Hillsborough officer’s powerful account of disaster goes viral

Andy Frith (right) helps an injured fan at the Hillsborough disaster
Andy Frith (right) helps an injured fan at the Hillsborough disaster
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A powerful account of the Hillsborough disaster by a former police officer who ‘broke ranks’ to help the injured has been viewed by thousands of people on the internet.

A Facebook post by Andy Frith, who served in South Yorkshire Police for 17 years and reached the rank of inspector, has been shared more than 27,000 times after he shared an account detailing both the lack of command by senior officers and defending the police on the ground who did their best to help.

Mr Frith said: “The media coverage over the past few days, comments in the House of Commons and the suspension of the South Yorkshire Chief Constable all persuade me to post my thoughts.

“I was a Constable, Sergeant and Inspector in South Yorkshire Police and served 17 years before leaving to run a family business. I was there on the pitch at Hillsborough when the tragedy occurred working as a PC in a public order serial which had been called into the ground when the shout went up for assistance.

“I witnessed the lack of command. The almost complete radio silence from the control room at the ground and the ridiculous decision to line up our serial in front of the Notts fans to prevent a pitch invasion whilst people at the Leppings Lane end were in obvious trouble.

“I broke ranks at that moment with several other officers and began helping the injured from the pitch because it was obvious that senior commanders were not reacting to the situation as they should have been.

“There is no doubt in my mind that poor policing decisions led to the deaths that day and it comes as no surprise that those in charge tried to deflect the blame. The culture in the force at that time was demonstrated in person by the majority of the chief superintendents and senior command team. I have never come across a more arrogant, pompous and unlikeable group of individuals. They had absolute power over their divisions (districts now) and were completely unaccountable. What they said went and they were completely but mistakenly self assured in their ability.

“That it took so long to discover the depth of the cover up from the then Chief Constable Peter Wright to the chief superintendents and those under their direct command is no surprise to me as no one would have dared to speak out.”

Mr Frith added he objected to media headlines describing the force as ‘rotten to the core’ following comments made in the House of Commons by Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham about the leadership of South Yorkshire Police.

He said: “The huge majority of officers on duty that day did just that – their duty. They helped where they could, used initiative when the chain of command failed and should be commended for their work.

“The current Chief Constable David Compton has been suspended by the Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings. Yes he takes responsibility for the force but he wasn’t there 27 years ago.

“It looks as though he was suspended because he tried to defend his force during the inquest proceedings. I think our Dr Billings is coming up for re election and needs to be able to say to the electorate “Look how tough I am”. This has nothing to do with proportionality.

“And the fans – yes like all football crowds some of their number were intoxicated. I know because I saw it and we were confiscating beer from vehicles all morning. A huge haul of trays of lager and beer cans which had been brought to drink before the match. This was nothing unusual.

“This was the culture at the time and the reason fans were penned in like sheep at all grounds. Their behaviour in the previous decade had necessitated separation because of continued violence. So to say the fans had no responsibility is also wrong. Perhaps on the day the fans did not contribute directly to the 96 deaths but as a group their general behaviour over previous years had led to the point of wire cages on terraces.

“Yes, let the people responsible face the music. Yes let Chief Superintendent Duckenfield and his immediate team be called to account but please don’t call South Yorkshire Police rotten to the core. It wasn’t then and I don’t believe it is now.”