'No Criticism or Mention of Chaos': How Police Rewrote History; DAVID BARTLETT Details the Incredible Deceit of the Police Statements They Wanted to Suppress
Byline: DAVID BARTLETT
THE COVER-UP to alter 164 police statements in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster went all the way to the top of South Yorkshire Police.
Further examination of the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report shows Chief Constable Peter Wright authorised the amendments and deletion of key words like 'chaos', 'fear', and 'confusion', and criticism of the police operation.
Of the 164 statements marked for amendments, 116 had "substantial" changes made to remove unfavourable comments to the police.
Acting with the force's solicitor Peter Metcalf, Chief Superintendent Donald Denton and Chief Superintendent Stuart Anderson helped orchestrate the changes.
Ch Spt Anderson said statements submitted to the Taylor inquiry and the West Midlands Police investigation needed "editing" to remove "conjecture and opinion", leaving "only matters of fact".
But the Hillsborough Independent Panel found that the police went well beyond this in an attempt to cover-up their failings.
A briefing note to officers with guidance on how to complete statements illustrates the policy underpinning these alterations.
The note states that 'no CRITICISMS' should be 'levelled at anyone in the text of your summary'. Further, there 'should be no mention of the word CHAOTIC or any of its derivatives which would give rise to the assumption that complete control had been lost at the ground."
The note concludes saying that all the items come as an express wish of DI King.
Disclosed correspondence between South Yorkshire Police and its solicitors reveals that statements were re-written to remove statements "unhelpful to the force's case".
The panel found that many officers were uncomfortable with being told to alter their statements. Derogatory references to some Liverpool fans in police statements ware also removed.
Changing statements was not restricted to the police; South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service also took part in the practice.
The most shocking changes are detailed below.
? ON POLICE RESPONSE OR INADEQUATE LEADERSHIP PC Stephen Mercer's statement had the first sentence deleted: "I at no time heard any directions being given in terms of leadership. The only messages I heard were those requesting assistance of one sort or another, and where appropriate, their acknowledgements."
A statement from PC Kenneth Frost had the mention of "nobody seemed to be organising the injured" removed.
PC John Hood was critical of sergeants and inspectors and the following was deleted from his original statement: "Sergeants and Inspectors appeared to be aimlessly milling about and direct radio control appeared to be lost. There did not appear to be any leadership."
PC Maxwell Groome's observation that "The Control Room seemed to have been hit by some sort of paralysis" was deleted. He was concerned by what he identified as poor management overall, and considered the decision to replace Ch Supt Mole as match commander shortly before the match should be scrutinised.
He stated: "The organisation of this event was poor, as has been the case for most of the season.
"Too many non-operational supervisory officers were in charge of important and critical parts of the football ground.
"The deployment of officers around the crucial time needs to come under scrutiny, too many were sat around in the gymnasium whilst others were rushed off their feet."
These passages were deleted.
PC Alan Wadsworth's original recollection also had criticism of senior officers removed. This passage was removed: "There was no leadership at the Leppings Lane end following the disaster either in person or on the radio. The only officer I heard on the radio with any form of organisation and method was Ch Supt Nesbit who did not arrive until later."
The panel said that references by five officers regarding the disorganisation of the police were altered or removed. …