Police chief in charge on day of Hillsborough disaster dies

Chief Constable Peter Wright'South Yorkshire Police'1984
Chief Constable Peter Wright'South Yorkshire Police'1984
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The man in charge of policing South Yorkshire during the Hillsborough disaster and 1984 miners’ strike has died.

Former Chief Constable Peter Wright died in hospital in York on Saturday following a lengthy illness.

Current Chief Constable Med Hughes, paying tribute to the former police boss, said the Hillsborough disaster ‘inevitably overshadowed’ his career.

Mr Wright, aged 82, came in for severe criticism for the way his force policed the FA Cup semi final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough in 1989 after 96 fans were crushed to death on the terraces.

An inquiry into the tragedy concluded police mismanagement of the crowd was one of the main triggers of the crush.

Mr Wright also had to deal with false claims made by his force in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, including allegations Liverpool fans had forced open the gate which led to overcrowding in the pens.

Mr Wright, who led the force from 1983 to 1990 and was also in charge of the county’s police force during the miners’ strike in 1984, retired the year after the football disaster.

He had waited for the publication of the independent The Hillsborough Stadium Disaster Inquiry report, overseen by Lord Taylor, which blamed police crowd control failings for the disaster.

Chf Con Mr Hughes said: “Peter Wright led the force through its darkest hours, always demonstrating outstanding personal integrity and commitment.

“He recognised the failures of the force at the Hillsborough disaster and apologised for them, offering his resignation.

“His long and very successful career as a professional and dedicated officer was inevitably overshadowed by the events of that day, but he was resolute in responding to the various enquiries and was always fully supportive of those colleagues more closely involved.

“The force remembers him with respect and affection, and I offer our sympathy to his family and friends.”

But Trevor Hicks, aged 65, president of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, who lost his daughters Sarah, 19, and Victoria, 15, in the disaster, said he had nothing but bad memories of the former police chief.

“I offer my sympathies to Mr Wright’s family but can only comment on him in his professional capacity as the head of the police force operating on the day of the disaster.

“We crossed swords many times and my overriding feeling is one of disappointment in him for not resigning straight away after the disaster. It would have been the honourable thing to have done.

“As far as I am aware he never once stood up and said he was sorry either for what happened. The first person to do that was his successor, Richard Wells.

“At the end of the day although there was a chain of command at Hillsborough that day the buck should have stopped with him.”

Mr Hicks, who has re-married and has three step-children and is a step-granddad, added: “I am a chipped cup, I will never be complete again.

“There were two disasters - the one on the day itself and the cover-up afterwards which we are still fighting to get to the bottom of.”

Sheffield Hillsborough and Brightside MP David Blunkett said: “Peter was one of those senior police officers who, despite the circumstances of the day, could be described as one of the early pioneers in media presentation.

“I remember him both during and after he’d left South Yorkshire, provoking comment with articles in the Sunday Times and elsewhere.

“He was more a communicator than a policeman’s policeman, but there was no doubt that dealing with the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster required enormous strength of character and Peter certainly had that.”