Trial and Error: The Maguires, the Guildford Pub Bombings and British Justice by Robert Kee - review by Paul Foot

Paul Foot

Out For a Drink

Trial and Error: The Maguires, the Guildford Pub Bombings and British Justice


Hamish Hamilton 284pp £10.95 order from our bookshop

This is the story of two crimes. The first was the bombing by the IRA of two pubs in Guildford in October 1974. Five people were killed, and many others horribly injured. The indiscriminate slaughter and maiming of innocent people out for a drink is here described in gory detail, and is as shocking now as it was to the entire nation at the time.

The second crime followed a few weeks later. The Surrey Police were low on information about IRA activities. After blundering about for several weeks, they picked up (for payment of £350) a piece of information from a police informer in Belfast. The information led them to Paul Hill, a young man who had come to England from Belfast apparently to escape the wrath of the Provisional IRA from whom he had stolen a rifle.

Surrey police swooped on Hill as he visited his girlfriend in Southampton. In the days that followed they got from him a confession of how he had taken part in the Guildford bombings. Hill made six statements, which are full of contradictions and immediately obvious lies. He named as his conspirators almost everyone he had met in the Irish community of North West London since his arrival. ‘I picked them out of the blue’ he explained later. ‘The first ones anyway. Then it took on its own momentum.’ He named Paul Colman, John Macguiness, Brian Anderson, Scan Mullin. All of these were arrested and were soon able to clear themselves of any involvement in the bombings. He named Paddy Armstrong, Gerald Conlon, and a young English girl called Carole Richardson. These three were also arrested. They too made ‘confessions’ which were almost immediately retracted as soon as the confessors were allowed to see their lawyers and friends.

They claimed, then and now, that the confessions were extracted by psychological and physical violence.



‘At this stage once policeman hit me’ said Carole Richardson. ‘I lifted my arms to my face and he punched me in the ribs. Another policeman was shouting at me that I was a murdering bitch, and how did it feel to murder people. ‘W’ then said that if ‘L’

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