Adrian Pearson and Mark Summers, Sunday Sun |
HILLSBOROUGH cops appear to have tried to use a match-day testimony by Bobby Robson to slur Liverpool fans.
The Sunday Sun has trawled through documents kept secret for more than two decades to reveal the shocking hidden witness statement.
And we can reveal that unnamed officers went over Sir Bobby’s witness statement in a desperate attempt to find evidence of Liverpool fans misbehaving.
High level Hillsborough officers interviewed Sir Bobby following his appearance at the match and asked him if he saw fans drinking – a misguided line of police inquiry which has haunted the families of victims for more than 20 years.
The former Newcastle United manager was invited to the 1989 FA cup semi-final in his role as England manager, and witnessed from the directors’ box the horror of fans crushed as police packed them into pens.
What officers found was not enough to strengthen their claims that fans caused the crush, but that did not stop officers from South Yorkshire Police trying to use his words to their advantage.
In four pages of the statement Sir Bobby repeatedly sets out how fans behaved themselves and how he saw no evidence to suggest they were to blame.
Despite this, officers still seized on any hint from Sir Bobby that there might have been trouble, even when he was simply describing typical match day events such as a trip to the pub for a pre-match pint.
Even this was picked up on and underlined, suggesting police were looking for any support they could in a bid to back-up their discredited theory that drunken Liverpool fans were to blame for the death of 96 people.
Last night former solicitor general Vera Baird hit out what looks like an attempt to drag Sir Bobby into a police cover-up.
The former MP is seeking to be the first elected police commissioner for Northumbria and has already called for resignations over some of the actions of senior South Yorkshire officers.
She said: “The Hillsborough Panel found that 116 statements were doctored to remove criticisms of South Yorkshire Police, yet every criticism of the fans was left in.
“Some of the removals changed the facts as well and many were done without the consent of the writer . It looks to me as if they were teeing up Bobby’s statement to be used in the same way.
“He would have been appalled, as a great friend to the fans and would have been horrified to be seen as a pawn to be used against them.”
Trevor Hicks, the chair of Hillsborough families support group, said the Sunday Sun revelations were typical of how the police “twisted” evidence.
Mr Hicks, who lost both his daughters in the disaster, said: “Unfortunately it is hardly surprising to see this — we have come across far worse, but this just shows what was going on.
“I liked Bobby, my step son is a Newcastle United Supporter and Bobby Robson was one of those people who cut across club loyalty and was liked by many.
“But we saw that officers changed their evidence and removed bits that did not support their criticism of the fans.
“Evidence that shows the fans were not to blame is ignored, and criticism of the police as ignored. This is sadly just typical of what we saw.”
In his statement, Sir Bobby describes how he travelled with his brother by car to Sheffield for the match, arriving at around 12.15.
When he took his seat in the directors’ box at six minutes to three, he says he was not aware of any crowd surge and that there was no hint of trouble that he spotted.
About ten minutes in to the match, Sir Bobby records, he could see about 60 or 70 people on the pitch and that by that point there was crushing at the Leppings Lane end of the ground, but, he adds, there was slightly more room at either side of the two central pens. He also points out that at first he saw “police trying to prevent people from getting out of the enclosures or over the fence”.
When he adds that the police changed their tactics and “did everything possible to relieve the situation” his comments are underlined by an unnamed officer with the word “recognition” handwritten by this.
He adds: “As I was driving about a mile or two from the ground I saw one or two pubs between 12.00 and 12.15 with lots of people in them.”
This seemingly normal match day fact is underlined and ticked up twice by the force. Sir Bobby, who passed away in 2009, adds that he did not witness any unauthorised entry to any part of the ground, or any alcohol being consumed in the ground.
As Sir Bobby lists the various scenes he saw, none of which blame the fans, he adds that “I did see one single solitary Liverpool supporter running onto the pitch to taunt the Nottingham Forest supporters.”
Despite the scene described being a rare example, the police underline it and catalogue it as evidence of “disorder”.
A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said they were not in a position to comment because of the review of matters raised in the report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, with a view to making a referral to the IPCC.
THE police statements released to the Hillsborough Independent Panel show for the first time the police paperwork and all the notes made on them.
We asked Vera Baird QC to gave her take on the notes. The former solicitor general here sets out her opinion.
:: Bobby’s statement shows that he had a trouble-free arrival at the match driving with his brother and going into the directors’ box.
He was interviewed on the 9th on a “selected person’s questionnaire” and his answers are put into this statement on 17th May. The questionnaire clearly asked about Liverpool fans committing criminal acts. He replies, as if he has been pressed hard to say so.
“I did see one single solitary Liverpool supporter running onto the pitch to taunt the Nottingham Forest supporters but he was quickly dealt with. I imagine this might have been a criminal act.”
This is not something he is likely to have mentioned on his own in the context of 96 deaths and his tone here suggests a bit of sarcastic resistance to what is being hinted at.
The way the statement is marked by police screening it later is revealing. Sentences are underlined and ticked if they can be categorised as “recognition” (of police good conduct) and “disorder” ( by Liverpool fans) but the rest is ignored.
Bobby says “there was no hint of trouble that I spotted prior to the game starting” but that is not underlined whereas “Just before the match was stopped after five minutes I saw one or two Liverpool supporters at the Liverpool end climbing the perimeter fence” is underlined and marked with large ticks.
At paragraph 7 his words: “I did see police trying to prevent people from getting out of the enclosures or over the fence” are ignored but when he says that the police subsequently changed tack and adds: “Police .. did everything possible to relieve the situation and assist people to get out” – this is heavily ticked and underlined.
So when he tells police at paragraph 10 “I did not witness any disorder around the ground”, he is ignored while the following sentence is underlined heavily, ticked and categorised as evidence of “disorder”.
“About a mile or two from the ground I saw one or two pubs at between 12 and 12 15 with lots of people outside drinking” is underlined and ticked into the category “disorder”