Justice for the 21

20 December 2013 - Birmingham Mail - by Julie Hambleton

I would like to begin this week by wishing all Birmingham Mail readers a peaceful, memorable Christmas.

I know a good many of you support us - you'll never know how much that means to Justice4the21.

Others may just follow us out of curiosity via this column or other news, but thank you sincerely for your interest.

If you are in town tomorrow (Sat, Dec 21) we will be holding another signature collecting day from 10.30am until 3.30pm outside Marks & Spencer in the High Street.

I know everyone is very rushed for obvious reasons, but please spare us a few seconds to say hello and sign our petition.

We are calling for a new investigation into the Birmingham pub bombings urging the use of the latest forensic and scientific tests.

Every name we collect really counts.

Please sign for our sakes, for the sake of our city's history and for truth and justice to prevail.

For us, like a good many who have lost loved ones, Christmas will be a time of reflection and memories and so on. We ask ourselves 'what if this' or 'what if that' and so on.

Maxine would have been 57 had she lived, may be with children. Life for hundreds in the city would have been very different had the bombers never struck on that terrible night on November 21, 1974.

Of course, we can't change history, but we can change the future.

By learning lessons from the past and by building on a foundation of truth and justice.

This is something which has been denied the victims of the pub bombings for long enough.

We cannot rest until all avenues have been exhausted in pursuit of this.

Our campaign continues to steadily grow.

We were recently invited to attend the Traditional Unionist Voice's (TUV) political party conference in Northern Ireland recently where they had decided to devote the afternoon session to a Victim's Forum.

This was a truly emotional experience for all concerned. There were many people in attendance who had lost loved ones to terrorist attacks.

Listening to other people's loss and grief is extremely difficult for anyone, but even more so when you know exactly how deep rooted those feelings are. We all feel and share each other's pain and suffering.

It is like being in a club, but one that no one would choose to belong to if they had a choice.

On the Victim's Forum was John Radley (Lance Corporal in the Irish Guards) who was nearly killed by an IRA nail bomb in Chelsea Barracks Bomb attack over 30 years ago. John has had many operations and has had over 7,000 stitches with many more to come.

Ann Travers was there who has been fighting successfully alongside Mr Jim Allister QC MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) to get the law changed in Northern Ireland to prevent ex-terrorists who have served time for their crimes from being appointed into government positions.

Her sister was murdered in cold blood by IRA gunmen as she walked home from Sunday Mass. Her father was also shot six times but somehow survived. They also tried to shoot her mother but fortunately the gun jammed three times, while her mother was holding her daughter, Mary, in her arms.

Serena Hamilton also joined the forum. She has been fighting to bring the murderers of her father to justice for decades. He was shot at point blank range at work whilst changing into his uniform as an officer of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

We all fight for the same aim - justice and truth.

No one is born to be murdered. Those responsible for these heinous crimes must be brought to justice once and for all.

I should make it clear that even though the TUV are a political party, Justice4the21 is non-political. However we share the same fight for justice.

As a campaign we are prepared to speak with any political party who can assist us in our campaign.

We want no money, no apology, simply justice, nothing more, nothing less. For with justice will come truth.

I would like to thank Mr Jim Allister QC MLA and Mr Samuel Morrison for inviting us to their party conference.

It gave our campaign the opportunity to highlight our plight to those in Northern Ireland.

As a nation, we may be parted by water, but this does not in any way diminish the support and tight links we are building with the people of Northern Ireland.

We were treated with the utmost kindness and hospitality. It was a truly humbling experience.

All these people will be in our thoughts as Christmas arrives.

18 December 2013 - Birmingham Mail - by Julie Hambleton

I would like to begin this week by wishing all Birmingham Mail readers a peaceful, memorable Christmas.

I know a good many of you support us - you'll never know how much that means to Justice4the21.

Others may just follow us out of curiosity via this column or other news, but thank you sincerely for your interest.

If you are in town tomorrow (Sat, Dec 21) we will be holding another signature collecting day from 10.30am until 3.30pm outside Marks & Spencer in the High Street.

I know everyone is very rushed for obvious reasons, but please spare us a few seconds to say hello and sign our petition.

We are calling for a new investigation into the Birmingham pub bombings urging the use of the latest forensic and scientific tests.

Every name we collect really counts.

Please sign for our sakes, for the sake of our city's history and for truth and justice to prevail.

For us, like a good many who have lost loved ones, Christmas will be a time of reflection and memories and so on. We ask ourselves 'what if this' or 'what if that' and so on.

Maxine would have been 57 had she lived, may be with children. Life for hundreds in the city would have been very different had the bombers never struck on that terrible night on November 21, 1974.

Of course, we can't change history, but we can change the future.

By learning lessons from the past and by building on a foundation of truth and justice.

This is something which has been denied the victims of the pub bombings for long enough.

We cannot rest until all avenues have been exhausted in pursuit of this.

Our campaign continues to steadily grow.

We were recently invited to attend the Traditional Unionist Voice's (TUV) political party conference in Northern Ireland recently where they had decided to devote the afternoon session to a Victim's Forum.

This was a truly emotional experience for all concerned. There were many people in attendance who had lost loved ones to terrorist attacks.

Listening to other people's loss and grief is extremely difficult for anyone, but even more so when you know exactly how deep rooted those feelings are. We all feel and share each other's pain and suffering.

