Former police inspector denies Hillsborough press leak

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A former South Yorkshire police inspector has denied allegations he released information about the Hillsborough tragedy to the press.

Gordon Sykes told the fresh inquests into the deaths of the 96 Liverpool FC fans he believed late and drinking supporters were one of the causes of the 1989 disaster.

But he refuted suggestions from a lawyer representing some of the bereaved families that he gave a quote directly to a reporter.

The jury heard two incidents described by Mr Sykes to Irvine Patnick MP and the local Police Federation secretary appeared in a front-page article of The Sun, headlined ‘The Truth’.

Michael Mansfield QC representing some of the bereaved said: “The question remaining is whether that quote got into the Sun via the MP whom you had spoken to on the night of the disaster or whether you gave it yourself direct to a reporter or representative of White’s News Agency.”

Mr Sykes answered: “No, I have not released any information to the press.”

He told the court he regretted the publicity but he did not tell the news agency.

Mr Mansfield showed the retired officer minutes from a meeting of the South Yorkshire Police Federation from October 1989.

He agreed the organisation did not accept conclusions of the Taylor Report - that police had lost control and alcoholic fans had not contributed to the cause.

Mr Mansfield suggested: “What you were doing then was to reinvigorate the campaign besmirching Liverpool fans.”

“They were saying what a lot of policemen believed,” Mr Sykes replied.

The court was told another MP, Michael Shersby, was present at the meeting and agreed to raise the Federation’s views in Parliament.

Minutes from the meeting suggested Mr Sykes wanted Mr Shersby to mention abusive language being shouted about one of the female casualties in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

He said it was certain to be reported in the press.

Mr Mansfield asked: “You didn’t regret a single word of the story you were putting out about the young woman did you?”

He replied: “I was putting out the truth that’s what happened, which I wasn’t allowed to state at the Taylor inquiry. And in view of what had happened, I was quite happy for that story to be recounted in parliament.”

Mr Mansfield continued: “Because you felt it said more about the cause of what happened than the loss of control by the police.

Is that it?”

“Yes,” he replied.

The court also heard Mr Sykes had claimed colleagues told him some of the bodies didn’t have any possessions on them at all.

However, shown a register of property found on one of the victims, he agreed he had made a mistake about the claim.

Mr Mansfield said: “You see these little mistakes end up in print and are remembered by generations of people. Do you regret now what has happened here?”

“Yes,” he replied. “I regret that for not confirming the information.”

Yesterday Mr Sykes describe the area outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles as a ‘death trap’ in the years before the disaster.

Mark George QC, representing 22 bereaved families, said today: “It is, isn’t it, a disgrace that it took the deaths of 96 people before the authorities finally sat up and took notice of what people like you had been telling them for years?”

Mr Sykes replied: “That’s correct. They changed the turnstiles and made it safer.”

“That is the real truth about Hillsborough, that it was eminently foreseeable and could easily have been prevented?” Mr George continued.

“Yes sir,” he answered.

The hearing continues.