6) A small septic area over the right elbow, scab forming.
7) A deeply bruised area over the left lower chest, approx. 2"x 3".
8) 2 large bruises over the left lateral hip.
9) A small bruise over the right iliac crest.
10) A bruise over the right calf muscle.
11) A cut over the right anterior shin, about 1" x 2".
12) A fairly large cut (healing) over the left anterior shin, about three quarter inches by one and quarter inches.
13) I could not see any bruising over the left ear although Mr Power complained of soreness over the supero-anterior of this ear.

Most of the bruises were as a result of blunt injuries. it was very difficult for me to put durations for these injuries since some of them appeared to be older that others. Where as quite a few of these Injuries would appear to be around 48 hours duration, particularly those around his eye. I was inclined to believe that some of them were much older and could have been inflicted as long as a week ago, in view of the formation scab at certain places and healing formation at other places. This, particularly applies to the injury numbers, 6and 12.

It is possible that this Client of yours sustained different injuries on different dates."

On 12th May, 1975, these six men charged with murder and three other men charged with conspiracy appeared before Bridge J. at the committal hearing. The three charged with conspiracy were Michael Murray, James Kelly and Michael Sheehan. Bridge J. agreed to a defence submission that the trial be held elsewhere. He committed them for trial at Lancaster where as President of the Western court circuit he could hear the case himself.

On 9th June, 1975, the trial opened at Crown Court, the Castle, - Lancaster. Power, Callaghan, Hill, Hunter, McIlkenny, Walker were all charged in each of the first 21 counts with murder, a different named victim. On count 22, these six and James Kelly, Michael Bernard Sheehan and Michael Joseph Murray were charged with conspiring to cause explosions. Finally there were two individual counts of unlawful possession of explosives against Kelly and Sheehan respectively on counts 23 and 24. it was the biggest mass murder trial in British legal history.

According to the prosecution the bombs in Birmingham which killed 21 people were the culmination of a bombing campaign in Birmingham carried out by an IRA unit; it was asserted that James McDade was a member of that unit and the bombs were in revenge for his death. Summing up at the trial for the prosecution, Mr. Harry Skinner, Q.C., told the jury that plainly not all the members of the IRA team were in the dock, but he was emphatic that the six charged with murder were guilty of the pub explosions. Of their alleged confessions he said: "The truth is that some of them did not know the whole truth. We know there were six men at the station. There may have been more than that, but what they say fits in with what we know. It could only have come from them."

In his summing up, Bridge J. referred to the trial-within-the-trial. From 17th June, the jury was out of court for eight days while defence counsel urged that the statements made to the police by Power, Callaghan, McIlkenny, Walker should not be admitted as they had been extorted under physical and mental pressure. Bridge J. ruled the statements admissible.

In the summing up Bridge J. said to the Jury.

"There was the long interruption of your part of the trial while I conducted what is sometimes called a trial-within-a-trial in order to decide whether the evidence of the Police interviews and the defendants’ statements were admissible in evidence at all. I had to hear all the evidence about them, both from the Police witnesses and from the defendants, in your absence, and that is why I had to keep you away for eight days. I decided, as you know, that the evidence was admissible, and then you heard it. I had heard it all before."

Therein lies the crux of the trial. The circumstantial evidence, although amounting to suspicion, was not enough to prove the guilt of the six men accused of murder, it would seem to us that in the trial even in this respect the Judge showed disfavour to the defendants. The forensic evidence was unsatisfactory. it would seem to us that the judge showed favour towards the prosecution witness, Dr. Skuse. There was a fundamental disagreement between Dr. Skuse and Dr. Black on the forensic tests for handling explosives and the conclusions to be drawn from them, it was a weakness on the part of the defence that they did not conduct experiments nor ask to bring in a third expert to help resolve the differences.

The trial then. really rested on the admissibility of the police evidence, verbal statements and the "confessions."

The fact of police brutality is nothing extraordinary. it is almost a daily occurrence in Northern Ireland. It had become an important case in Strasbourg against the British Government. There are numerous books and articles concerning police brutality in Britain. There are some cases of corruption against top men in the British police forces. Bridge J. goes to extremes in pushing the jury to decide between the police and the defendants. He said in his summing up:-

"Mr. Skinner in his final address to you likened the Police behaviour alleged by the defendants to that of Hitler’s Gestapo. In my recollection, Hitler’s Gestapo did not bother about confessions. They were going to execute you whatever you said. But my mind went even further back in history. It seems to me that the kind of treatment to which, as they say, these defendants were subjected was reminiscent of the days of the Star Chamber, the rack and the thumb screw under the Tudor Monarchs of this country about 400 years ago. But, Members of the Jury, however you care to characterise the Police behaviour alleged by the defendants, one thing is clear beyond all doubt, is it not, that this is a conflict of evidence which is irreconcilable?

