Police chief under investigation over role in deflecting blame for Hillsborough disaster

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A TOP ranking serving police officer is to be investigated over the role he played in deflecting the blame for the Hillsborough disaster away from South Yorkshire Police.

Sir Norman Bettison, Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, was a Chief Inspector in South Yorkshire in April 1989 and part of a team which produced the force’s own discredited report into the disaster, which sought to shift blame away from the force with allegations of drunken and ticketless fans.

The independent panel set up to review and publish all the files on Hillsborough held by 85 organisations cleared fans of responsibility, stating they ‘neither caused nor contributed to the deaths’ and revealed a huge cover-up.

Sir Norman caused outrage among victims’ families yesterday when he maintained the original police line that ‘fans behaviour made the job of the police...harder than it needed to be’.

He denied being part of a team created by South Yorkshire Police to ‘work with solicitors who were representing South Yorkshire Police at the Taylor Inquiry and to vet statements from its officers that were intended to be presented to the inquiry’.

He claims he never altered any statements and said: “I have absolutely nothing to hide.”

West Yorkshire Police Authority said the contents of the independent panel’s report were ‘shocking and very disturbing’.

Chairman Mark Burns-Williamson said the committee would review the report in detail and would take ‘whatever action is appropriate’.

He said the matter had been referred to the chair of the authority’s Special Committee.

Margaret Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son James died at the disaster, has called Sir Norman’s immediate resignation.

Mrs Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, said: “He is still saying the fans made the job more difficult for the police. He ought to be ashamed of himself,” she said.

“Do the decent thing Mr Bettison - resign.”

Former Home Secretary Jack Straw also claims Sir Norman should be ‘considering his position’.