Hillsborough inquests: ‘Deliberate attempt’ to change off-duty officer’s evidence about teenage victim

Kevin Williams, one of the victims of the Hillsborough Disaster.
Kevin Williams, one of the victims of the Hillsborough Disaster.
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An off-duty police officer who tried to save a dying 15-year-old Hillsborough disaster victim said that there had been “a deliberate attempt” to make him change his original statement.

An off-duty police officer who tried to save a dying 15-year-old Hillsborough disaster victim said that there had been “a deliberate attempt” to make him change his original statement.

Off-duty Merseyside Police officer Derek Bruder told the new inquests in Warrington that he was visited by a West Midlands Police officer who amended his original statement that had been taken just weeks after the 1989 disaster.

In Mr Bruder’s first statement he described witnessing Kevin Williams, who had been carried on to the pitch, having convulsions whilst lying alone.

He went on to say that he was able to feel for a pulse after checking the boy’s neck before performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

But the following year in 1990, Mr Bruder was visited the day before a “mini-inquest” into the death of Kevin by Inspector Matthew Sawers of West Midlands Police who was in charge of the coronial inquiries.

The inquest was told that Mr Sawers visited a then 22-year-old Mr Bruder at his home in a meeting which lasted six hours which he described as “very strange”.

Mr Bruder said that he needed to “clarify some anomalies” from his first statement and was asked questions around specific medical points, including to clarify what he had meant when he stated “convulsions”.

He added that Mr Sawers wrote an amended statement which said that Mr Bruder may have mistakenly felt a pulse, Kevin was not convulsing as he had said, and he had not seen vomit.

It was claimed that Mr Sawers had made “a determined effort to put words into his mouth”.

Mr Bruder added that he was “confused” by the meeting having been asked the questions in “three or four different ways”, before being passed on to a pathologist who he spoke to on the phone.

He told the inquest that Dr Slater had told him that it was “highly unlikely” that Kevin was convulsing or had been able to move his neck because the boy had suffered “severe crushing injuries”.

He added that it was also unlikely that Kevin was able to have a pulse - contrary to what Mr Bruder had said in his statement.

Mr Bruder added: “After the conversation with Dr Slater, who I understand to have carried out an examination of Kevin, he was a medically qualified person who was telling me that it was highly unlikely that some of the things that I had witnessed would indeed have happened.”

He added: “I was really confused after the conversation. I felt under pressure to concede to his medical superiority.”

Mr Bruder said that during the meeting Mr Sawers asked about how he took Kevin’s pulse despite telling him he had been “quite confident” he had taken it in the right place.

He added: “The atmosphere was very strange, if I wasn’t as self-confident as I was, other people would have felt intimidated. That’s how it felt, it was as if it was a debate.

“This meeting went on for such a long time. Once this second statement was signed I felt absolutely drained, it was six hours long and I felt slightly uncomfortable about the way it had gone, notwithstanding the fact that I had made a second statement, I had read it and signed it. “

He told the inquest that when Mr Sawers went to the bathroom, he looked at the officer’s notes.

He said: “On the left hand side it had ‘first statement’ and on the second side it had ‘change to’.”

Mr Bruder had also claimed to have seen an ambulance on the pitch, but was told that there was no evidence of it following “a thorough investigation by West Midlands Police”.

However it emerged that Mr Bruder had in fact been correct following photographic evidence.

The court heard he wrote to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in 2012 that West Midlands Police had made a “deliberate attempt” to make him change his statement.

Giving evidence Mr Sawers told the inquest he had been asked by the coroner, Dr Stefan Popper, to visit Mr Bruder to get further explanation and detail around evidence, including the convulsions and pulse.

He was to give a summary of the further statement to the inquests the following day but denied he had applied pressure on Mr Bruder or had attended with the intention of changing his statement.

But Mr Pete Weatherby on behalf of the family suggested there had been “a determined effort” to change his statement which was “inconvenient to the investigation”.

Mr Sawers said: “I did not cause him to change the sense of the statement. What I did was to go through the details and to elicit more detail and explanation.

“Everything that I did in my encounter with Pc Bruder was done with integrity and with the best of intentions. It wasn’t something that I had any personal stake in.”

Mr Weatherby said that “it was very inconvenient that here was a serving police officer giving evidence of vital signs in a casualty that died,” and suggested that as a result of the meeting Mr Sawers came away with a second statement that “loosened up” evidence about Kevin’s vital signs.