An experienced matchday boss was transferred out of the role just before the Hillsborough disaster for ‘career development reasons’, jurors heard.
Chief Superintendent Brian Mole was moved to the South Yorkshire Police’s Barnsley division just two weeks before the FA Cup semi-final at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium in which 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death.
The move came after a ‘prank’ saw a trainee constable stripped and subjected to a fake robbery.
Mr Mole, an experienced matchday commander, was immediately replaced by Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, who had little experience in the same footballing role.
A former chief inspector told the new inquests into the 96 deaths he did not believe Mr Mole’s transfer was linked to the incident in October 1988 which involved a number of officers at the former Hammerton Road police station in Walkley.
The court, sitting in Warrington, heard four officers were forced to resign and seven were disciplined after the ‘prank fake robbery’ was carried out by the probationer’s colleagues.
His trousers were pulled down and he was blindfolded and handcuffed, before the victim was led to believe he was being threatened with a gun.
The officer’s ordeal was also photographed.
Patrick Roche, representing some of the bereaved families, asked former chief inspector David Beal whether the late Mr Mole was moved to Barnsley because of unhappiness about how the incident was dealt with.
He said: “That’s not my knowledge of it.
“I understood he was transferred for career development reasons.”
Mr Roche said: “Certainly, for whatever reasons, it was somewhat surprising he was transferred with immediate effect from March 27 – so during the period between the selection of the game and the match itself.”
Mr Beal replied: “It was surprising to me, yes.”
Mr Roche said: “Because Mr Mole was a highly experienced officer?”
Mr Beal replied: “Absolutely.”
The hearings continue.