Revealed: South Yorkshire Police Hillsborough statements were altered and deleted

By Luke Traynor on Apr 28, 09 12:49 PM in Journalists

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TODAY, the Liverpool ECHO can exclusively expose how police statements were crucially altered after the Hillsborough tragedy.

For the first time ever, we can reveal how reams of officers' accounts were deleted in the weeks following the disaster and how huge swathes of first-hand police statements were removed by South Yorkshire Police.

Today, families of the 96 Liverpool supporters who were killed said the dossier showed South Yorkshire Police trying to divert blame on to others.

Initial statements, before being erased, consistently detail:

A chronic lack of communication between officers.

Nobody tending to the injured.

Useless radios and incoherent transmissions.

Non-existent stewarding.

Lack of use of the public address system.

The lack of police officers on duty, 10%fewer than the previous semi-final involving Liverpool at Hillsborough.

Senior officers concerned about a growing "complacent" attitude towards policing at Hillsborough in years leading up to 1989.

Officers stationed in the wrong sections of the ground and its surrounding area.

The lack of faith officers had in the recently-installed Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield compared with his predecessor Chief Superintendent Brian Mole.

The ECHO has obtained a dossier of officers' statements that were deleted after the tragedy, that included:

WIPED . . . . . . A statement made by PS Kennedy, who had stated: "Several senior officers were, I'm afraid, lacking in directing the officers there, towards useful purposes.

"My thought on the incident, professionally, are that many officers and above, had no idea of what to do.

"Many were unable to work without being told exactly where to go and what to do, without personal radios, directions were limited.

"Many constables were too concerned about finding their serials {squads}, than trying to help the situation.

"...I had no fears other than the officers feeling let down by higher ranking officers."

WIPED . . . PC Bennett, who had said: "Although it was basically poorly organised, I felt that officers should have been at the turnstile entrance ways in more strength and caused the crowd to form queues prior to getting near the turnstiles.

"No senior officers at this stage appeared to be in command of the situation and what was happening was several officers of Inspector level pushed amongst the crowd shouting at officers to move the supporters first this way then that way.

"I feel that no one knew what was actually taking place."

WIPED . . . PC Cammock, who had said: "For a start, the microphone system was next to useless and I and others around me could hear very little of what was actually said.

"We kept asking senior officers to speak up, but still only heard two words in four."

WIPED . . . PC Ramsden, who had said: "..only one thing has concerned me, was that the pure location of the control box at Hillsborough overlooks the area where the tragedy took place.

"Were not officers appreciative of the developing situation? What was the feedback from the officers working the perimeter of the pitch.

"Couldn't they see the developing crush on the terraces?"

WIPED . . . PC Green, who had said: "I felt useless and guilty and in anger asked, 'where the hell were our senior officers?'

"Many officers sat there in bewilderment and still no senior officer was present. It was uplifting to see Chief Supt Mole walk across the field of play."

WIPED . . . PC Kent, who had said: "...I was surprised that the Liverpool supporters coming to the ground along Halifax Road were allowed to go where they wanted and did not have a police escort from the coaches parked on Halifax Road."

WIPED . . . PC Winter, who had said: "My feelings at this point were of total confusion, there were no persons to give any guidance at the initial attendance at the scene, everything was done as a gut reaction. "My only observations of the policing of the event were, if we had so many police officers on duty, spread out all over the place, why couldn't more police have been deviated to the Leppings Lane area, to approach from behind and break up the large crowd?"

WIPED . . . PC Hooson, who had said: "I made a request to one Inspector who was standing on the grass to get a serial {squad} through the back to pull the people out.

"Whether he did or not I don't know, he seemed a little nonplussed and walked away."

WIPED . . . PC Twigg, who had said: "I have worked many matches in Hillsborough including last year's semi final {in 1988} which I feel was policed a lot better because there were more officers on duty."

WIPED . . . PC Linday, who had said: "Having surveyed the situation, I couldn't understand why there were only two horses near to the turnstiles when normally there would be four to six on any other fixture.

