Category Archives: Hillsborough

PRIME ACCESSORIES TO THE CONSPIRATORS

In the aftermath of Hillsborough I was one of many interviewed by West Midlands Police officers investigating the tragedy.  I was 17 years old at the time and considered myself quite grown up, but in reality I was a child, and I really don’t even know if I should even have been interviewed without a parent or other appropriate adult present. Anyway I was, and I was left feeling at the time that this was going to be a whitewash with any evidence that implicated anybody other than fans being suppressed. West Midlands Police  seemed to have done all it could to get their South Yorkshire colleagues off the hook and shift blame, especially when it came to taking statements from fans who were there. When you look at those documents and others uncovered in relation to their policing of the Everton v Norwich semi final at Villa Park that day, its clear we had no chance of having our voices heard as their minds were already made up. The thoughts of West Midlands police in relation to that also explain the goings on at the 1990 semi final and as you join the dots, it becomes clear for all to see what their agenda was at the time. I was in the corner of the Leppings Lane, having been crushed there in 1986 so I knew full well how dangerous it could be. I hoped to be able to tell the plain clothes officer who came to see me about a month afterwards of this but I was severely restricted from doing so due to the nature of the questionnaire that was devised by West Midlands police. I can still recall being sat there in disbelief being asked repeatedly questions along the line of what time did I leave Liverpool, did I stop on the way, did I drink, did I see anyone drunk, did I see any fighting. I don’t remember getting asked any specific question about had I been to the ground before. Eventually at the end I was able to add it on in a ‘general comments’ bit. All the questionnaires that were answered by Liverpool fans are able to be viewed online and I’ve since been able to trace mine. I was described as a fair witness, even though I’d said I saw people climbing out of the central pens as early as 2.30pm. In total I had to answer 54 questions. The first 8 were fairly routine  – did you go, where was your ticket for, did you go by coach/train, but number 9 starts to get sinister – Did you stop and for what purpose? Early on, they were clearly trying to bring out a conclusion that fans were in no hurry to get there. Whilst looking for mine I came across one that answered along the lines of stopping for a drink in a pub on the outskirts of Sheffield, and the ‘drink’ was underlined. Number 10 is about travel delays (the M62 north of Manchester was awfully slow that day), then 11 and others which quickly followed return to the theme they want it to – did you see anyone drinking and did you witness disorder being 11 and 15. Numbers 12 and 16 are interesting – what time did you arrive in Sheffield and what time did you get to the ground, as they sought to show how fans didn’t get to the ground quick enough once there. The notion at that time that football fans were human beings who may want a bite to eat, a drink or even do something touristy and take in a museum was alien to them – basically fans were expected to go straight into the ground or else. Other questions between 10 and 20 related to how helpful signs and stewarding was outside. For questions 20 to 33 it was about how people got into the ground, nothing too controversial there really, as answers were sought as to how many people may have got in without showing tickets or how many officers were available to give directions inside. But by 34 and 35 it gets nasty again as fans are invited to describe any alcohol consumption and disorder they witnessed, with a much bigger space made available, as if it was expected there would be plenty to speak about. 36-41 relate to where you were and with whom you were with in the ground (not sure why who you were with really matters) and if you saw any barriers break, then the negatives are back at 42 –did you see any fights/disturbance at the time of taking up your match viewing point. 43 to 47 relate to being involved in the crush and the extent of any injuries received, then 48 is about what assistance you may have given to anybody who was dead or injured.  Less space is provided on the form for the description of any help given than is allowed for descriptions of drunkenness, which just about sums up the whole tone of what they wanted to hear. It then moved on to when you left the ground and whether it was by own accord or under direction of stewards, then number 52, just in case you may have forgotten earlier, asks if you witnessed a criminal offence. Number 53 asks if there’s any comments you wish to make about the way the incident was handled after play was stopped, then finally number 54 asks if there is ‘anything you wish to add which you feel is vital to this judicial inquiry’, allowing slightly more space than is allowed to describe drunkenness and criminality. In composing the questionnaire, the West Midlands Police felt the need to ask about criminal activity once, alcohol three times, disorder three times and timekeeping four times. Crowd control was asked on five occasions, although this could easily have been combined into three questions, in that they have twice said ‘did you see police at this point’ followed immediately by ‘did you see stewards at this point’ when those could have been asked as one question. Overall the whole questionnaire gives a complete air of looking to build up a picture that drunkenness and disorder was evident and widespread before, during and after the tragedy occurred. There