Bettison denies attending briefing

Published: Friday 1st May 2015 by The News Editor

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Former police chief Sir Norman Bettison has denied he attended a meeting where a senior officer allegedly told colleagues they were going to place the blame for the Hillsborough tragedy on “drunken, ticketless” Liverpool fans.

The jury in the inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final has previously heard evidence that such a police briefing was held two days after the disaster.

Giving evidence today, Sir Norman, who was a chief inspector at the time, said he could say with “absolute confidence” that he was not at the described meeting at South Yorkshire Police headquarters in Sheffield.

In March, former inspector Clive Davis told the inquests in Warrington that Sir Norman had asked him to attend a briefing to be held by Chief Superintendent Terry Wain.

Mr Davis said: “His words (Mr Wain) were – and I can almost remember them verbatim – that ‘we were going to put the blame for this disaster where it belongs – on the drunken, ticketless Liverpool fans’.”

He said Mr Wain went on to say that officers should drive along the M62 to look for discarded cans of beer and should also speak to pub landlords and neighbours around Sheffield Wednesday’s ground about the behaviour of Liverpool fans on April 15 1989.

Mr Davis added that the “very high-level briefing” amounted to “like a call to arms, almost”.

Sir Norman said today that he knew Mr Davis “reasonably well”.

Counsel for the inquest Jonathan Hough QC asked: “In a sentence or two, what was then and what became your view of Inspector Davis as he worked under you?”

Sir Norman replied: “A very intelligent person.”

Mr Hough said: “An honest man?”

Sir Norman said: “My response is going to be coloured by the evidence that I have read that Mr Davis gave to this inquest.”

Mr Hough said: “Before you heard anything about that, would you have taken him to be a honest man?”

Sir Norman said: “I would have taken him to be a honest man.”

Asked about Mr Davis’s evidence that the pair attended a meeting led by Mr Wain on the following Monday after the disaster, Sir Norman said: “I attended no meeting on April 17.”

Mr Hough said: “You can say that with confidence, can you?”

Sir Norman replied: “Absolute confidence.”

The former chief constable of Merseyside and West Yorkshire police forces also denied that he suggested Mr Davis should attend the meeting on the force’s response to the tragedy because it would be “career-enhancing”.

Sir Norman said: “I gave him no such encouragement.”

He also denied being present at any meeting when Mr Wain was alleged to have said the force would blame the disaster on the Liverpool fans and to obtain the necessary evidence.

He said Mr Davis’s account was “untrue”.

Giving evidence last month, Mr Wain also denied Mr Davis’s allegations and said he did not even become involved in any Hillsborough investigation until April 24.

Mr Wain compiled a report on behalf of South Yorkshire Police for then Chief Constable Peter Wright’s submission for the Taylor Inquiry,which was later edited, and included a section on the events of the day which was written by Sir Norman.

Yesterday, Sir Norman denied telling two men in separate pub conversations that he was part of a South Yorkshire Police internal team seeking to blame “drunken” Liverpool supporters for the Hillsborough tragedy.

He was said to have made the comments during bar-room chats in the weeks after the disaster.

The start of the hearing was delayed by 20 minutes after the jury was told one of the leading lawyers representing families of victims had suffered a bereavement.

Sir John Goldring, coroner to the Hillsborough inquests, told the court: “It will become apparent why we are starting a little late today.

“The reason is that Mr Mansfield, who is going to lead in the questioning of Sir Norman, has suffered a bereavement and obviously can’t be here.”

Published: Friday 1st May 2015 by The News Editor

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