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1975: Balcombe Street siege ends
A six-day siege has ended peacefully in London after four IRA gunmen freed their two hostages and gave themselves up to police.

They are in custody at Paddington Green Police Station after what has become known as the Balcombe Street siege.

Police are also questioning them about a further 100 incidents which have taken place across the south east of Britain relating to the IRA.

The hostages John Matthews, 54, and his wife Sheila, 53, have been taken to University College Hospital where a spokesman said they were "shaken and weak" but doing well.

A breakthrough in the stand-off at the couple's west London home at Marylebone came at 1355 GMT today when the gang's spokesman "Tom" shouted to police they wanted to negotiate.

A telephone, replacing one earlier destroyed by the gunmen, was lowered on to the flat's balcony and detective chief superintendent Peter Imbert promised them hot food for the release of Mrs Matthews.

Hostages safe

In the first of a series of dramatic scenes a masked man appeared at the balcony and was ordered to keep his arms raised.

Mrs Matthews emerged 90 seconds later and was assisted by the man to the safety of waiting police on a neighbouring balcony under a metal bar.

AT 1454 hot sausages, Brussels sprouts and potatoes, peaches and cream were lowered into the flat.

Police resumed contact with the men at 1550 and 25 minutes later they agreed to surrender.

Following precise procedures from deputy assistant commissioner Wilford Gibson they emerged one by one with their hands on their heads.

After the first two men were searched and handcuffed Mr Matthews was set free under police orders.

Then a third man was ushered out followed by the gang's spokesman Tom.

Cheers and applause broke out as relief replaced fear on the estate which police had evacuated and filled with officers.

The stand-off began when the men stormed the Matthews' flat as they fled from police after a shooting incident in Mayfair.

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Watch/Listen
Balcombe Street siege
Both hostages were released unharmed

Home Secretary Roy Jenkins says "Patience and determination" was key



In Context
The collapse of the IRA's 1974-1975 ceasefire triggered a wave of bombings by the four men who became known as the "Balcombe Street Gang" - Martin O'Connell, Edward Butler, Harry Duggan and Hugh Doherty.

They detonated their first 10 devices in five days and killed Ross McWhirter, the co-editor of the Guinness Book of Records, after he offered 50,000 for information leading to their arrest.

When they were forced to surrender to police after the failed Balcombe Street siege they were charged with 10 murders and 20 bombings and jailed for life.

They were freed in April 1999 under the terms of the multi-party peace deal for Northern Ireland, known as the Good Friday Agreement, signed in 1998.

Stories From 12 Dec


 
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