There is manifestly gross perjury being committed on one side or the other."

When the verdicts were announced Bridge J. commented: "William Power, Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Joseph Hill, Robert Gerald Hunter, Noel Richard Mclikenny and John Walker, you stand convicted on each of 21 counts, on the clearest and most overwhelming evidence I have ever heard, of the crime of murder. The sentence for that crime is not determined by me; it is determined by the law of England. Accordingly, in respect of each count each one of you is now sentenced to imprisonment for life. Let them be taken down." It is there, too, some observers and commentators would part company with Bridge J. In fact the trial was not so overwhelmingly clear. It was a bizarre one. First of all it was alleged that the bombers escaped and this opens the case to many questions. The full story has yet to come out. Why then should these men and their families suffer in the meantime? After the explosions the Provisional IRA began an investigation. in an interview in December 1974, Daithi Ó Conaill said that the inquiry was so far inconclusive. He said:-

"To date, we have not established whether any unit of the IRA was involved but what we have firmly established is that none of the six who have been charged with the bombings was a member of any branch of the Republican Movement."

The Provisionals have said no more.

Martin Cowley wrote in The Irish Times, 16th August, 1975:-

"During the trial, John Walker wrote to the Home Secretary pleading his Innocence and claiming that Michael Murray, another of the conspiracy accused, and three other men and a woman. whom he named, were connected with the pub bombs. He wrote that he was not in the IRA and that he was only engaged in fund-raising activities for prisoners’ dependants. The four he named were now in Dublin, he stated. In a remarkable piece of testimony at the trial, Walker claimed that Murray said that he had phoned the bomb warning and that the first kiosk was out of order and by the time he got to the second phone It was too late. He then went on to detail threats which Murray allegedly made to him and his family if he ever divulged their conversation. Walker told the jury that now his life was ‘not worth a plumbed nickel.’ In a note sent out to several journalists covering the proceedings, Walker said that he and the other murder charge defendants were ‘scapegoats.’ He insisted that the bombings were perpetrated by IRA men but ‘off their own backs’ and that Murray was certainly involved and ‘took it on his own back.’ He wrote in the note:- ‘Put up job (scapegoats) could not release - had to charge. Too badly beaten.’

"...The claims of the prosecution and Walker against Murray were never refuted because Murray chose not to give evidence or make any statement. Nor would he let his lawyer cross examine. His reason was probably that it might have come out that he had been serving a 12 year prison stretch since May (1975), when he was convicted with eight others of taking part in another bombing campaign in Birmingham. At no stage did Murray refute a statement he allegedly made to police admitting that he had been an IRA man for some years."

In an article in The Leveller, November, 1976, David Martin, who has followed the Birmingham case closely wrote:

"The Provisionals almost certainly know by now those six were not responsible, but they will not speak out because they too want that episode forgotten and behind them. Only the Provisionals can now say whether the bombings were done by men acting on their own Initiative or under orders, who may have gone for a dreadfully ‘overkill’ bombing or who may have hopelessly bungled the whole operation with inept warning phone calls.

The British Home Office know at least three names of people long since returned to Ireland, names which were sent in a remarkable letter to the then Horns Secretary, Roy Jenkins, by John Walker, after the trial.

In this letter, he gave the three mens Birmingham addresses, even identifying the pubs they usually drank in, and those names are in the possession of The Leveller. Denying his own Involvement, Mr. Walker also dramatically pointed the finger at Michael Murray, one of the three Irishmen at the same Lancaster trial though accused only of an explosion conspiracy, who was given a nine year sentence.

According to Mr. Walker, Mr. Murray, who was active in the IRA’s 1956-62 campaign, told him in a prison yard he was ‘deeply sorry’ to see the six ‘carrying the rap,’ and he admitted he had made the futile warning calls. ‘It all went badly wrong that night,’ he was supposed to have said.

Mr. Walker repeated these allegations during the Lancaster trial. Adding he was now a ‘dead man’ whose life was not worth ‘a plumped nickel’. Mr. Murray kept silent throughout the whole trial, declining to make even an unaworn statement, and was complimented at the end by the Judge for having ‘a true soldier’s bearing.’

