Police disaster report 'suppressed'

Police disaster report 'suppressed'

The Hillsborough disaster claimed 96 lives

Frank Brayford leaves the Coroner's Court in Warrington

First published in National News © by

A senior policeman said a report of his concerns about the policing of the fateful FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough was "suppressed" by his bosses, the inquest into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans heard today.

Retired chief inspector Frank Brayford said he detailed his concerns internally days after the 1989 tie which was commanded by chief superintendent David Duckenfield but said he never received a reply.

He said he was soon visited by an officer from West Midlands Police, which was investigating the role in the disaster of their counterparts in South Yorkshire, and was told: "Stop putting in reports about Hillsborough. You will never give evidence to Lord Justice Taylor."

Mr Brayford told the inquest sitting in Warrington he sent a report which he addressed to a police inquiry team and then copied it to a superior at his division.

He said later the same day he was called into the officer of his superior's deputy.

He said: "'My office now', his words were. (He said) 'Stop putting reports in about Hillsborough. You are not a witness, You were not there, It is nowt to do with you'."

On the next day he said an officer from West Midlands Police stepped into his office and gave him a similar warning which left him "gobsmacked" and "devastated".

Mr Brayford told the hearing he was involved with drawing up the operational order for the semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest but was not there on April 15 1989 because he had been transferred weeks earlier to another police division, just like his then boss chief superintendent Brian Mole who Mr Duckenfield replaced.

He said he was not "satisfied" with changes that were made to the order.

He also recalled conversations with Mr Mole, who has since died, about his report in the days that followed the tragedy.

Mr Brayford said: "Brian said 'I am not going to discuss this. Shut up. Stop talking about it. It is not in your interest to get involved in this', that is the gospel truth.

"He went on to say 'I am not doing this to protect Duckenfield and Co, I am trying to protect the good name of South Yorkshire Police and if it means being loyal to the Chief Constable (Peter Wright) then so be it'."

He said he informed Mr Mole about the man purporting to be a West Midlands police officer.

Mr Brayford said: "He said 'I can't discuss it, let's just talk about something else, come on let's talk about your lovely dog'.

"I said 'listen, I ain't come to do that'."

He said he never spoke to Mr Mole again who he considered a family friend.

Fiona Barton, representing South Yorkshire Police, asked Mr Brayford: "The evidence that you are giving now is that there was some sort of concerted effort on the part of a number of officers of South Yorkshire Police at the time to suppress your reports, that is your account?"

He replied: "That is the strength of it."

He agreed with Miss Barton that he had not shown his reports to the then Police Complaints Authority or the Home Office at the time.

Miss Barton asked him why he did not pass on his report to the Taylor inquiry or attend the public hearing.

He said: "I would not be allowed in there and you know it too."

Miss Barton continued: "This account about the concealment of your reports is a complete fabrication and these reports were never written, were they?"

Mr Brayford replied: "I am not lying today and I were not lying when I wrote that statement

"I have come here to tell the truth.

"It has been very, very difficult.

"I must tell you I did speak to two members of Parliament about it but the answers were not satisfactory, they didn't throw any light on it all.

"Wherever I went I got the impression 'you have no chance'. I know I have no chance here this morning telling you this.

"People that's concerned are not going to change their evidence. I don't want them to, They can't. They'll go straight to prison but that doesn't mean that it's not true."

Mr Brayford revealed that he had written the report when questioned earlier this year by officers from Operation Resolve, the criminal investigation into the disaster.

The jury has previously heard about an incident in 1989 prior to the transfer of Mr Mole which involved a police officer in his division being submitted to a fake ambush by fellow officers in which his life was threatened.

Another senior officer had previously told the hearing that Mr Mole was moved from Sheffield to Barnsley for "career development" but Mr Brayford said the switch came about after a local MP pressured then chief constable Peter Wright.

Mr Brayford was asked by Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquest, about his thoughts on Mr Mole's replacement, Mr Duckenfield.

He recalled meeting him for the first time.

He said: "He shook my hand. There was something very different about the way he shook my hand ... it was a masonic handshake. The reason I say that is I said 'look I am not involved' and his words were something like 'you ought to be'.

"I don't recall what I said but as I walked away from him I got the horrible stare. I could feel him staring in my back as though he didn't like my response, as if I said something frivolous."

He said Mr Mole was a popular officer, a good commander and that people did not want to lose him.

Before Mr Mole left office he invited Mr Brayford to give Mr Duckenfield a ring to invite him to attend a planning meeting for the semi-final, said the witness.

He said: "He said 'Look Frank, I've got a crown on my shoulder and when I've got a crown and a pip, I'll be a chief superintendent. Then I'll come into your police station and not before'.

