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1974: Soldiers and children killed in coach bombing

Eleven people - including eight off-duty soldiers and two young children - have been killed, and 12 seriously injured, when the coach they were travelling in was blown up by a bomb.

The private coach was carrying more than 50 people and making its way from Manchester, along the M62, towards an army base in Catterick, North Yorkshire, when an explosive device in the rear of the vehicle detonated.

The explosion happened just after midnight on the eastbound carriageway between Chain Bar, near Bradford and Drightlington, south of Leeds.

It could be heard over an area of several miles and scattered bodies for 250 yards along the road.

The coach was carrying soldiers and their families who had been on a weekend break; some of the servicemen were travelling to RAF Leeming, near Darlington.

A family of four - Lance-Corporal Clifford Houghton, his wife Linda, who were both 23, and their two sons, Lee, five, and Robert, three - were among the dead.

'Open mind'

Army bomb disposal experts and police bomb squad officers have been sifting through the wreckage of the coach on the M62.

West Yorkshire police said: "We are treating this with an open mind. It could have been the work of terrorists."

The soldiers on the coach were drawn from a number of different regiments.

The coach was one of a number used to take soldiers on their weekend leave and return them to their bases.

Police have searched three other coaches bound for Catterick, which had left London, Liverpool and Leeds, fearing bombs could have been placed on board.

The injured have been taken to hospitals in Bradford, Wakefield and Batley.

A six-year-old boy has severe burns.

An ambulance official said: "You can't imagine a thing like this on a British road. How could it have happened?

"It must have been a bomb - and a fairly large one to create havoc like this."

Because of current industrial unrest among railway workers, soldiers with 48-hour passes have preferred to rely on coach services rather than trains to get them back to base on time.


In Context
The number of people who died in the coach bombing rose to 12, when an 18-year-old soldier died four days later. <br>

The prime suspect for the bombing was the Provisional IRA. <br>

In November 1974, Judith Ward, who denied being a member of the IRA, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the bombing but freed in 1992. <br>

Her conviction was overturned when the Appeal Court ruled that government forensic scientists withheld information which could have changed the course of her trial. <br>

British soldiers and their families had been under threat from republican paramilitaries during the troubles in Northern Ireland. <br>

In February 1972, an IRA bomb killed six people at Aldershot army barracks in Surrey. <br>

In August 1979, on the same day the IRA killed the Queen's cousin, Lord Louis Mountbatten, 18 soldiers died when two bombs were detonated near Warrenpoint close to the border with the Irish Republic. <br>

Three years later, eight soldiers were killed in Hyde Park, London, and ten soldiers were killed at an army barracks in Kent in 1989; the IRA admitted carrying out the attacks. <br>

The IRA has been on ceasefire since 1997. <br>

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Mangled remains of the coach on the M62
The coach was taking soldiers and their families back to an army base


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