It is not however in the interests of the Home Office nor indeed the British Government to upset the status quo, and they too have remained silent.

Within the Birmingham police force there are Special Branch Officers who know only too well they did not get the right people and who can still recall the manner in which they extracted damning statements which were to form the bulk of the prosecution case at Lancaster."

There are other grave doubts concerning the trial. John Walker, Noel Richard McIlkenny and Michael Murray, worked at Forgings & Presswork Ltd., Witton, Birmingham. So did Thomas Watt one of the prosecution witnesses. The sensationalism regarding this man’s role in the trial is still fresh. David Martin in The Leveller, November 1976, calls him "a most peculiar man." He writes -

"Among the many disturbing features of that Lancaster trial is the role played by a Thomas Watt, an admitted police informer and a member of the National Front.

Mr. Watt was a significant prosecution witness, giving damning evidence against two of his former workmates, Mr. Walker and Richard McIlkenny; he was also the man who gave shelter in Birmingham to Kenneth Littlejohn, who at that time had made his way out of Dublin’s Mountjoy prison, and was by an astounding coincidence, in Birmingham the night of the bombings.

No action was subsequently taken by police against Mr. Watt for harbouring Littiejohn when there was a warrant out for his detention. Littlejohn, the British agent who engineered a Dublin Bank robbery to discredit the Official IRA and who was then ditched by his ringmasters in the Ministry of Defence, by all accounts could have been arrested at any time, particularly as Mr. Watt was a police informer.

The police chose not to move until well after the bombings, and Littlejohn was arrested at Watt’s house; it was said this ‘break-through’ came from a ‘tip-off.’ From whom? Mr. Watt? Thomas Watt, with his fanatical political convictions, was, it could be argued, deliberately placed in the same factory as Walker and McIlkenny to keep an eye on them, and other Irishmen, and he indeed said in court that he regularly passed on tips, particularly about Mr. Walker, to Birmingham police.

Mr. Walker was subsequently presented by the Lancaster prosecutions as the brains behind the operation, and yet, if Mr. Watt was a useful police informer it must be asked why Mr. Walker was not then trailed much earlier, and crucially why was he not closely observed the tense night of the bombings?

Much is extremely suspicious about Mr. Watt’s involvement in the affair. The Birmingham police in their wisdom, did not pursue any of these issues after the trial"

Also puzzling in the Birmingham affair was the role of the three who were supposed to have conspired to plant explosives, James Kelly, Michael Bernard Sheehan and Michael Joseph Murray. In his evidence, Kelly implicated Sheehan in an alleged incident in which Kelly was asked to keep a bag containing a pistol and explosives in his house. Judge Bridge gives Kelly’s background as follows in his summing up:-

"He is 32 years of age, he is an Ulster Protestant Unionist, he tells you. He was at one time a junior member of the Orange Order … Kelly says that he hates the IRA. He came to the United Kingdom when he was only 19. He joined the Army. It is not to his credit, but it is not of much relevance to this case, that he deserted. He says that he deserted because he was not permitted to do the job he was going to be allowed to do when in the Army, and because he was an Army deserter he had to change his name. His family name is Woods, but he changed his name to Kelly ….. In May, 1974, he got a job at imperial Metal Industries at Witton, and there he fell in with Sheehan. He came to discover in conversations with Sheehan that Sheehan was an IRA sympathiser and in due course Sheehan confessed to him, presumably thinking that he was a southern Irishman, that he, Sheehan, was a member of the IRA.

Then, says Kelly, he wormed his way into Sheehan’s confidence, and this idea of infiltrating the organisation and getting information, which he would undoubtedly give to the Police, first entered his mind."

Kelly never made contact with the police. He said he had not the courage. Bridge J. called Kelly’s story an odd one. But he pushed in his favour, in summing up, Bridge J. said:-

"The strengths in Kelly’s case have been so recently and so eloquently expounded to you by Mr. Jowitt on his behalf that I shall pass over them quite shortly. I have already mentioned that he has on essential matters been consistent throughout. I have already mentioned that Dolores (his wife) on essential matters corroborates him substantially. I should further mention two very cogent points made on his behalf by Mr. Jowitt. The first is that, as Mr. Crawford told you, Police enquiries did tend to confirm as far as they have gone that he comes from an Ulster Protestant family and background. They show no address or hint of any IRA connections in his family or background. But, finally, as a matter of argument, Mr. Jowitt put it far more cogently than I could have done, and as he, Mr. Jowitt, says, in effect, if the truth is that Kelly was an IRA man, whose object was to assist in carrying out these terrorist explosions, well, what is he doing by running this sort of defence? Is he not in grave danger of signing his own death warrant? Even if he is not an IRA man, what prospect does he face if you acquit him? It is not exactly going to be a bed of roses for him having to disclose all he has disclosed in order to put before you the defence on which he relies."