It is like being in a club, but one that no one would choose to belong to if they had a choice.

On the Victim's Forum was John Radley (Lance Corporal in the Irish Guards) who was nearly killed by an IRA nail bomb in Chelsea Barracks Bomb attack over 30 years ago. John has had many operations and has had over 7,000 stitches with many more to come.

Ann Travers was there who has been fighting successfully alongside Mr Jim Allister QC MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) to get the law changed in Northern Ireland to prevent ex-terrorists who have served time for their crimes from being appointed into government positions.

Her sister was murdered in cold blood by IRA gunmen as she walked home from Sunday Mass. Her father was also shot six times but somehow survived. They also tried to shoot her mother but fortunately the gun jammed three times, while her mother was holding her daughter, Mary, in her arms.

Serena Hamilton also joined the forum. She has been fighting to bring the murderers of her father to justice for decades. He was shot at point blank range at work whilst changing into his uniform as an officer of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

We all fight for the same aim - justice and truth.

No one is born to be murdered. Those responsible for these heinous crimes must be brought to justice once and for all.

I should make it clear that even though the TUV are a political party, Justice4the21 is non-political. However we share the same fight for justice.

As a campaign we are prepared to speak with any political party who can assist us in our campaign.

We want no money, no apology, simply justice, nothing more, nothing less. For with justice will come truth.

I would like to thank Mr Jim Allister QC MLA and Mr Samuel Morrison for inviting us to their party conference.

It gave our campaign the opportunity to highlight our plight to those in Northern Ireland.

As a nation, we may be parted by water, but this does not in any way diminish the support and tight links we are building with the people of Northern Ireland.

We were treated with the utmost kindness and hospitality. It was a truly humbling experience.

All these people will be in our thoughts as Christmas arrives.

29 November 2013 - Birmingham Mail - by Julie Hambleton

This week's column my family and I would like to use to publically express our sincere gratitude to all who turned out for this year's 39th Memorial. It was most heart warming to see so many people come to pay their respects. We were overwhelmed, especially when we were introduced to fellow victims' families and survivors from that evil night 39 years ago. We want each and every one of them to know that they touched us deeply when sharing their own experiences and memories of their loved ones and how this callous terrorist act continues to impact their lives on a daily basis. We fight for all families and survivors in equal measure.

It is two years since I applied for an e-petition, which began the emotional and painful path we now find ourselves treading.

Jessica Winch a journalist who was on secondment at the Birmingham Mail in January 2012, was the first journalist I had ever been interviewed by regarding the grief I continue feel for Maxine, my sister. The article Jessica wrote was profound and poignant. It was picked up by Adrian Goldberg who presents his own show on BBC Radio WM. Adrian invited Brian and I onto his show, where we were heard by Mike and some of his friends, one of whom contacted Adrian's show and offered to help us in our plight for justice. At first Brian and I were rather apprehensive, as we had never been offered any level of kindness or magnanimity before so we approached the offer with trepidation. We met Mike and some of his friends. The rest as they say is history.

In light of the 40th Memorial coming up we want to take this opportunity to once again to sing the praises of Mike and his 'band of brothers and sisters' who come from far and wide to support us. This group of individuals all have their own lives, with their own issues & concerns, but they give up their free time to come and help us collect signatures in Birmingham city centre. Some travel from as far as Kent and Wales! Without these people, we would not be where we are today with our campaign.

There are many other people who help us in a wide variety of ways, from designing our Billboard, and website to raising our profile, such as:

The Birmingham Mail - Drakes Drum Football Team - Dr Carl Chin - Mrs Star Etheridge

Signature Outdoor (Billboard company) - BBC Radio & TV, in particular Anthony Bartram & his fantastic cameramen - ITV Chris Halpin

Mr Peter Robinson - First Minister of Northern Ireland - Jimmy Birch, Community Leader in Northern Ireland - Mr Jim Allister QC MLA - Kenny Donaldson & Brian McConnell of Justice for Innocent Victims of Terrorism in NI - Ann Travers (a fellow victim) NI

The citizens of Birmingham. We need to stick together and force our MPs to raise this matter in the Houses of Parliament. The power of the people can win the day. We ask each and every one of you to please write to your local MP and put pressure on them to do the job they are paid to do - serve the people who pay their salaries. We are not only fighting for our loved ones, we are fighting for future generations, to guarantee that the core basics of our democratic society stay intact, where the rule of law will apply always.

Last but by no means least, our Mother. Mom has been our source of continued strength. She has faced many challenges with indomitable courage, bravery and sheer fortitude. She chooses to stay behind the scenes, which we will always respect. But, it is her anger, frustration and shared grief that keeps our fire burning for justice for all those concerned. No parent or sibling should ever have to be faced with identifying their loved one, only for the police and government to do nothing to bring the perpetrators to justice.

We fight so our Mother can maybe one day know that someone somewhere in authority illustrates that they do care about the murder of her daughter (our sister) and the murder of the other 20 innocents who were slaughtered in vain, leaving 182 maimed for life. There is no such thing as 'closure', but there is such a thing as Truth & Justice; Please help us in our fight for answers.

13 November 2013 - Birmingham Mail - by Brian Hambleton

THE darker mornings are here already and the nights are drawing in too, as autumn speeds on.

For us that means that it will soon be time for another anniversary of the Birmingham pub bombings.

