The Home Secretary has agreed to look into calls for a public inquiry into the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, after a meeting with West Midlands Mayor Andy Street.
In a move welcomed by campaigners who lost loved ones in the twin attacks, Priti Patel said she would take into account their views and official advice before making any decision.
In April 2019, an inquest jury found a botched IRA warning call led to the deaths of 21 people unlawfully killed in the atrocity on November 21 1974.
Two bombs planted in the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs also injured up to 220 other victims.
Conservative mayor Mr Street, a long-time supporter of the Justice for the 21 Campaign, said he had met with the Home Secretary to discuss the campaign, and how 46 years on the case remains the largest unsolved murder in recent British history.
Mr Street said: “Whilst this is not a firm commitment, it is a step towards securing a public inquiry and ultimately justice for the 21 murdered that night and their families.
“I want to thank the Home Secretary for taking the meeting to discuss this grave injustice, and for then agreeing to look into the case for a public inquiry.
“I am firmly of the belief that the only way to achieve justice now is through an open, panel-led, public inquiry, and I will continue to make the case alongside the Justice for the 21 campaign.
“The families, and the city of Birmingham, need closure.”
As well as agreeing to look into the case, the Home Secretary has also welcomed the opportunity to meet the families of the victims.
Mr Street added: “The Home Secretary was clear that she was keen to meet with some of the victims’ families so that she could understand first-hand the impact the lack of justice was having, and the importance of this campaign to everyone in Birmingham and across the region.
“I know this will be welcome news for the families, and we look forward to her visit to the West Midlands.”
In a statement, Ms Patel said: “My sympathy remains with all those affected by these awful events 46 years ago.
“And I recognise the desire of the victims’ families and the wider community to see those responsible brought to justice. So I would welcome the opportunity to meet some of the families so that I can take their views into account, together with official advice, before making any decision.”
Julie Hambleton, who lost her sister Maxine in the pub bombings, and is a member of Justice for the 21, said: “We welcome this opportunity to discuss the need for a statutory inquiry into the Birmingham Pub Bombings 1974 with the Home Secretary.”
Thanking Mr Street for his intervention on the families’ behalf, Ms Hambleton added: “We believe that a public inquiry is the only mechanism of investigation to establish truth, justice and accountability for those murdered in the pub bombings.”
Mr Street first called for a public inquiry into the bombings on the 45th anniversary last November.
Mr Street said in a speech: “Nothing we say or do can bring those innocent victims back, but we can still try to achieve justice for their families, and for a city that has many unanswered questions.”
Speaking during a visit to Ireland last October, Ms Hambleton said the inquest held earlier in the year had “left more questions than answers”.
“If we can get a public inquiry then the information that has been locked away can be brought to the fore and be put to and in front of a public inquiry,” she said.