Kelly was found not guilty of conspiring to cause explosions. On the possession of explosives Judge Bridge said:-

"You have been acquitted of conspiracy and convicted, as you were bound to be, of the unlawful possession of explosives, but I accept fully the point made on your behalf by Mr. Jowitt, that the acquittal on the conspiracy count implies that the Jury have accepted or at least have thought that you may reasonably have been telling the truth of your account of the circumstances in which you came into possession of those explosive substances, and Mr. Jowitt's expression, ‘well-intentioned foolishness’ is, in those circumstances, as it seems to me, perfectly appropriate. I take into account every point that he has made on your behalf and I agree with him that the long months which you have spent in prison already, with full remission, would be equivalent to a sentence of something over 12 months imprisonment, which adequately punishes you for your folly which led you into this criminal act."

Other Irishmen have been sentenced on a similar charge in Britain from 12 to 20 years imprisonment.

More research should be carried out by scientists on these forensic tests. The conclusions to be drawn are still under the shadow of doubt. We depend for our remarks on the forensic evidence on the summing up of Bridge J.

Bridge J. failed to point out to the Jury that there was no definite forensic evidence against the men. The Judge concentrated on the persons of the two forensic experts Dr. Frank Skuse for the prosecution and Dr. Hugh Kenneth Black for the defence. Black had excellent qualifications - Bachelor of Science, Doctor of Philosophy, Fellow of the Royal institute of Chemistry and a Diploma in the Durham College of Science and Technology. He worked as a Scientist for most of his working life. A good deal of his time was spent in the explosives industry, ammunition and the manufacture of explosives on a manufacturing plant. This was in various Government Departments, the Admiralty, the War Office, the Home Office. His last Government appointment was as H.M. Chief Inspector of Explosives, Home Office. He retired from this in 1970, and practised as an independent consultant in explosives matters until early 1975, when he retired. Dr. Skuse had carried out two categories of tests, at Morecambe Police Station, (Griess test), and tests subsequently in laboratories. His general conclusion was that he was quite happy or 99% certain that there had been contact between the hands of Power and commercial explosives and the hands of Hill and commercial explosives. Firstly the Grim test at the Police Station - Black said that it could not be independently relied upon to establish the presence of nitroglycerine (equals contact with explosives apart from the small capsules taken from sufferers from angina) because there are a range of other substances which will give a positive Grim test. Among these Black listed nitro-cellulose which is commonly put up in lacquers and varnishes, that kind of material - paints - and is used particularly for hotel furniture, bar furniture, Items of that nature. The subsequent laboratory tests are known as the gas chromatography, mass spectrometry and the thin layer chromatography test which are up to a thousand times more sensitive than the Griess test. Black ruled out that nitroglycerine on the swab at the time of the Grim test could have disappeared by the time it got to the laboratory test for gas chromatography, mass spectrometry with proper custody of the sample, it could not disappear by evaporation.

Swabs taken from Hunter and McIlkenny gave negative reactions to every single test to which they were subjected. There was no forensic evidence against Hunter or McIlkenny at all. Tests similar to those carried out by Dr. Skuse were carried out by another scientist on the hands of Callaghan at Sutton Coldfieid Police Station. There was no forensic evidence against Callaghan either.

According to Skuse the right hand ether swab from Power gave a positive reaction for nitroglycerine to the Griess test. The right hand ether swab of Power gave a positive reaction for the presence of ammonlum and nitrate ions, suggesting traces, in Skuse’s opinion, of ammonium nitrate on his hands. The left hand and right hand finger nail swabs taken from Power were positive to a test for nitrate only, but all other tests on the Power swabs were negative.

The right hand ether swab from Hill’s hands was positive for nitroglycerine by the Griess test. The left hand ether swab from Hill’s was positive, according to Skuse for nitroglycerine by the gas chromatography, mass spectrometry test. It was also positive for ammonium and nitrate. All other tests from Hill’s hands were negative.