Birmingham's darkest night happened on November 21, 1974.

This November with be the 39th anniversary of the worst ever crime in our city.

Someone, or several people, planted bombs in The Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town.

When the pubs were full, shortly after 8pm, the devices exploded.

My sister, Maxine, was among 21 people who were killed. Almost 200 others were injured.

Of course, never a day goes by when my family don't remember this.

Like any family who loses someone, particularly in terrible circumstances, we cherish her memory in our hearts.

The fact that no-one has ever been brought to justice for this terrible crime makes our pain worse.

Regular readers of this column will know that it is our belief that there is no great will politically for this to ever be resolved.

The longer this goes on, the more our hurt intensifies - and the more our resolve deepens to fight for the truth and for justice.

We sometimes wonder that had the bombs gone off in pubs in London, rather than Birmingham, whether those in power would be so seemingly content to let matters rest?

Next year it will be the milestone 40th anniversary and we know there will be a huge amount of interest on that occasion, not only nationally but from around the world.

We have our own plans for 2014 to ensure all the victims are remembered properly and with dignity and respect and we'll be unveiling them in the coming months in the Birmingham Mail.

But this year's anniversary is equally important to us.

We are still finalising the details, but we shall be meeting in the grounds of St Philip's Cathedral in the early evening of November 21, 2013 and there will be a simple, small service at the memorial in the grounds there.

We have invited civic dignitaries, including all Birmingham councillors, and other guests.

But it is the support of the other people of the city which really inspires us.

I hestitate to call them "ordinary" Brummies, because they are not ordinary to us. They are inspirational.

Last year it was wonderful to be joined by a large number of people, some who we knew, but others who we didn't - workers on their way home, people living locally, who stood with us in solidarity for a few moments.

I think it's fair to say this event is growing each year.

So I'd like to extend an invitation to all Birmingham Mail readers to join with us this year.

It will show again that the 21 who were murdered will never be forgotten.

It is entirely free, we are not asking for any money from anyone. Just their moral support.

The backing we receive from people already touches us and encourages us enormously.

Please put the date in your diary and, if you can, join us on that night, if only for a few minutes.

9 November 2013 - Birmingham Mail - by Mike Lockley

Campaigners who lost a beloved sister in the Birmingham pub bombings described shock talks with one of the men wrongly jailed for the IRA atrocity as "emotional torture".

Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine died in the appalling massacre, said the face-to-face with Paddy Hill was "totally traumatic".

"I fell apart," she told the Birmingham Mail. "It was tantamount to emotional torture. I shut down and fell apart. I was grieving again. It was his association with what happened that night."

Mr Hill was one of six men whose convictions for instigating the horrors that befell The Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town 39 years ago were quashed in 1991. They had languished in prison since 1975.

Now 67, Mr Hill agreed to meet Julie and brother Brian Hambleton - driving forces behind campaign group Justice4the21 - at Warrington Peace Centre, built as a lasting reminder to the town's own terror attack.

It was a fraught, emotional meeting that brought back memories of the November night in 1974 when the couple lost 18-year-old Maxine.

She had walked into the Tavern in the Town only minutes before the blast to hand out party invitations.

Maxine and 20 others were killed. Almost 200 were injured.

During the meeting, Mr Hill:

  • Told the Hambletons he had given the name of three suspects to police - individuals whispered to have played a part in the massacre.
  • Spoke of his anger and revulsion over the cowardly attack.
  • Vowed to help in Julie and Brian's all-consuming quest to find those responsible.

Brian admitted to entering the meeting, arranged by the BBC, with one burning question: "You didn't do it, but do you know who did?"

He is no nearer to finding those with blood on their hands.

"It was traumatic," admitted Brian. "I was teetering on the edge. He is a frail man, but the vision of how he was when arrested is in our DNA. I was trying to be his tormentor.

"He appeared open and sympathetic. Remember, where we are going, whatever we find out, can only be of benefit to him."

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Brian wanted to know why Mr Hill - a man with no links to the IRA - had left the city shortly before the explosions to attend a terrorist's funeral. James McDade died while planting a bomb in Coventry.

He got a simple answer. "It was just a p***-up for the Irish community."

The historic Warrington meeting was in doubt until the very last moment, with Julie and Brian aware of a potential backlash in Birmingham.

"We were in a Catch 22," nodded Julie. "It took a lot of thought right up to the last minute. We knew he could be very helpful, but people on the outside could drop their support because of our association with him.

"I thought he'd be uncomfortable because he was speaking to people for the first time who had stepped forward, but he didn't appear to be fazed. To him, it was another meeting, but to us it was monumental.

"He said he was in favour of a united Ireland, but did not agree with how they have gone about trying to get it. He did not agree with their methods.

"He described the bombings as despicable.

"At the end of the day, he is in limbo and we are in limbo until the real killers are caught. He is, in essence, fighting for the very same thing we are fighting for."

Julie took a deep breath before pondering: "Was the meeting worth it? Only time will tell."

She added: "We went ahead with the meeting because, if we are to get to the truth, we recognise we will have to be brave - whether that is meeting someone like Mr Hill or protesting outside conferences involving people who we believe know the truth.

"We are prepared to do almost anything - provided it is legal and peaceful - in our fight for justice."

The Hambletons, who will never stop their search for answers, are well used to playing a waiting game.