is nowhere in there whatsoever , except at the end and with very little space, to make additional comments such as the one I wanted to make – that the Leppings Lane terrace was very unsafe as I had been in there and got crushed before. The West Midlands Police’s attitude to the people of Liverpool has become apparent through the documents released, one of which shows they should never have been allowed to conduct that investigation in the first place. A letter from J Mervyn Jones, their Assistant Chief Constable , written to Robert Whalley, Secretary of Lord Justice Taylor’s enquiry on 9th June 1989 regarding the Everton v Norwich semi final at Villa Park says ‘I expressed my concern about aspects of that event which reflected similar behaviour to the Liverpool supporters at Hillsborough. I had not previously experienced dealing with supporters in such great number who had consumed so much alcohol. Consequently the accounts that I have read on Liverpool supporters behaviour at Hillsborough show some remarkable coincidences which may indicate some Liverpool characteristic.’ This was less than two months after the tragedy, yet he is using the term ‘Liverpool supporters’, not even inserting the prefix ‘some’, which even the S*n headline did. It really does beggar belief that the behaviour of Evertonians at Villa Park can somehow be linked to what happened 70 miles away in Sheffield but that letter makes it quite plain what conclusion they wanted to draw, regardless of what the fans questionnaires actually told them. But as long as there were enough questions in there about drink and scope to underline anyone who dared to admit having one then their job was done. What was this ‘characteristic’ anyway. Jones attached three statements to his letter, from a chief superintendent, a chief inspector and a sergeant. The first two describe that when the game kicked off 4,000 Evertonians were still outside and uncooperative as they queued to get in, but the sergeant’s actually says that he didn’t witness any disorder and crucially that him and another mounted officer took steps to facilitate better queuing by blocking off an area where fans may end up getting crushed i.e. successfully manage the situation of a large crowd desperate to see the game. 25 Evertonians were arrested, but so what. More people are arrested every day of the Mathew Street festival.  The issue is not about whether fans had a drink but how that is managed – West Midlands Police managed it well, Merseyside Police at Mathew Street manage things well, but to help out their South Yorkshire colleagues West Midlands Police were willing to smear the city completely. What triggered ACC Jones to write that letter? Well, two weeks earlier on 24th May 1989 he had been compelled to reply to a question from Mr Whalley regarding the tone of his forces questionnaire. This was after Jones was faxed a letter written by a fan to Taylor that criticised it for being defensive and putting a disproportionate weighting to drunkenness and disorder, as well as structured in a way that the officers wrote down their own words for the answers, not the exact ones spoken by the witnesses. Jones’s letter to Whalley tries to justify the tone of the questionnaire and says that only three questions – 11,15 and 35 refer to drunkenness and disorder. That itself was an outright lie as 34 and 42 did, while 52 referred to ‘criminal offence’ (which I suppose could have been answered with ‘misconduct in a public office’ but I’m sure that wasn’t the answer they were hoping to receive). Jones then says that ‘Question 54 was the final catch all question designed not to inhibit any person from giving any information.’ The problem is, by then, how many fans would have told the officer to fuck off out their house having been repeatedly asked about alcohol and disorder. In 1990 Liverpool reached the semi final again and this time were drawn against Crystal Palace, with the FA allocating the game to Villa Park with Manchester United v Oldham being played at Manchester City’s Maine Road. The West Midlands Police demonstrated their true feelings to the people of Liverpool in the handling of this game. This was the first year semi finals were televised and you would have expected  the Manchester game to be the early one, but it wasn’t. For reasons that we can only speculate, West Midlands police didn’t seem to want Liverpool fans in the vicinity of Villa Park before the pubs opened (this was when licensing hours were strict, and on Sundays in 1991 pubs opened at 12). An accident on the M6 caused chaos but the kick off wasn’t delayed as that would have fucked up the double headed television coverage, so thousands were still on the M6 when Liverpool scored. Our coach was parked at the Alexander Stadium, a good mile and a half from Villa Park and after a run I finally got there just before half time. A police officer next to the turnstile said ‘DIDN’T YOU LOT LEARN ANYTHING LAST YEAR.’ It summed up the culture of West Midlands Police and their attitude to Scousers. The year after that semi final the court of appeal quashed the convictions of the Birmingham Six, six men who had been jailed in 1975 for bombing a pub in Birmingham. Their conviction was ruled unsafe due to lack of forensic evidence, fabrication and suppression of evidence, and the way ‘confessions’ had been extracted – including by sleep deprivation, beatings and a mock execution. Fabrication and suppression are key words there, link it to the comment that was made to me, ACC Jones’ letter and the questionnaire and all the dots are joined when it comes to West Midlands Police. We were fitted up good and proper by them in their investigation. They need to be brought to task as well.