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1974: Minister's wife survives bomb attack

The wife and young son of Sports Minister Denis Howell have survived a bomb attack on their car.

The attack is thought to be the work of the Provisional IRA and is the first on a serving minister during the current IRA campaign.

The car, a white Cortina, exploded as Mrs Howell reversed out of the driveway of their house in Birmingham.

Experts believe they survived as a result of the device falling from the exhaust onto the road.

Mrs Howell and her son, both of whom were in the car at the time, escaped unhurt. Her older sons also escaped unhurt despite the windows of the house being blown in by the force of the explosion.

Mr Howell, a Labour MP in Birmingham, was in London at the time of the attack and heard about it in a newsflash.

"I have no idea how the bomb could have been planted or how bad the damage is, but I gather from my wife on the phone that all the windows and neighbours' windows were smashed" he said.

"I haven't the faintest idea why I was picked on. One just uses one's imagination. I'm like a lot of other victims in all of this nonsense" he added.

"I haven't the faintest idea why I was picked on"

Sports Minister Denis Howell

Mrs Howell explained what happened, saying: "I was just going out and had started my husband's car when it exploded. I only assume that something was attached to the exhaust."

Police are advising people in the area to remain vigilant. Birmingham's assistant chief constable for crime, Maurice Buck, said: "I'm asking the public to take elementary precautions."

He added that if possible everyone should leave their car in a garage but said: "If you have to leave your car outside then before you drive it, have a quick look round to see that everything looks ok."

Until now only government members concerned with Northern Ireland have been given Scotland Yard protection but this attack on the sports minister is expected to lead to blanket coverage for all ministers.

In Context
Police believe the device was attached to the car while it was sitting on the drive. Mrs Howell had used the car that day to drop her husband at the train station and to do some shopping.

The attack was the third in a week in Birmingham.

Earlier on Monday magistrate and solicitor Geoffrey Grey called police when he spotted five sticks of gelignite attached to the exhaust of his car.

The week before Eunice Ward JP survived a similar experience when her husband found a bomb in her car and alerted the police who were able to detonate the bomb safely.

A senior detective at the scene of the explosion at Mr Howell's home said there was no doubt the incidents were all linked.

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