UKIP press officer offers resignation over Paul Nuttall Hillsborough controversy

Leader of UKIP Paul Nuttall
Leader of UKIP Paul Nuttall

The leader of UKIP Paul Nuttall has admitted he did not lose "close personal friends" during the Hillsborough tragedy.

In a statement posted on his website in 2011, Mr Nuttall claimed that some of his closest friends were among the 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives.

However, during an interview on radio station Radio City Talk, he was forced to backtrack on the claim, stating he had lost someone he knew.

Presenter Dave Easson was discussing the 1989 disaster with the UKIP leader who has also claimed he was present at the ground on the tragic day.

In his 2011 website post, Mr Nuttall branded the Cabinet Office's attempts to block the publication of the Hillsborough briefings as a "disgrace".

He wrote: "The briefings in question are the private memos that were sent to the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

"Without them being made public we will never get to the bottom of that appalling tragedy when 96 Liverpool fans including close personal friends of mine lost their lives."

However, during the interview on Radio City Talk, Mr Nuttall was forced to admit that the claim made on his website was incorrect.

He told Mr Easson: "I haven't lost a close, personal friend," Mr Nuttall said. "I've lost someone who I know.

When further pressed, he said: "Well, that's not from me. That is absolutely... I'm sorry. I haven't lost anyone who was a close personal friend. It was people who I knew through football and things like that.

"I'm sorry about that. I haven't put that out. That is wrong."

However, Mr Nuttall continued to maintain during the interview that he was at Hillsborough when asked by the presenter.

Last night, Mr Nuttall explained that he did not write the article and said it was posted by a member of his staff before he saw it.

In his statement, he said he was "genuinely taken aback" by the claim and added that he was "appalled and very sorry" with the inaccurate impression.

He said: "I take responsibility for things put out under my name, but I was taken aback when this claim was brought to my attention."

The news prompted his press officer Lynda Roughley to offer her resignation over the scandal, stating she was to blame for "mistakes" in the statement.

In her statement, Ms Roughley said she was "entirely responsible" for the two controversial press releases sent out in 2011 and 2012.

She said: “Paul is a man of great integrity and would not say something he knew to be untrue. It’s me who has made this mistake, and one I feel absolutely terrible about.

“I am frankly mortified at the distress this issue has caused Paul and may have caused to anyone involved with the Hillsborough tragedy.

“I have today offered my resignation. I could not be more sorry.”

However, it has been reported today that Ms Roughley's resignation would not be accepted.