Liverpool

Hillsborough Inquests: Police note 'cover-up' claim

The Hillsborough disaster Image copyright Inquest handout
Image caption Ninety-six fans died following a crush at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final

The "deletion" of a note about a radio conversation heard in the control box at Hillsborough showed someone there was "trying to cover things up", a former sergeant has told the inquests.

The jury heard the discussion about closing the Leppings Lane tunnel gates "disappears" from later versions of CCTV operator PC Trevor Bichard's log.

Michael Goddard, who was the radio operator in the control box, agreed the "deletion... stinks" of a cover-up.

He added he did not hear the exchange.

Ninety-six people were fatally injured in a crush at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday's ground on 15 April 1989.

Mr Goddard was one of six officers inside the control box during the build-up to the match.

He was operating the radio alongside PC Bichard, who controlled the police CCTV system.

'Underhanded'

After the disaster, Mr Bichard made a detailed log of events in the control box, which included a note timed at 14:55, which read: "From officers at rear of Leppings Lane terr. 'shut the gates at the back of the tunnel'."

The court was told that entry did not appear in later versions of his log or in his statement about the disaster.

Mr Goddard has told the jury that he did not hear any radio message like that, but said when he was told by officers from Operation Resolve, the ongoing police investigation into the disaster, that the log entry "disappears", he said it "stinks".


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Asked "Of what does it stink?", he said: "Well, someone within the control box is trying to cover things up, bit underhanded.

"I know it certainly was not me and I don't think it was anybody else, but that's how it appears."

The jury heard there may be "ambiguity" about the true meaning of Mr Bichard's 14:55 BST log entry.

When Mr Bichard gave evidence in July he said his note did not refer to the tunnel leading to the central pens.

'Exit gate opening'

Instead, he told the jury he was referring to closing the exit gate that was opened to allow fans into the ground.

The jury has heard that about 2,000 Liverpool fans entered the ground through an exit gate which was opened for five minutes from 14:52 BST.

Brenda Campbell, a barrister representing bereaved families, said there was an "uncomfortable synergy" between the "deletion" of Mr Bichard's note and Mr Goddard's own evidence about the tunnel.

He has told the inquests he remembers the tunnel being closed when the central pens became full during a league match at Hillsborough, but the court heard in his statement written in 1989, he wrote: "I do not ever remember the tunnel gates being closed before."

'Totally, utterly unaware'

Mr Goddard accepted that he could have given that detail "had I thought of that at the time... but I had not".

The jury also heard part of Mr Goddard's evidence to the Taylor public inquiry in 1989, in which he said he was "not aware" of the tunnel being closed before, adding: "It was probably of an officer's own volition that that was the case, rather than from control."

He told the Warrington court he had not mentioned the closure because he "had forgotten all about that".

Ms Campbell said that "in the period after this disaster, the South Yorkshire Police was extremely sensitive about evidence as to tunnel closure" and that Mr Goddard had allowed himself "to be complicit in that".

Mr Goddard disagreed, saying he was "totally, utterly unaware... that my statement had been changed at all".

Continuing, he agreed with Ms Campbell that failing to close the tunnel was the "most grave of errors", but added: "It doesn't put me complicit in changing things - that certainly did not happen".

'Experienced quartet'

Mr Goddard was also asked about criticism he had made of match commander Ch Supt David Duckenfield during his evidence on Monday.

Mr Duckenfield's barrister, John Beggs QC, said that four of the officers inside the control box were an "experienced quartet" when it came to policing Hillsborough.

"By contrast," the barrister said, Mr Duckenfield "had no experience of a sell-out semi-final."

Mr Beggs continued: "So when yesterday and again today you accepted the invitation of various counsel sitting in front of me to criticise Mr Duckenfield, with hindsight of course, for not thinking to close the tunnel gates, that's a criticism which, as a fair man, you would have to accept has to be shared, at least in part, by that experienced quartet."

Mr Goddard replied: "Absolutely. That's something I should have realised, yes."

The inquests continue.

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