Sheffield & South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire Police offered Hillsborough Disaster Fund cash

The 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster
Image caption Ninety-six Liverpool fans lost their lives as a result of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989

Police chiefs wanted to buy an overseas holiday home for officers using money from the Hillsborough Disaster Fund.

South Yorkshire Police proposed purchasing a property after bosses of the fund asked for ideas of how to spend "residual money" in 1991.

The force also asked for gym equipment, gifts for sick officers and microwaves.

Sheila Coleman, of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, described the "brazen" requests as evidence of the police "insensitivity".

Documents released by the Hillsborough Independent Panel show the request for a holiday home was made by Chief Inspector John Donnelley, who was in charge of policing in Sheffield city centre on the day of the disaster.

He wrote: "Purchase of some sort of holiday flat - either home or abroad - for use by police officers and families."

Sir Norman Bettison, a former inspector with South Yorkshire Police who attended the 1989 match as a spectator, suggested spending £2,000 refurbishing the enquiry desk area at Hammerton Road Police Station, or upgrading the police room at Hillsborough.

Other suggestions included redecorating police rooms at five football grounds in South Yorkshire, improving visitor facilities at police stations, and creating an Occupational Health Unit for the force.

'Absolutely appalling'

None of the projects is believed to have been approved.

Money for the fund, which eventually reached about £12m, came via donations from organisations including Liverpool FC, the government, and the cities of Sheffield, Liverpool and Nottingham.

Ms Coleman said: "Clearly [South Yorkshire Police's] insensitivity to the whole issue was such that they had no problem in proffering suggestions, such as Norman Bettison for the front of his police station.

"The one that gets me is the holiday home for police officers. Even at the time in 1991 people knew there was a cover-up - there was emerging evidence - and it is absolutely appalling that they are brazen enough that they would take the money."

She described the decision by the fund's trustees to offer bodies such as the police money in January 1991 as "premature", saying it could have been put towards "subsistence" for families fighting legal battles.

'Improve public safety'

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Holt said South Yorkshire Police was among a number of bodies approached by the fund's trustees.

He said: "As a result, South Yorkshire Police formally submitted a number of suggestions to the trustees of the Hillsborough Disaster Fund which included enhancing the quality of the police control rooms at Hillsborough and other football stadia to improve public safety and the policing of future football matches.

"Other suggestions included the provision of better equipment for the force's Casualty Bureau, the creation of an Occupational Health Unit and a number of community-based projects.

"In addition, a small number of other suggestions were made by individual officers and or staff at the time that included the provision of items of gymnasium equipment in police gyms to help maintain the health and fitness of officers, and the purchase of a holiday flat for use by officers and their families.

"I am not aware that any of the various suggestions succeeded in attracting funding."

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