"I did say 'there is going to be 1,100 police officers on the day on the ground, you are going to be in charge of it, there is a lot of stuff that really you need to know' and he just said 'you've got my answer' and he put the phone down on me."

Mr Brayford said he did not see Mr Duckenfield at a subsequent planning meeting on March 27 but other witnesses have told the jury he was in attendance.

He said he received a number of phone calls complaining that Mr Duckenfield was "tearing up" the operational order and had "knocked about 100 people off".

Mr Brayford told the jury: "I were not very happy. I was thinking 'oh God, I hope not. And of course his (Mr Duckenfield) answer was he was going to do everything his way, not them and 'them' I took as me and Brian Mole."

The hearing was told that personnel records showed that Mr Brayford was transferred from Sheffield to Doncaster on the recommendation of Mr Duckenfield in early April 1989 after "inappropriate behaviour with a colleague" in which he was said to have had a sexual relationship with a woman civilian worker while on duty.

Mr Brayford replied that was not the reason he was given for his move and it was a "set-up".

He said that another senior officer Superintendent Bernard Murray asked him if he would work the semi-final but after that officer spoke to Mr Duckenfield he was told "he doesn't want you there, nor Mr Mole either."

He also said that on the day before the disaster that Mr Mole had told him that the late Sheffield Wednesday chairman Bert McGee had offered him two tickets for the directors' box for the game.

He said: "He (Mr Mole) said something along the lines of 'he (Mr McGee) doesn't trust Mr Duckenfield or the command team that's there'.

"I said wild horses would not drag me there and he (Mr Mole) said 'I'm worried' and the punchline was 'he'll make a f*** of this tomorrow".

Mr Brayford confirmed to John Beggs QC, representing Mr Duckenfield, that he did not have a copy of his one-page report on A4 paper and did not make an aide memoire of it at the time.

Mr Brayford said he had submitted it to the "care of the Hillsborough Inquiry Team" but did not know whether the West Midlands or South Yorkshire force received it.

Mr Beggs said: "Because the report did not exist, did it?"

Mr Brayford replied: "That is a lie."

He added: "I'm nearer to my maker than a lot of people in this room and I can assure you that the evidence I have given to this court from this statement is the truth."

Mr Beggs said: "Is it your suggestion to this jury in these most serious proceedings that you are a reliable witness?"

"Yes," said Mr Brayford.

Mr Beggs said: "That you are a balanced witness?"

Mr Brayford repeated: "Yes."

The barrister continued: "And that you are a fair witness?"

"Yes," he said.

Mr Beggs said medical records on Mr Brayford's personnel file showed he had gone on to leave the force in 1992 because of "psychological difficulties" and had harboured "extreme hatred and aggression".

Mr Beggs put it to the witness that some of that hatred was directed in particular at Mr Duckenfield.

Mr Brayford replied: "Extreme hatred is a little strong. I don't hate the man but I'm not very pleased with him.

"If he had done to you what he had done to me, you would not like him either, Mr Beggs."

The barrister suggested to Mr Brayford that he was acting out of "pure spite".

Mr Brayford denied that was the case.

Mr Beggs said: "You were an embittered police officer and you were pensioned off due to your psychological condition."

Mr Brayford replied: "Yes, I am an embittered officer, I was. I didn't want to be pensioned off. They pensioned me off."

Paul Greaney, representing the Police Federation, asked Mr Brayford whether it was his position that Mr Duckenfield was responsible for his transfer.

The witness replied: "Yes I am certain of that."

Mr Greaney said: "Is it your view that he engineered your transfer not because of your conduct with that lady but because he wanted you removed as part of the Brian Mole regime?"

Mr Brayford said: "Yes ... he wanted to do that. In his words, it his way not theirs."

The jury was told of an article in the Yorkshire Post on April 12 1989 with the headline "Chief Walks Into Police Office Frolic" which told of a senior officer "frolicking with a pretty civilian assistant" when he was disturbed.

Mr Greaney asked Mr Brayford: "Did you leak that story?"

"No," he replied.

He agreed with Mr Greaney that "very few people" would have known about the incident.

Mr Brayford said: "I believe that it was Assistant Chief Constable (Stuart) Anderson himself. Together with Mr Duckenfield, his mates."

He told Mr Greaney that officers from Operation Resolve had come to him and not the other way around.

The jury was told that Mr Greaney was suspended from the force for the last 18 months of his service.

An investigation was conducted into allegations that officers under his command had received money from criminals in exchange to send alcohol and girlfriends into a cell block at Doncaster.

Mr Brayford said: "It was a witch-hunt."

The inquests heard that Mr Brayford was cleared of any wrongdoing.

He told Mr Greaney that the short bout of depression he had been suffering when he retired was a reaction to the stress of that investigation.

The hearing continues on Monday.

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