Former police chief Sir Norman Bettison has denied attending a meeting where senior officers allegedly plotted to blame the Hillsborough disaster on “drunken, ticketless” Liverpool fans.
The jury in the inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final has previously heard evidence that such a police briefing was held two days after the disaster.
But Sir Norman, giving evidence for the second day, said he could say with “absolute confidence” that he was not at the described meeting at South Yorkshire Police headquarters in Sheffield.
In March, former inspector Clive Davis told the inquests in Warrington that Sir Norman had asked him to attend a briefing to be held by Chief Superintendent Terry Wain.
Mr Davis said: “His words (Mr Wain) were - and I can almost remember them verbatim - that ‘we were going to put the blame for this disaster where it belongs - on the drunken, ticketless Liverpool fans’.”
He said Mr Wain went on to say that officers should drive along the M62 to look for discarded cans of beer and should also speak to pub landlords and neighbours around Sheffield Wednesday’s ground about the behaviour of Liverpool fans on April 15 1989.
Asked about Mr Davis’s evidence that the pair attended a meeting led by Mr Wain on the following Monday after the disaster, Sir Norman said: “I attended no meeting on April 17.”
Counsel for the inquest Jonathan Hough QC asked: “You can say that with confidence, can you?”
Sir Norman replied: “Absolute confidence.”
He also denied being present at any meeting when Mr Wain was alleged to have said the force would blame the disaster on the Liverpool fans and to obtain the necessary evidence.
He said Mr Davis’s account was “untrue”.
Giving evidence last month, Mr Wain also denied Mr Davis’s allegations and said he did not even become involved in any Hillsborough investigation until April 24.
Later in his evidence, Sir Norman said he regretted putting out a statement following the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report in which he said fans’ behaviour had made the police job “harder than it needed to be”, but had not caused the disaster.
He said: “I had become front and centre of the very serious allegation of cover up and putting blame on the Liverpool fans for causing the deaths of 96 innocent people. I made a judgement that I needed to respond to that.
“The communication that I put out was hurried, it was ill thought through and it was wrong at that time.”
Sir Norman told the hearing: “My role was never to besmirch the fans, I did not do that. I am deeply sorry if that mistaken impression and slight has lingered for 23 years.”