The meeting is thought to be the first between any of the pub bombings victims and The Birmingham Six.

The IRA has never formally admitted responsibility for the bombing but recently former IRA commander Martin McGuinness said his "heart went out" to the victims and their families.

1 November 2013 - Birmingham Mail - by Julie Hambleton

THE only official memorial to the 21 people killed in the Birmingham pub bombings has been given a long-overdue makeover.

The simple memorial, in the grounds of St Philip's Cathedral includes a plaque displaying a list of the names of those who died in the 1974 IRA attack.

But over the years it had become weather-beaten and worn to the extent that many people passed by it without realising what it was for.

But now, ahead of this week's (Nov 21) 39th anniversary of the bombings, it has been spruced up and cleaned thanks to the city council.

The names of those killed have also been painted in gold lettering.

The memorial will be the centre stage of a candle-lit vigil on Thursday night which has been organised by Justice for the 21, the group campaigning for the truth behind the terror attack.

Today, Julie and Brian, whose sister, Maxine, died in the attack, said: "We are very grateful that, at long last, the memorial has been restored.

"For too long it has been allowed to deteriorate.

"The new-look memorial will help ensure that this terrible event will not be forgotten.

"As a group we want to say a sincere thank-you to the council for organising this."

Thursday night's vigil will begin at 6pm and the group as invited various guests, civic dignitaries and anyone in the city centre at the time to join them for a few moments reflection.

Apart from those who died, almost 200 were injured when bombs went off in the Tavern in the Town and Mulberry Bush pubs.

Six men convicted over the bombings later had their sentences quashed and no-one has ever been brought to justice.

For years the IRA formally denied any involvement but earlier this year former IRA commander Martin McGuiness appeared to acknowledge it was involved when he said his "heart went out" to the victims and their families.

"My heart goes out to them because they are people who have suffered as a result of the conflict in Northern Ireland," he said.

19 October 2013 - Birmingham Mail - by Andy Richards

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Birmingham pub bombings campaigners were protesting at a London conference today where Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams is due to talk.

Brian Hambleton and up to two dozen members of the Justice 4 the 21 group were mounting a peaceful demonstration outside the Irish Centre in Camden, where Sinn Fein is hosting the "Towards a New Ireland" event.

Mr Hambleton's sister, Maxine, was one of 21 people who died when bombs exploded in the Tavern in the Town and Mulberry Bush pubs in Birmingham city centre on November 21, 1974.

"We are hoping that, because this is in the capital, it will elevate our campaign and what we are doing in part of the country where we are not really known," he said.

"I hope Sinn Fein will talk to us. After all, they don't have to go anywhere, we have come to their table.

"We will have several banners, one of which will say 'Gerry and the Peacemakers Will Always Walk Alone while IRA Victims are Ignored'.

The aftermath of the Birmingham pub bombings and (inset) Gerry Adams The aftermath of the Birmingham pub bombings and (inset) Gerry Adams

Six men were convicted over the pub bombings and served 16 years in prison before their convictions were declared unsafe and unsatisfactory, finally being quashed by the Court of Appeal in 1991.

No-one has since been brought to justice.

Justice 4 the 21 want those responsible for the Birmingham bombs to be brought before the courts and sentenced for the crime, one of the biggest ever mass murders in Britain.

The IRA has for years denied being responsible for the bombs.

But former IRA leader and now Northern Ireland's deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, recently said his "heart went out" to the pub bomb victims and their families because they "were people who suffered as a result of the conflict in Northern Ireland."

Several British MPs, including Diane Abbott and former Downing Street Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell, a key player in the peace process, were due to attend today's conference.

With this year marking the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, delegates are focussing on the next phase of the peace protest.

Sinn Fein was historically linked with the Provisional IRA and has been the second largest political party in Northern Ireland since 2011.

Mr Hambleton said his group had written both to Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness, asking if they know who carried out the Birmingham pub bombings, but has had no response.

20 September 2013 - Birmingham Mail - by Gary Young

Birmingham pub bombing protesters shout 'murderer' at Martin McGuinness

The brother of a Birmingham pub bombings victim has revealed campaigners shouted "murderer" during a heated showdown with Martin McGuinness.

Brian Hambleton and others from the Justice for the 21 group confronted the former IRA leader after he delivered a peace lecture in Warrington.

He said at the moment the controversial Sinn Fein figure was driven past them, a band of protesters called out: "Murderer!"

It was the first time Brian had been near the controversial politician, now Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister.

Mr McGuinness had been invited to talk at the Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace event by Colin Parry, dad of the schoolboy who died in the Warrington IRA bombing.

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Campaigners from the Justice for 21 group had travelled to the lecture hall to protest outside about the appearance .

"It was quite late when he came out in a chauffeur-driven mini bus, with windows blacked out," said Brian, whose sister Maxine was among 21 people killed in the Birmingham atrocity, which also left more than 180 injured.

"As he went past we all shouted 'Murderer!' These are kind of momentous, poignant moments for us.

"I live this every day but it doesn't get any better and it never will."

Speaking before Wednesday's lecture, Mr McGuinness had said his "heart went out" to the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings .

But Brian, 58, said the words were not enough for still-grieving families who want the IRA to name those responsible for the November 1974 attacks on the Tavern in the Town and Mulberry Bush.

The campaigner also ruled out any future meeting with Mr McGuinness.

