South Yorkshire Police chief constable ‘told officers to blame drunken fans for Hillsborough disaster’

Hillsborough disaster
Hillsborough disaster

The man in charge of South Yorkshire Police told officers ‘drunken, ticketless’ supporters should be blamed for the Hillsborough disaster, a court heard.

Minutes of a Police Federation meeting held a few days after the disaster said chief constable Peter Wright had suggested the idea as the force’s media response was discussed.

Details of the meeting on April 19, 1989, four days after the tragedy, were revealed to the inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters.

The minutes were read during evidence given by Paul Middup, who was secretary of Police Federation’s joint branch board.

Mr Middup had been quoted in several national newspapers as saying he was ‘sick of hearing how good the crowd were’ and that they had arrived ‘tanked up’, ‘late’ and ‘impossible to control’.

Giving evidence, Mr Middup said he was not suggesting the fans had caused the disaster but that they had contributed to it.

The minutes of the April 19 meeting said Mr Middup told others present that Mr Wright had said ‘the truth could not come from him’ but had given Mr Middup a ‘totally free hand and supported him’.

But Mr Middup told the inquests he had no communication from the chief constable to this effect and could not recall hearing from Mr Wright prior to the April 19 meeting.

He said the minutes were ‘badly written’ and he had not discussed any coordinated media strategy with senior officers.

The minutes said Mr Wright had decided not to talk about the behaviour of fans in the media as there was going to be a judicial inquiry.

They added ‘Mr Wright admitted he would have liked to have been able to make the comments which Mr Middup had made’.

They added that the force was preparing a ‘rock solid story’ to defend itself against criticism and Mr Middup then suggested that response should come from Mr Wright.

They then said: “The chief constable replied that if anybody should be blamed, it should be the drunken ticketless individuals.”

The hearing continues.