With regard to the ether tests on Walker’s hands all four ether swabs showed faint traces of nitrate ions. This was due to Skuse’s own mistake. The swab he used on his own hands between tests was also positive to nitrate. Therefore the ethor tests on Walker’s hands are dismissed. Skuse subsequently took water swabs from both of Walker’s hands. On the water swab he found faint traces of both ammonium and nitrate ions.

As already stated. Dr. Black maintained that there were other substances other than nitroglycerine which will give a positive Griess test. Dr Skuse regarded room temperature as definitive for the positive showing of nitroglycerine in the Griess test. Black maintained that old nitrocellulose would give a positive reaction at room temperature within ten seconds

Therein lies a fundamental difference between Dr Skuse and Dr.Black.

The Judge summarised the work of the different tests.

When a swab is taken it is divided into three parts (A,B,C). The Griess test is carried out in parts A and B on the spot. C Is saved for the later laboratory test. Dr. Black also disagreed with Skuse on another fundamental issue regarding the tests for nitroglycerine. He asserted that if the gas chromatography, mass spectrometry or thin lays chromatography tests on part C of the sample prove negative, that totally invalidates any positive result from the Griess test.

Skuse having got a positive Grim reaction from Hill’s right hand decided to retain the whole of the left hand swab contents for testing in the laboratory by the gas chromatography, mass spectrometry method and did not subject the left hand swab of Hill to any Griess test at the Police Station. In the laboratory he says he got a positive result. Dr. Black having heard Skuse describe the results he obtained, said that his results did not identify nitroglycerine.

Regarding ammonium nitrate. Both traces of ammonium and nitrate ions were found on Power’s right hand and on Hill’s left hand, and faintly on the water swab on Walker. Skuse looked upon the finding of ammonium ions and nitrate ions present together on the same hand as significant and that the most probable source of those substances was ammonium nitrate, the compound found in explosives. Black maintained that the substances can come together on a man’s hands quite by coincidence, just from the atmosphere and that any one tested might show the result of ammonium and nitrate ions.

It was clear from the court proceedings that there was a fundamental difference between the two scientists. Who was to decide who was right? It is a grave matter that no other scientific witnesses were brought forward. The Judge continually talked about the complexity of scientific matters, underlining frequently his own Ignorance of science. He spoke severely of Dr. Black’s lack of experimentation. It seems to us that the Judge swayed the jury in favour of Dr. Skuse’s evidence and then threw in an impartial cliche at the end. "I am afraid that I have made my views in this issue between Dr. Skuse and Dr. Black pretty plain, and that it why it is right that I should emphasise once again what I said at the beginning of my summing up, namely that any issue of fact -and an Issue of scientific fact is just as much an issue as an issue between a Police Officer and a Defendant as to what was said - is a matter for your decision and not for mine, and if you think that in what I have been saying I. have been talking rubbish, just disregard, everything I have said and arrive at your own independent conclusions."

Ambiguities arise in the trial and have been touched on by the defendants, commentators, and relatives. The men had between them two cases. It would be impossible to pack Into cases already containing clothing and personal effects some 60lbs. of gelignite, electric batteries, bags with D-shackles. Why was such an experiment not carried out in the court?

Mystery surrounds the third bomb, which failed to go off on the night of 21st November. This was the bomb at Barclay’s Bank, Hagley Road, Birmingham. The device failed to function. This high explosive bomb was contained in two plastic bags. The witness who discovered them reported It to the police about 9.15 p.m. In our view the information from this unexploded bomb could have led the police to say that the bombs at the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town were in plastic bags and this is what they Inserted in the men’s statements.

Both forensic experts, Douglas Geoffrey Higgs who was in charge of The Mulberry Bush forensic investigations and Donald Percy Lidstone, who was in charge of the Tavern in the Town examination, record the presence of D-shackles of the type used in the handle arrangements of a carrying case. This would contradict the "confessions" which speak only of plastic bags. However the point could be - forensic evidence was not available to the police when they were composing the "confessions." The police stuck to the plastic bags.