"I couldn't physically meet with the man,'' he said. "The painful thing is, that meeting with that man would give him more kudos.

''Talk is cheap. I know what I'm looking for and my goal is the truth."

Brian said around 35 members of Justice for the 21 were kept 100 yards back from the centre where Mr McGuinness was talking.

He added: "Every movement our supporters made was tailed by the police. If you didn't know any better you wouldn't believe we were the victims, but that we were the pariahs."

30 August 2013 - Birmingham Mail - by Julie Hambleton

THERE are brave men and women in our community who we should honour.

I'm referring to those in the emergency services who were on duty the night evil bombers brought death and carnage when they struck in our city in 1974.

The police fire and ambulance crews who responded were magnificent.

And not only them. There were the taxi drivers who also ferried the injured to hospital, the doctors and nurses who suddenly found themselves dealing with a "war zone" type catastrophe, the Salvation Army who tried to provide some comfort.

One of the first firemen on the scene at the Tavern in the Town informed me that he vividly remembers every detail of that night, from the smell that hit his nostrils to the scenes of sheer horror.

Some may have received some recognition though I am unclear on this.

What Justice4the21 do know is that all who were involved in the rescue operation and the battle to save lives in the immediate aftermath of the explosions should always be respected and appreciated for what they did.

Of course, most if not all are long retired and sadly, some will have passed away. But we should never forget their bravery, particularly those who went directly to the pubs.

At least two bombs had gone off (and, of course, a third had been planted outside Barclays Bank in Hagley Road - the subject of a terrific Birmingham Mail investigation a few days ago).

How were those who had the first calls to the Tavern in the Town and the Mulberry Bush to know that further bombs had not been placed elsewhere and timed to go off to cause even further carnage?

Yet despite this they put their own lives on the line to try to do what they could - anything they could - to save lives.

They went into the burning embers of buildings simply not knowing what they were going into, and if it may cost them their own lives.

This was the darkest night in our great city's history outside of war time.

So, on behalf of my family and this campaign group, I want to formally express our sincere thanks and our eternal gratitude for all that you did and tried to do.

Of course, I've met a few of those involved and I'm glad to have been able to meet them and say my thanks to them on a personal level.

But, with the 40th anniversary of this terrible crime approaching, I think the city - the Government even - should officially recognise their efforts on that black day.

Their efforts to help save my sister, Maxine, and 20 others were in vain.But it bring us some comfort to know that Birmingham's finest were on duty that night and did all that was humanly possible.

I'm sure that many have their private memories and perhaps one day their stories can be told.

I think they should, not least from a historical point of view.

And we are as resolved as ever to try to find the real truth behind what happened on the night - who the bombers were, why they murdered so indiscriminately, and to gain justice for those who were taken away from us through the law courts.

We believe there are political reasons behind what seems to be a complete inertia as far as pursuing the bombers is concerned.

So let me remind the police and the Government what Article 2 (1) of the Human Rights Act states: "Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which the penalty is provided by law."

It doesn't say that the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings should be excluded does it?

15 August 2013 - Birmingham Mail - by Julie Hambleton

I WANT to use this week's column to stress that Justice4the21 is not a political group.

I do so because it is surprising how many people, particularly those in authority, believe that we are and place us in a "political" box.

So, for the record and to make it absolutely plain, we are not a political group and we have no political affiliations.

We simply want truth and justice for our sister, Maxine, the others who died and all the other victims and their families, whose lives were changed for ever on that dreadful November night in 1974.

We want to know the truth about what happened and to try to understand why it happened.

And we want justice.

We want to know who was responsible - we want their names and, provided they are still alive, we want to seem them charged, brought before a court, convicted and punished.

We know that nearly 40 years have passed, but that doesn't mean that those who planned and planted those bombs are somehow now less guilty.

Nor that their crime is any less heinous.

It seems to us that when many people categorise us as a political group it is not because they have made an innocent mistake, but for their purposes and not ours.

By making us look political, it seems to give them an excuse for dragging their heels and being unhelpful.

Our supporters have contacted and sought support from all parties from the Conservatives to Ukip and reserve the right to do so.

We need as much help, support, encouragement and advice as we can muster and when it is offered, and is sensible and genuine, we will take it.

For instance, we were very grateful for the support, wise counsel and advice we received from Northern Ireland's First Minister, Peter Robinson, recently.

Our sister and all the others caught up in the terrible events of that night were not engaged in any political activity, they were not in a war zone.

They were quite simply citizens of Birmingham enjoying their leisure time among friends and family when they were murdered and maimed.

What we are asking for - truth and justice - is not unreasonable, nor unfair.

If it had been your sister, your father or mother or relative, how would you feel?

So again I stress we have no political agenda other than to get ALL political parties and authorities such as, West Midlands Police, to engage and have genuine momentum in establishing the truth, identifying the mass murderers and bringing them to justice.

My question to those in a position to be able to provide such answers is this... what do we pay our rates and taxes for, if no one is prepared to use the full extent of the law? What is the purpose of establishing legislation if those with the power to facilitate it choose to be impotent?

Could it be for their own 'political' ends? But whose & why?

Considering the state of affairs within our current Government, where at best there is often a lack of transparency to at worst complete secrecy, is it not time for all those in the position of authority to show some good old fashioned, British indomitable courage and give the people (who pay their hefty salaries) once and for all, the TRUTH?

