Police ‘tried to concoct’ fans tale

Published: Thursday 30th April 2015 by The News Editor

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Sir Norman Bettison told a man in a pub that South Yorkshire Police would try to “concoct a story that all of the Liverpool fans were drunk”, the inquests into the Hillsborough tragedy has heard.

A month after the April 1989 disaster, the former chief constable of West Yorkshire and Merseyside police forces was said to have made the comment to a civil servant in the Fleur de Lys pub in Sheffield.

John Barry said he and Sir Norman, a chief inspector with South Yorkshire Police at the time, were among a group of people who would go to the pub following a business course they both attended.

Mr Barry told the jury sitting in Warrington, Cheshire, that both had just got a pint and moved away from the bar when Sir Norman told him: “I have been asked by my senior officers to pull together this South Yorkshire Police evidence for the (Taylor) inquiry and we are going to try to concoct a story that all of the Liverpool fans were drunk, and that we were aftraid they were going to break down the gates so we decided to open them.”

Sir Norman is due to be questioned later today about his role on the day of the fateful FA Cup semi-final, where 96 Liverpool fans died, and his subsequent involvement in gathering evidence for the Taylor Inquiry which began the month after the disaster.

The jury has previously heard evidence from a former South Yorkshire Police (SYP) colleague of Sir Norman that they both attended a briefing the Monday after the tragedy and were told to put the blame on Liverpool fans.

Last week, former detective chief superintendent Terry Wain denied he held any such briefing.

Mr Wain compiled a report for Lord Justice Taylor on behalf of SYP, which was later edited, and included a section on the events of the day which was written by Sir Norman.

Mr Barry said he attended the FA Cup semi-final and was in the Leppings Lane end.

He left the stadium “extremely distressed” shortly before 4pm and later told students on the course, including Sir Norman, that he missed a class because he had been at the match.

The witness said Sir Norman approached him afterwards and said he too had been to the game when off duty.

Jonathan Hough QC, counsel for the inquest, asked Mr Barry if anything had prompted Sir Norman’s remark to him in the pub.

Mr Barry said : “Nothing.”

Mr Hough asked: “How certain are you now of precisely what words he said?”

Mr Barry said: “Absolutely certain.”

Mr Hough asked: “What was your immediate response or reaction to these remarks?”

Mr Barry replied: “I was stunned. I was just staggered. I was shocked.”

In a recent statement to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, Mr Barry said: “I was gobsmacked because he knew the traumatising effect that Hillsborough had had on me. I thought ‘Why are you saying this to me?’.

“It was a very odd thing to say. He knew I had been at the Leppings Lane end and had seen the bodies piling up and had been absolutely traumatised by it.”

Mr Barry told the inquests that the comment in the pub was made “in a very matter-of-fact tone”.

He said: “He was just relating what he had been told to do … I guess I thought maybe he felt it was a feather in his cap.”

He said he had no further “significant conversations” with Sir Norman while they were both on the MBA course and the subject of Hillsborough was never mentioned again.

Published: Thursday 30th April 2015 by The News Editor

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