Forensic experts are being called in to review potential new evidence in the Birmingham pub bombings.
Detective Chief Superintendent Kenny Bell, head of Counter Terrorism at West Midlands Police, has made the commitment in a letter to the sister of one of the 21 people killed in the 1974 terrorist atrocity.
He wrote: “Forensic science continues to develop. I will ensure that we consult with a forensic expert to establish how science has advanced and if new techniques can evidentially assist us with bringing those responsible to justice.”
The city’s head of Counter Terrorism is also tasking officers to bring together and look again at all the old files in the case.
He wrote: ‘‘It is important we gather, understand, consolidate and preserve all relevant material in one central repository. While the scale of this is a huge undertaking, it will greatly assist with our ability to assess the relevance of any new evidence. It will also give me confidence in providing you with information that is accurate.”
West Midlands Police had never officially reopened the case after the Birmingham Six had their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal in 1991, having spent almost 17 years behind bars.
Det Chief Supt Bell wrote the letter to Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was only 18 when she died in the suspected IRA attack on November 21, 1974, which also injured 182 people.
He said of his team’s new efforts: “This task will take some considerable time, however, I undertake that you will receive updates on a bi-monthly basis.’’
The written assurances back up what Mrs Hambleton claims she was told in a meeting with the top cop at the force’s Lloyd House HQ.
She has spearheaded the Justice for the 21 campaign calling for the pub bombing murders to be reinvestigated – and is now optimistic a breakthrough could finally be made.
“We’ve had so many false dawns before that we are quite cautious, but we’re hopeful new evidence can be uncovered that could lead police to the killers,” said Mrs Hambleton.
“He said it would take months to centralise the files, bundle them into segments and then be scanned by a small team to enable him to fully answer the questions we have asked him.
“Our (campaign) supporters and as a family, we are truly grateful and indebted to Mr Bell for his consideration and time. He was the consummate professional when we met him.”
Earlier this year, Birmingham Six member Paddy Hill divulged a list of names to police whom he claimed were responsible for the bombings.
Meanwhile, the Justice for the 21 campaign has been backed by MPs and MEPs across the country including Chancellor George Osborne.
A petition calling for the bombings to be reinvestigated has been signed by more than 2,200 people.