How refreshing and quite possibly politically advantageous this could be, especially with an election due....

Sadly, we have believed for a long time - and we suspect that many Birmingham Mail readers do too - that it is politicians who are ultimately trying to keep the doors shut on us ever finding out the truth.

They may have all sorts of reasons and their own agendas for doing that and there may be national and international implications, for the world is a smaller place nowadays.

So I'll remind them that our world and our lives were shattered on November 21, 1974.

It is for that reason that we will never, ever give up our fight for Justice for Maxine and the others.

And one day, I truly believe, we will get it.

13 July 2013 - Birmingham Mail - by Julie Hambleton

Justice4the21 were invited to Belfast by our supporters who live and work in Northern Ireland. The trip for us was monumental and incredibly awe inspiring.

Peter Robinson agreed to meet with us in his role as Leader of the DUP and I have to say he was the most 'real' and 'refreshing' individual we have ever had the pleasure to meet, especially when one considers his position.

The welcome and hospitality we received during our very brief visit was incredible.

I cried (quietly) in the back of the car of one of our supporters who had flown to Belfast to take care of us. Then a local resident, who had re-arranged his day on our behalf, took over and chaperoned us from one meeting to another.

They did this wishing for nothing in return.

These people instinctively believe in our campaign for justice and have given of themselves without question.

Four of our Birmingham supporters came to Belfast with my brother and I. They stayed for two days in order to raise awareness of our plight for justice. These four men, two of whom were not born when our sister Maxine was murdered, are out with us at every petition signing day.

The youth of today receive bad press coverage, but 50 per cent of our supporters are young and all of them are disgusted and appalled at how all the families have been continually ignored by the authorities and Government for nearly four decades.

There is a clear dichotomy of 'care' between the mainland UK and Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland they have support networks for victims and survivors. Here, it appears, would prefer the survivors and the victims' families to have been buried alongside their loved ones who were brutally murdered 38 years ago.

The irreverence of how we have been treated has been palpable. This is what brings our supporters out on the streets and this is what has encouraged Mr Robinson to state that he "unequivocally supports justice4the21 campaign" and is going to push Prime Minister David Cameron to put certain criteria in place, as has been established in Northern Ireland.

It has truly humbled our family to think there are so many people out there who are prepared to give up their own time and in some cases, where they may be out of pocket to come and assist raising our profile, especially on our signature collecting days in the city centre of Birmingham.

We particularly wish to extend, once again, our most sincere thanks and gratitude to Mike Watts, without whom we simply do not know where our campaign would be today.

It was Mike, Mark, Paul and Gary who came to Belfast with us and to each of them we extend our lifelong hand of friendship and deepest heartfelt thanks in line with all those who behind the scenes provide our campaign with support in so many highly significant ways.

love for this person to introduce themselves to us at this year's Memorial or contact us via our email address justicethe21@hotmail.co.uk.

11 July 2013 - Birmingham Mail - by Julie Hambleton

Justice4the21 were invited to Belfast by our supporters who live and work in Northern Ireland. The trip for us was monumental and incredibly awe inspiring.

Mr Robinson agreed to meet with us in his role as Leader of the DUP and I have to say he was the most 'real' and 'refreshing' individual we have ever had the pleasure to meet, especially when one considers his position.

The welcome and hospitality we received during our very brief visit was incredible! I cried (quietly) in the back of the car of one of our supporters who had flown to Belfast to take care of us. Then a local resident, who had re-arranged his day on our behalf, took over and chaperoned us from one meeting to another. They did this wishing for nothing in return. These people instinctively believe in our campaign for justice and have given of themselves without question.

Four of our Birmingham supporters came to Belfast with my brother and I. They stayed for two days in order to raise awareness of our plight for justice. These four men, two of whom were not born when our sister Maxine was murdered, are out with us at every Petition signing day. The youth of today receive bad press coverage, but 50% of our supporters are young and all of them are disgusted and appalled at how all the families have been continually ignored by the authorities and government for nearly four decades.

The government have abrogated their responsibility to the very people they are meant to represent and serve year after year. There is a clear dichotomy of 'care' between mainland UK and NI. In NI they have support networks for Victims and Survivors. Here on the mainland the government, it appears, would prefer the survivors and the victims' families to have been buried alongside their loved ones who were brutally and callously murdered 38 years ago. For some reason, the authorities do not want to deal with the truth of this heinous carnage that continues to stain our great city.

The irreverence of how we have been treated has been palpable. This is what brings our supporters out on the streets and this is what has incentivised Mr Robinson to state that he 'unequivocally supports justice4the21 campaign' and is going to push the PM David Cameron to put certain criteria in place, as has been established in NI.

It has truly humbled our family to think there are so many people out there who are prepared to give up their own time and in some cases, where they may be out of pocket (by giving up a day at work) to come and assist raise our profile, especially on our signature collecting days in the city centre of Birmingham. We particularly wish to extend, once again, our most sincere thanks and gratitude to Mike Watts, without whom we simply do not know where our campaign would be today. It was Mike, Mark, Paul and Gary who came to Belfast with us and to each of them we extend our lifelong hand of friendship and deepest heartfelt thanks in line with all those who behind the scenes provide our campaign with support in so many highly significant ways.

