How Close did the IRA Really get to Assassinating Margaret Thatcher?

Kieran Hughes M.A. (Oct 2018)

In her memoirs, Margaret Thatcher said ‘those who had sought to kill me had placed the bomb in the wrong place.’ The IRA had indeed got the wrong place, but only just. It is widely accepted that the terrorists had wanted to put a bomb in, or near, Mrs Thatcher’s room.  Here, my new theory shows the IRA got the right room, but the wrong side and was just a few feet away from achieving what they wanted. First, one needs to study the layout of the rooms, then look at who was staying where when the bomb went off, and which rooms collapsed. A central part of the structure, near the front, but excluding the whole of the front wall, went down.

When the bomb did go off some of the impact went into the wall, which absorbed some of the explosion. At the same time, this important load bearing wall gave way, causing the collapse. However, I intend to show how the bomber had got the ‘right room’ to stand a chance of killing Mrs Thatcher, but had put the bomb on the ‘wrong side.’ All the bomber Patrick Magee had to do was move the device to the other side of the bath or to the other side of the room, and the story would have been very different.  Marek Kubik is a researcher in civil engineering at the TSBE Centre in Reading, (Technologies for Sustainable Built Environments Centre), with a special interest in building structures. He has studied the layout of the rooms and the positioning of the bomb and concurs that it was in the wrong place. He said, ‘I'd agree that the position of the bomb within the room does appear to be significant.  Certainly if the hotel structure was fairly uniform inside (i.e. that particular wall was not chosen because it was uniquely weak), then positioning the bomb on the other side (left corner) of the room (629) would probably have instigated a collapse mechanism one row of rooms to the left, across towards room 630, which (being taller) would be under a greater burden and would more readily collapse.’ Kubik’s analysis agrees with the theory that a bomb in the opposite corner of room 629, would have initiated a collapse of rooms under 629 and 630, straight on top of Mrs Thatcher’s suite. If this bomb had have been moved a few feet across the outcome would have been very different. Wakeham and Berry may well have survived, and the Tebbits would have escaped their serious injuries. However, Kubik argues that had the bomb been placed in the middle of the room, it may well have just blown a hole in the floor and those below, rather than a causing complete structural collapse. He says a corner blast was needed to take out supporting walls to have a better chance of destabilising the structure. He also notes that the lack of a central load bearing wall under Mrs Thatcher’s suite which probably then not have survived a collapse above. Kubik’s comments show that had the bomb been planted on the other side of the room, possibly just on the other side of the bath tub, the collapse would probably have been shifted to the left, possibly killing Mrs Thatcher.  

Independent ballistics expert Frank Lawton also studied this theory, but could not agree. He thinks Magee got a room wherever he could and may have worked out that a supporting wall under a chimney stack, would have had maximum destruction potential. Therefore, Magee purposely puts the device on that side of the room. To back up his theory Lawton cites a study by Peter Gurney, a former Metropolitan Police explosives officer who investigated the Brighton bomb. In Gurney’s book about worldwide bomb attacks, Braver Men Walk Away, he says ‘damage and death had been caused not so much by the bomb’s power as its position. The collapse of the hotel’s central flooring system was due entirely to the weight of the chimney crashing through from the roof to the ground level.’ It is a logical argument that the bomber Patrick Magee would have wanted to create as much damage as possible. But I maintain my argument that if he had known by planting the bomb on the opposite side of the room, he may have destroyed less of the building, but increased his chances of getting Mrs Thatcher, then he would most certainly have moved the device. Meanwhile, David Moller’s in depth study of the bombing claims Thatcher was indeed only a few feet from almost certain death anyway.  She was working in the sitting room of the suite, and had she been in the bathroom, the amount of debris would almost have certainly killed her. Therefore, further evidence that the IRA had got a few feet from killing Thatcher.