Hillsborough fan claims defended

96 fans died as a result of the Hillsborough disaster

96 fans died as a result of the Hillsborough disaster

First published in National News © by

A former police officer has denied he vastly exaggerated the behaviour of Liverpool fans after a police chief told him "drunken, ticketless" supporters were to blame for the Hillsborough disaster.

Five days after the 1989 tragedy an assistant chief constable spoke to officers at a South Yorkshire Police station and told them fans had caused the crush outside the ground which led to an exit gate being opened and they then rushed in to cause the fatal crush on the terraces, an inquest jury heard.

Colin Lomas, then a police sergeant, said assistant constable Stuart Anderson instructed them to include details which reflected that but to leave out any references to police radios not working on the day and staffing levels at the turnstiles to the Leppings Lane terrace where 96 fans died.

Mr Lomas told the inquests sitting in Warrington that he had never seen so much alcohol consumed at a football match with the "vast majority" of 15,000 Liverpool fans he saw being the "worse for drink", with some carrying six-pack cans of beer, bottles of cider and even carafes of wine.

But he accepted he had seen no drink-related trouble on the day of the match and no arrests were made.

Brenda Campbell, representing some of the families of the bereaved, took Mr Lomas, who was on patrol duty outside Hillsborough, through a selection of video footage and photographs taken on the day.

None of the visual evidence, which included locations near to where he was positioned, showed anyone obviously drunk or carrying alcohol, he agreed.

The now retired officer had also mentioned in his 1989 account that the flow of fans was away from the ground until 2.30pm when "like the flick of a switch" it moved in the opposite direction.

Again footage showed in court did not support that comment, Miss Campbell said.

He also stated that large numbers of ticketless fans were outside the ground, although that was an observation and he had no direct evidence for that.

Asked whether that was "a safe assumption" to put before the jury, he said: "That was the assumption that I made. It is one that I stand by."

The barrister told Mr Lomas: "You are welded to your account that the majority of fans were worse for wear. That large volumes were carrying drink.

"That the flow was away from the stadium until 2.30pm and there was a large volume of ticketless fans."

Mr Lomas replied: "I know what I saw. I know what I heard."

In a previous session, the jury also heard that a superintendent based at Mr Lomas's station in Doncaster told him the day after the tragedy to pass on to junior officers that they should hold off recording entries in their notebooks as the force was being wrongly blamed for the disaster and they needed "clear, accurate accounts".

Mr Lomas went on to record details in his notebook of fans being drunk but agreed he did not think anything of it on the day and would possibly not have noted it but for the above conversation.

He agreed that South Yorkshire Police in the 1980s was a "regimented, almost military" organisation and said it was "ruled by an iron fist".

The jury heard that the visit from a senior officer such as Mr Anderson five days after the tragedy was unprecedented.

Mr Lomas said that Mr Anderson wanted specific evidence regarding drunkenness of fans and even the brands of alcohol that were consumed. He also wanted to know the number of fans that were asking for tickets.

It led to Mr Lomas recording a fuller account on an undated blank piece of paper undated, as instructed by his superior.

Mr Lomas agreed the South Yorkshire Police "line" was that drunken ticketless fans were to blame and he personally had no reason not to believe his superior.

He said he had also believed what was said by the area's then Police Federation secretary who gave a similar account in a television interview at the time.

But he denied he felt it was part of his duty "to advance that case".

Mr Lomas said: "Absolutely not. I told the truth in my account and I stand by that today."

Miss Campbell said: "Notwithstanding the footage and photographs that we have seen this morning, you stand by your account?"

The witness replied: "I do.

"I was putting in detail, additional details, as requested by a supervisory officer. What was never said to me was 'we want you to lie and to put in false details' because I would not have done that.

"I did not sit down and coach people and tell them what to put in. Only what they saw. I had no influence on what people wrote in their accounts, only my own.

"I could not instruct an officer to lie. I have not lied."

Mark George QC, also representing bereaved families, said to the witness: "You were a loyal trooper in the South Yorkshire Police and it hurt you that your police force was apparently being blamed for the deaths of 96 fans at a football match."

Mr Lomas replied: "It was certainly distressing for me to feel that we were to blame for something which I did not think we were guilty of, but not so much that it would make me tell untruths."

Mr George continued: "You have gone completely over the top and exaggerated out of all proportion the realities of the behaviour of the fans that day."

Mr Lomas said: "No, I have not exaggerated at all. What I have reported and recorded is a honest version of what I saw."

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