21 June 2013 - Birmingham Mail - by Amoolya Meeta

Re-visiting the pub bombings.....

It was a busy news day at University when I first heard my friend talk about the Birmingham Pub bombings. Though the subject initially did not interest me, I was later shocked to find out that the 38-year-old case had still not found a closure. Deeper research into this tragedy revealed that the Birmingham pub bombings were the largest terrorist atrocity on Mainland Britain in the 20th Century. Being an overseas student, it was appalling to note the British government's failure to bring to justice the perpetrators of such a horrendous crime. I also observed a few important questions that curiously remain unanswered. Because of this, I had decided to choose the pub bombings as the topic for my upcoming project.

38 years, 21 deaths, zero convictions and no justice. This initial observation struck a resounding chord in me. The 38 long years did not just symbolize a long wait for justice, but also questioned the credibility of the British government to hold the conspirators of the pub bombings responsible.

The agony and struggle of the families waiting for justice to be served was evidently overlooked in this case. West Midlands Police state that there was an investigation into this case after the "Birmingham Six" were released in 1993, but this was conducted 'in camera' - behind closed doors.

What is causing the unprecedented delay in bringing the real culprits to book?

Could it be, political collusion and corruption among Police forces and sheer indifference of the higher authorities that may be cited as a few answers to questions like these?

Even after my elaborate research, interviews and persistent efforts to get more clarity into what transpired in 1974, I have failed to get any convincing answers.

Being an outsider, I always marveled at the accountability of the British legal system, the models of which are adopted by various countries worldwide. However, it is ironic that the very system that has developed over centuries to protect the innocent has failed to deliver on its core principals of justice, especially for the 21 innocent people who were killed, leaving 182 maimed.

My project (blog), "A Visitor's diary of the Birmingham Pub bombings" tried to offer many perspectives of this heinous crime. When my blog reached a thousand hits, I made a rather intriguing observation. There are still many British people who relate to the bombings. There are those who have been directly impacted, those indirectly impacted and others who were sucked into it in the most unfortunate ways possible. The Birmingham pub bombings of 1974 are infamously remembered for the Irish Republican terror that gripped England for many years.

Though the Irish Republican Army never officially accepted responsibility for the bombings, I found out through my interviews that for many people in Birmingham, their involvement could not be ignored. The Irish community in the city also suffered a major backlash following the pub bombings. Six Irishmen, often addressed as the "Birmingham Six" were arrested and convicted in the immediate aftermath of the bombings but were released some 16 years later for wrongful convictions. Since then it is considered the biggest miscarriage of justice in the British legal history, whereby the real culprits are far from being punished.

23 May 2013 - Birmingham Mail - by Brian Hambleton

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On the evening of 21 November 1974, our lives were changed forever in the most harrowing way.

I, as usual, would arrive at approximately 6pm to our home in Alum Rock to be greeted by a happy sister who was always there to ask us how our day had been.

It didn't really matter if it had been a good or bad day, she would make everything sound fine.

We were like batteries in a torch, she empowered us but she was the great light that shone from it.

Maxine, our sister, held Paul and me together like glue. Paul, my brother, Maxine and I had recently moved into this house.

Maxine had decided to continue her studies at Sheldon Heath Grammar School to further her education to study law.

Being the determined, tenacious young woman she was, Maxine secured a part-time position at Miss Selfridge in Lewis's.

In 1974, this was a new, trendy young ladies fashion outlet, which she also had a great interest in, especially as she was arty and enjoyed making clothes for her two younger sisters, Jayne and Julie, as well as herself.

We were so lucky to have had Maxine as our sister. On that Thursday evening she told me she was catching the bus into town to hand out her hand-made 'house-warming' party invitations, as we were due to have a party the following evening.

As there was only the three of us we could not afford a telephone so she decided to meet her friends in the city that night.

I dropped her off in Dale End, without knowing it I was saying my very last goodbye to my sister and I would be the last person in our family to see her alive.

It was mid-evening when I was watching television when an ITN newsflash came on, informing viewers of bomb explosions in the centre of Birmingham.

I remember to this day, the feeling of dread and a strange unsettling connection to this disaster.

I immediately drove towards town but obviously there was no way through.

So I ended up back home, sitting in a chair that I never moved from all night, desperately hoping to hear the front door open and see Maxine home and safe.

But, as the hours passed I felt sick and unnerved, realising she was involved in this horrendous attack.

At about 6am I pulled myself together ready for college and reluctantly made my way to Hall Green. I was running on adrenaline, not knowing what was about to unfold.

At approximately 9.30am my worst fears were confirmed as the classroom door opened and the college Principal entered requesting to speak to me privately.

He told me I had to meet my father at his workplace immediately.

It was then I knew she had been killed.

15 May 2013 - Birmingham Mail - by Mike Lockley

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Justice4the21 - fighting for the truth about the Birmingham pub bombings

A campaign group seeking justice for the victims is beginning to win the support of senior politicians

Julie Hambleton held the cardboard box nervously then summoned sufficient courage to gingerly feel inside the worn container.

She pulled out a bottle of champagne, bowed her head and wept uncontrollably, tears dappling dust on the vessel.

It has been 38 tortuous years since Julie's sister, Maxine, was murdered, one of 21 victims butchered by bombs in Birmingham's Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs.

The pain and anger of that barbaric act still burns under Julie and elder brother Brian's skin.