The confessions themselves are contradictory. Even the language is typical, you might say, of the language English people sometimes put in the mouths of Irishmen. The number of men carrying plastic bags Is irreconcilable. According to Power’s "confession" Walker had his holdall and 2 white plastic bags, Hunter had 3 white plastic bags, McIlkenny had 1 white plastic bag and Callaghan had 1 bag. That makes 7 bags in all. According to Walker’s "confession" he Walker had 1 parcel, Hunter had 1 parcel and Hill had 1 parcel. According to McIlkenny’s "confession" Walker had 1 plastic bag in a blue holdall, Hunter had 1 plastic bag, he McIlkenny had 1 plastic bag ("in his hoidail"), and Hill had 1 bag ("got it out of his case"). That makes 4. According to Callaghan’s "confession" - Walker and Hunter had some white plastic bags; then he says "Hunter gave us all a plastic bag with a bomb in"; that would make 6 plastic bag bombs.

According to Power he placed 2 bags in the Mulberry Bush. He speaks of Hunter and Walker coming behind him with 2 bags but doesn’t say where they placed these bombs. He makes no mention in the "confession" as to where Hill, Callaghan and McIlkenny placed bombs. His bomb by the juke box is not borne out in the forensic evidence for the Mulberry Bush explosion; was the confusion in the statements due to the police interrogators not having the forensic findings at hand?

According to Callaghan’s "confession" it was he Callaghan who placed the bomb at the Mulberry Bush and Hunter placed one round the other side. According to Walker’s statement, Hunter and he were in the Talk of the Tavern and placed a parcel bomb there. Hunter then is said to be in two different pubs placing bombs at the same time. According to McIlkenny’s "statement" it was he and P.J. Hill who went to the Talk of the Tavern - they had a plastic bag each - McIlkenny put his bag in an alcove.

In his summing up the Judge did not sufficiently remind the Jury of these essential facts.

There were no witnesses to identify any of these men in the bombed pubs or vicinity. There was no direct evidence of any finger or palm prints in any incriminating place or on any object which involved them. No bomb-making materials were found in any of their homes and none found in their luggage. The clothing worn by the men at the time of their arrest was examined, but no positive tests were obtained, It would seem probable that traces of the explosives would have been transferred had they made contact with commercial explosives. The playing cards they handled on the train to Heysham were also tested and revealed a negative result. Explosive ingredients, one would think, would have been transferred to the cards from contaminated hands and a positive result would have been obtained from these cards if they had been so contaminated.

On 30th March, 1976, the six men convicted of the pub bombings were refused leave by the Court of Appeal in London to challenge their convictions.

Lord Widgery, sitting with Lord Justice Lawton and Mr. Justice Thompson, held that there was nothing "unsafe or unsatisfactory" about their convictions at Lancaster Crown Court on 15th August, 1975. The appeal Judges rejected complaints by the six Irishmen that they did not get a fair trial because of ‘‘excessive hostility’’ shown by the trial judge towards the accused and their witnesses, leaving the jury no choice but to convict. (Dr. Black and Mrs. Sandra Hunter, wife of Gerard Hunter, were among those whom Bridge J. severely criticised.) Lord Widgery said there was no doubt that Mr. Justice Bridge (now Lord Justice Bridge) had told the jury in the clearest possible terms at Lancaster that he had formed certain views of the evidence, and would make. them plain. He had said that he could not sit back impartially like a "detached Olympian observer."

Widgery L.C.J. commented -

"it is well-established law that a trial judge can do this if he thinks fit, provided he makes sure that the jury realise they are free to differ from him. Of course there are limitations, and he must not go as far to deprive the jury of any free choice. Having examined his comments of which complaint is now made, we do not find the judge pre-empted the jury’s views."

Widgery L.C.J. commented on criticism during the two day appeal hearing of the handling of the trial judge of evidence given by Dr. Kenneth Harwood, medical officer attached to Winson Green Prison, who medically examined five of the accused after they had been received into Winson Green. Dr. Harwood made two statements about injuries to the prisoners, attributing them firstly to innocent causes (some of the men through sheer terror told him "they fell"), but later to events which must have happened while the men were in police oustody. At the trial Bridge J. virtually told the jury to ignore his evidence. Widgery L.C.J. said that Bridge J’s: view of Dr. Harwood was "unhappy" but it was not for the Appeal Court to assess whether the doctor had been treated unfairly. On any showing, his statements were inconsistent and no reasonable jury could have given credence to his evidence.

After the prison warder trial the convicted men have applied for legal aid and will sue the West Midlands police for assault. We hope this is the beginning of justice for these six men, victims of a horrible situation, of police brutality and the law.

BRIDGE J. WHO PRESIDED OVER THE TRIAL

Publication Contents


CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within the University of Ulster.


go to the top of this page go to the top of this page
Last modified :