Arndale bombing: Police remain ‘committed’ to catching IRA terrorist 25 years after Manchester attack

Chiefs appeal for information on anniversary of attack – but no new inquiry to be opened

Colin Drury
North of England Correspondent
Tuesday 15 June 2021 17:55

Police chiefs in Manchester have said they remain “absolutely committed” to catching the terrorist behind the 1996 IRA bomb that destroyed a swathe of the city centre.

Tuesday is the 25th anniversary of the blast which caused an estimated £1 billion worth of damage and injured some 216 people. The device – planted in a trucked parked next to the Arndale shopping centre – was the largest bomb ever exploded in peacetime England.

But despite Greater Manchester Police passing a file to the Crown Prosecution Service which named a prime suspect soon after the attack, no-one has ever been charged.

Some in the city believe the culprit was allowed to remain free because of top-level fears that any arrests could put the then fledgling peace negotiations in jeopardy.

Graham Stringer, who led the city council between 1984 and 1996 and who is today MP for the Blackley and Broughton constituency, told The Independent on Sunday: “It’s appalling. In a democratic society, for someone to blow up the centre of a major city and injure hundreds of people, and then get away with it? It is wrong…

“Justice should be seen to be done. If bombers are going to be let off then we should at least know who is being let off and why and what the greater benefit of that is.”

But on Tuesday, Det Chief Supt Dominic Scally, head of Counter Terrorism Policing North West, refuted suggestions the case had been allowed to go completely cold.

In a statement, he said: “We said at the 20th anniversary that previous reviews have taken place and that the case remained open.

"Indeed since the 20th anniversary, we have further reviewed the available evidence and looked at any new forensic lines of enquiry.

"This has provided some new, albeit limited, investigative opportunities and whilst it would not be appropriate for us to comment further at the moment, we remain absolutely committed to seeking prosecution if sufficient evidence becomes available.

"Despite the passage of time, I know the anniversary will bring back painful memories for all those affected by the devastating events of that day, and our thoughts remain with you at this time.

"I want to be clear that if there is sufficient evidence found in this or any other review, this will be provided to the Crown Prosecution Service to determine if charges are appropriate. This is despite the passage of time."

Only good luck and a remarkable police evacuation – which saw some 80,000 people moved out of central Manchester – meant that the blast itself resulted in no fatalities.

But the bomb – planted in a truck parked between the ARndale shopping centre and Marks and Spencer – damaged 700 buildings.

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