Socialist Worker

Hillsborough - 'Inspector put words in my mouth' says ex-cop

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2474

A memorial to the 96 fans who died as a result of the Hillsborough disaster

A memorial to the 96 fans who died as a result of the Hillsborough disaster (Pic: Edmund Gall/flickr)

A former police officer has told a court that a West Midlands Police (WMP) officer pressured him to change his evidence on the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

Derek Bruder, a Merseyside Police constable at the time, attended the football match as a fan.

Bruder gave evidence on Friday of last week to fresh inquests into the deaths of some 96 Liverpool fans who died after a crush at the Sheffield stadium.

He told the court that he saw 15 year old victim Kevin Williams lying on the pitch after the crush. 

Bruder said he was “absolutely confident” that he saw “extremely noticeable” movements of Kevin’s head. 

He “definitely” felt a pulse in Kevin’s neck and cleared a “vomit-like substance” from his mouth.

He said Kevin was unconscious but alive.

Bruder made a statement on 27 April 1989 detailing his interactions with Kevin. He signed a revised statement on 3 May 1990 after a visit from WMP inspector Matthew Sawyers. 

WMP was investigating South Yorkshire Police in the wake of the disaster.

Bruder told the court that the visit lasted for around six hours and ended with Sawyers writing a new statement for him.

The new statement said Bruder was “absolutely satisfied” that Kevin was not sick and that his view of Kevin’s movements was “an impression”.

It also said that Bruder “may have been mistaken” in his view that he felt a pulse.

Bruder said the atmosphere during Sawyers’ visit was “very strange” and that a less confident officer “would have felt intimidated”.


He said, “I was uncomfortable with some of the points and possibilities which were being put to me.”

Bruder said he looked through Sawyers’ notes when Sawyers visited the bathroom. He found “a handwritten sheet split into two sides” with “two lots of handwritten notes”.

On the left hand side it had ‘First statement’ and on the second side it had ‘Change to’.”

Bruder said Sawyers “kept referring to” this sheet during their discussions.

Sawyers rang Dr Slater from the coroner’s office during his visit so that Slater could talk to Bruder.

Bruder told the court that Slater said it was “highly unlikely” that Kevin had a pulse or was vomiting on the pitch.

Bruder said, “I felt under pressure to concede to his medical superiority.” Bruder agreed that his new statement was a “direct result” of his conversation with Slater.

In a statement Bruder said, “I felt strongly that DI Sawyers and Dr Slater had made a conscious and determined effort to put words into my mouth.”

Sawyers told the court that the coroner, Stefan Popper, had asked him to visit Bruder to “seek clarification” over parts of his statement. 

He said everything he did “was done with integrity and with the best of intentions”.

Pete Weatherby QC questioned Sawyers on behalf of Kevin’s family. He pointed out that Popper would not consider evidence after 3.15pm.

Footage showed Kevin being carried out of pen 3 at 3.28pm.

Weatherby suggested that it was “very inconvenient” to have a police officer giving direct evidence of vital signs in a casualty who died. Sawyers disagreed.

The inquests continue.

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