And forgotten pieces of fun-loving Maxine's life still surface. The modest box, along with a handful of scratched 45s, were handed to 50 year-old Julie by her father.

"She wanted to improve her French," cried Julie, fingering the champagne, "so she went grape-picking in France. This is the bottle she brought back."

Julie is the tireless engine behind Justice4the21, a band committed to finding and punishing those with blood on their hands following the November 21, 1974, atrocity.

To that end they need 100,000 names on a petition calling for a public inquiry.

The campaigners' first petition ran out of time, not momentum.

Their second, currently standing at 8,000 paper signatures, 1,000 on-line, is also unlikely to succeed.

But Julie, who takes no prisoners when clashing with politicians and police chiefs over the topic, and her team have re-ignited public passion over the horrific crime.

"We are not just doing this for us," she stressed during a gathering of the group's main-players, "we are doing it for future generations.

"Who is to say this will not happen again? The perception is, you can come to Birmingham, murder as many people as you like and get away with it.

"Even a senior police officer said, you are bringing about a change that has never been seen before."

Julie sighs and stares at the dusty bottle. "What sticks in my craw is the fact the Government is saying it is not for them to get involved.

"So why were Tony Blair and Mo Mowlam discussing the Good Friday Agreement to bring about the peace process?

"Yet the Government doesn't want to get involved in the biggest mass murder in Britain.

"They are complicit in allowing the murderers to have their freedom."

"They hope we will lose hope," she added defiantly. "We will never lose hope."

She and Brian, 58, are driven by the memory of remarkable Maxine, a bright, bubbly girl violently robbed of a legal career.

Incredibly, she juggled studies and a part-time job at Miss Selfridge while acting as a mother figure at the Alum Rock home she shared with Brian and younger brother Paul. "Me, Paul and Maxine, we were glued together," said Brian.

"Maxine did everything for us. She would cook and wash, she would look after us, even though we always said we didn't expect anything of her."

The weight of grief Brian feels over the loss of his beloved sister is tinged - quite wrongly - with guilt.

"It tore me apart," he confessed.

"I was going out to see my girlfriend and said to Maxine, 'if you iron my shirt, I'll drop you off in town'. It was a joke, but she ironed my shirt.

"If I hadn't done that, and she got on the bus, she might not have got there at that time."

Such are the ghosts that plague the Hambletons: ghosts that can only be put to rest by justice.

The group's relationship with West Midlands Police is, at best, strained, at worst acrimonious.

They have gone to the force armed with names and theories, only to be frustrated by what they perceive as a lack of urgency. They believe some officers are reluctant to uncover mistakes made by predecessors

Supporter Mike Watts, tasked with sifting through a mountain of documents, cuttings and books, believes the ground-swell of public revulsion cannot be ignored.

"The Hambletons are victims of terrorism," he said. "The great thing is the people who support us and the sacrifices they have made. For the first time, it feels like it is a community again in Birmingham.

"People would run through brick walls for the Hambletons."

Justice4the21 may soon have something to sing about - thanks to the efforts of 61-year-old musician Phil Hatton.

He is currently attempting to get local pop stars into the studio for a campaign single.

"We have woken a lot of people who shunned the subject," he told The Birmingham Mail. "For some reason they were frightened - it was nasty, it was the IRA.

"This is our Twin Towers. Someone came into our city and placed those bombs in the most terrible of places. Our people were killed.

"Those people who placed those bombs thought they would get away with it, but they are not going to get away with it."

One thing is for sure. Julie Hambleton will spend every waking hour of every day to ensure that comes to pass.

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson

The Justice4the21 campaign has received a massive boost after being backed by Northern Ireland's First Minister, Peter Robinson.

Following a meeting last week with Ms Hambleton and campaigners at Stormont, Mr Robinson said a new investigation was "necessary".

He said: "These people need to see there is a real attempt being made to try and pin point who has been responsible for those dreadful bombings in Birmingham."

Mr Robinson said he had asked Ms Hambleton to put together a dossier of documents about her campaign that he would pass to Prime Minister David Cameron.

"I believe if the Prime Minister looks at the arguments they're putting forward there's every reason why there should be an investigation," he said.

Mr Robinson also signed Ms Hambleton's petition calling for a public inquiry.

She said his support was an "incredible boost" for her campaign.

"We just want justice for families like us, justice that has not yet been seen to be done by the authorities," she said.

The group also met with officials from Justice for Innocent Victims of Terrorism, a Northern Ireland-wide advocacy and representation based organisation.

A spokesman said: "To hear the experiences of the Hambleton's was very moving and emotional for those of us who met with them on Friday evening. Their pain is also the pain of those whose loved ones were murdered as a consequence of terrorism in Northern Ireland.

"We stand shoulder to shoulder with the families of Birmingham in their quest to have the case re-opened.

We also call upon the UK Government to immediately put in place a task force which would examine the legacy issues faced by GB-based Victims and Survivors of Terrorism.

"Whether a bombing happened in Omagh, Enniskillen, Claudy, Dublin, Monaghan, London or Birmingham the innocent victims and survivors of Terrorism must not be forgotten.

" It is a downright disgrace that no support provision has been put in place to support the families of the murdered 21 nor the 182 who were injured as a consequence of what was amongst the most 'evil acts of terrorism' to have been perpetrated over the last 40 plus year period," he added