Hillsborough inquests: Police chief criticised 'drunken ticketless' fans

Hillsborough disaster Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Paul Middup stood by claims that some fans were a contributory cause of the Hillsborough disaster

The chief constable of South Yorkshire Police at the time of the Hillsborough disaster told officers if anyone was to blame it was "drunken ticketless" fans.

The comments by Peter Wright were revealed in minutes from a South Yorkshire Police Federation meeting, held four days after the 1989 tragedy.

They were read to the inquests jury during evidence from Paul Middup, who was then the federation's secretary.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died after the FA Cup semi-final terrace crush.

Mr Middup was quoted in several newspapers in the days following the 15 April 1989 disaster, claiming some supporters at the Liverpool versus Nottingham Forest match had been "tanked up".

He was also quoted in an edition of The Sun, headlined The Truth, which claimed some fans had picked the pockets of the dead and urinated on police officers.

Mr Middup denied having a "co-ordinated strategy with senior officers" so that he would give briefings to allow them to distance themselves from the allegations.

He told the court he was just repeating what distressed officers had told him in the hours after the disaster.

And he stood by his claims that a contributory cause of the disaster was a minority of fans, some of whom he said did not have tickets and turned up late.

'Rock solid story'

"There are a lot of things that presumably caused that thing," Mr Middup said. "But to suggest that that wasn't a part of it is utterly ridiculous because it was.

"It was a contributory cause to what happened."

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The jury heard a meeting of the Police Federation took place at the Pickwick restaurant in Sheffield on 19 April. Much time was spent discussing what had happened four days earlier.

The minutes recorded that Mr Wright had joined the meeting part of the way through.

The jury heard the chief constable told officers the force was preparing a defence.

"We have got to prepare a rock solid story," he was quoted as saying.

"Centrally, we are working tremendously hard on the history and saga of Hillsborough.

"Once we have the history we can then produce the facts."

'Co-ordinated press strategy'

The minutes revealed that towards the end of the meeting he was told hundreds of fans did not have tickets for the match.

Mr Wright, who died in 2011, was said to have replied: "If anybody should be blamed, it should be the drunken ticketless individuals."

Mr Middup, who as secretary of the South Yorkshire Police Federation represented rank-and-file officers, was also at the meeting.

Minutes showed he claimed to have been given a "totally free hand" by the chief constable and that he had Mr Wright's support.

When asked about this in court, Mr Middup said he had not spoken to the chief constable about what he was telling journalists.

But he said officers, including those in senior ranks, were happy with what he was saying.

Jonathan Hough QC, on behalf of the coroner, asked him: "Can you see how, to an outsider reading these minutes, there is a flavour of a co-ordinated press strategy between you and the chief constable?"

Mr Middup replied: "Yes, I can now but it wasn't meant for an outsider's view."

The inquests in Warrington, Cheshire, are due to resume on Friday.

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