"The situation appeared to be lost before I got there."

WIPED . . . PC Groome, who had said: "Too many non-operational supervisory officers were in charge of important and critical parts of the football ground.

"The deployment of officers around the crucial time needs to come under scrutiny, too many were sat in the gymnasium, while others were rushed off their feet."

Chief Inspector Purdy had some telling criticisms, which were all deleted from his original statement.

He had said: "Why, during the period 2-2.45pm, when the Leppings Lane end and the West Stand were not very full, except for the centre pen, was the kick off not put back and the delay broadcast to the supporters outside?

"You cannot pass 30-40,000 through the turnstiles at the Leppings Lane end in one hour. At 2pm, I would estimate that only 12,000 were in the ground.

"The policing at Hillsborough has become complacent over the last 2-3 years, because there hadn't been any significant or major outbreaks of trouble, supervisory officers assumed that it wouldn't happen.

"Various officers working the track and in the ground, had warned that things were starting to go wrong over this period, yet no notice was taken.

"Manpower levels had been steadily cut over this season to the detriment of policing the ground efficiently.

"The decision to replace Chief Superintendent Mole before the semi-final needs to come under some scrutiny.

"The man had many years experience of policing big matches at Hillsborough."

The account given by PC Lang, appeared crucial, but that too was deleted by his South Yorkshire Police superiors.

The constable had spoken at length of his experience when he was on duty at Hillsborough in 1988, for Liverpool's semi-final against Nottingham Forest a year earlier.

The officer described how he had personally received the order to close the gates at the top of the tunnel leading to the central pens and that he remained at those gates to prevent entry into the pens and directed fans to the wing pens.

But a large section of that account, which would have demonstrated how the 1989 operation should have worked, but failed to do so, was removed.

Other statements were subtly altered in the dossier, including a declaration from PC Rich that was changed from "we had lost control of the ticket situation", to "the ticket control had got out of hand".

PC Brookes, who had noted the central pens were "too" full at 2.50pm, saw the word "too" removed.

And a statement from Inspector Humphries, who had initially reported having 22 constables in his squad, was changed to record he had "thirty".

Last week, the current Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police Meredydd Hughes admitted that "words" were changed in officers' statements.

But our evidence demonstrates that words, and in indeed whole paragraphs, were completely slashed.

Today, Margaret Aspinall, from the Hillsborough Family Support Group, who lost her 18-year-old son James in the tragedy, told the ECHO: "It is despicable, there is so much that the public weren't allowed to know.

"The issue around police statements being edited and deleted is the whole reason why we have never got accountability.

"We always knew they changed a lot of police officers' accounts which is why we're desperate to see all the documents relating to Hillsborough.

"It's not just changing the odd word here and there, it's major changes in those police statements."

It was right to change Hillsborough statements, says South Yorkshire police

TODAY, South Yorkshire Police defended the changing of statements, pointing out how Lord Justice Stuart-Smith's scrutiny report had considered the allegations in 1998.

A spokeswoman said: "He states that he has carefully considered the circumstances in which alterations were made to some of the self-written statements of SYP officers, but does not consider that there is any occasion for any further investigation.

"Lord Justice Stuart-Smith said it was well known to Lord Taylor's Inquiry Team that the statements were being vetted in this way and that the process did not materially differ from the way statements were being taken from witnesses from Sheffield Wednesday FC or the Ambulance Service.

"Towards the end of May 1989, the SYP team responsible for collating evidence from officers in the Force began to suggest amendments to statements without referring them to the solicitors. Lord Justice Stuart-Smith said he had looked at all the statements altered in this way.

"He said the suggestions made by officers were on the same basis as those made by the solicitors and in most cases, the alteration was trivial.

"He was also satisfied that the exclusion of these comments did not affect the outcome of the inquests or the decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to bring criminal charges as a result of the disaster.

His summary continued, 'I do not consider that there is any question of misconduct either by the solicitor who gave the police advice upon the statements or by the police officers who suggested alterations to the statements without referring them to the solicitors'."

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