South Yorkshire Police Federation representative denies blaming Liverpool fans for Hillsborough tragedy

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A former South Yorkshire Police Federation representative has denied accusing football fans of causing the Hillsborough Disaster in the media.

Paul Middup, who was secretary of the joint branch board of the Police Federation in South Yorkshire in 1989 and a police constable, gave interviews in the aftermath of the tragedy.

He was quoted in several national newspapers as saying he was ‘sick of hearing how good the crowd were’ and that they had arrived ‘tanked up’ ‘late’ and ‘impossible to control’.

Giving evidence at the fresh inquests into the deaths of the 96 Liverpool FC fans who died, Mr Middup said the quotes were accurate.

But he said he was not suggesting the fans had caused the disaster but that they had contributed to it.

He told the jury: “There are a lot of things that presumably caused this thing, but to suggest that that wasn’t part of it is utterly ridiculous, because it was.

“It was a contributory cause to what happened, that’s the way we believed, that’s what our people were saying, not that it was the total cause not that they caused the thing completely, but that it was a contributory cause, not minor or major, but a contributory cause.”

Mr Middup said a lot of the police officers at Hillsborough on the day were deeply affected by the tragedy and five could never work again.

Asked if he chose his words carefully when speaking to the media, Mr Middup said he was ‘speaking from the heart’ adding: “Ordinary people that I represented were being called murderers.”

Mr Middup said he was at home with his wife on the afternoon of April 15 1989 when one of his representatives rang him and said something serious was happening.

He said: “Now, nobody had ever rung me about one before, so I knew, you know, there must be something very serious, and he said that he thought that I should come out.

“I think purely on a welfare side, because a lot of the police officers that were there were sort of getting very distressed, and so that’s what he called me out for.”

Mr Middup said during the evening he visited a number of places including West Bar police station and Niagara Sports and Social Club.

He said he spent the night in the gym at Hillsborough, which was being used as a temporary mortuary.

Mr Middup said: “Whilst I was there during the night, I mean I’m not a very big fella and a lot of them a lot bigger than me were crying in my arms all night.

“They were desperately distressed.

“And I was crying along with them.”

He said a psychologist called Doug Duckworth was helping the force welfare officer to try and provide counselling to officers.

He says he spoke to members and they told him about their experiences.

Asked if it was a systematic investigation Mr Middup said ‘no’.

Mr Middup told the jury in Warrington he didn’t remember seeing any senior officers, nor did he speak to any fans or football club staff.

Mr Middup was then asked what his colleagues were telling him.

He said: “They were talking about the drunken behaviour of a minority of Liverpool supporters that had caused them quite a lot of trouble.”

“And it wasn’t just at one place, It was at all the places I went to.

“This isn’t 26 years later, this is right at the time they’re telling me this.

“There were too many for it not to be right because it was all the same thing.”

Mr Middup described one representative saying at 2.40pm on the day of the match he was surprised how few fans were in a particular area.

He said: “What they were telling me was that, you know, it was the lateness of these people arriving.”

He says officers told him a small minority of fans arrived, a lot of them drunk and a lot without tickets.

“And there were so many, suddenly, that it almost became something that they could barely cope with.”

Mr Middup said he was told gate C was opened because of fears someone could die, and fans rushed in to the ground.

Mr Middup said he could not remember being at a meeting with the chief constable the day after the disaster during which the fans were described as ‘drunk’, ‘maurauding’ and ‘animalistic’.

He was shown an article from the Daily Mail newspaper published on April 18, in which he is quoted as saying: “I am sick of hearing how good the crowd were.

“Just because they weren’t tearing each other’s throats out or doesn’t mean they were well behaved.

“They were arriving tanked up on drink and the situation faced by the officers trying to control them was quite simply terrifying.”

He added: “It would have been impossible to try to divert them to the less crowded end sections.

“Any officer in their path would have been trampled to death.”

He also said officers were spat at and pelted with coins.

Mr Middup told the jury he imagines it was an accurate record of what he said.

He told the jury: “I do know that people spoke to me as I passed them in the building or wherever else I saw them, and said that they were pleased we were putting our side of the story forward.”

The hearing continues.