Socialist Worker

Hillsborough - more evidence heard about altered police statements

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2474

An inquest court has heard evidence about the alteration of police statements in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster.

Some 96 Liverpool football fans died as a result of the 1989 crush.

Dr David Slater gave evidence to fresh inquests into their deaths on Monday of this week. He confirmed that the coroner in the original inquests, Stefan Popper, asked him to review some statements relating to 15 year old victim Kevin Williams.

In a letter written in 1997 Slater said he was asked to read the statements of police officers Derek Bruder, Debra Martin and Michael Craighill.

He told the court that he and the coroner had “agreed jointly” to “have a word with the witnesses”.

Bruder had referred to Kevin having “convulsions” after the crush. Slater said he wanted to know what this meant.

He said, “If somebody was whole body convulsing that would be very, very different from minor movements of the body that can occur in brain dead people.”

He said he wanted to check whether Bruder felt his own pulse when he thought he felt Kevin’s. He said, “You can have a brain dead person where the heart continues to beat and will give a pulse.

“So whether or not he felt a pulse was somewhat irrelevant.” But Slater had felt it relevant to question Bruder about the pulse.

Slater said he had a “completely open” conversation with Bruder. “I had no agenda,” he said.

Slater said he remembered a conversation with Bruder about the pulse. He later told the court, “I have no recollection of the conversation on the telephone with PC Bruder.”

Improper

He agreed that it would be “highly improper” of him to tell Bruder “what was right and what was wrong”.

Pete Weatherby QC referred to a letter written by Slater in December 1997 to the coroner who took over from Popper.

It said, “I am reasonably certain that there was considerable unofficial, if not official, belief that a 3.15pm cut off could be introduced by the coroner.

“If a 3.15pm cut off was not being considered, PC Bruder’s evidence would have been of less importance, as it would have been heard anyway.”

Weatherby said this showed that the cut off time gave added importance to Bruder’s evidence.

Former special police constable Debra Martin, who was on duty at Hillsborough, also gave evidence. She said she found a “very very feeble” pulse in Kevin “but it was still there”.

She helped to carry Kevin to the ground’s gymnasium on an advertising hoarding.

She told the court, “I had Kevin’s head in my arms and that’s when Kevin’s eyes opened and Kevin said ‘mum’. That little boy’s last word to me was ‘mum’ and it has stayed with me all these years.”

Martin agreed that her account had changed over the years. She said one statement was “made out by someone else” and that she “had to sign it under duress”. She said she had faced “bullying and manipulation” and that West Midlands Police officer Julie Appleton bullied her into making a new statement in 1990.

Martin said Appleton visited her at home three or four times. She said, “Her main aim was to ensure that I changed my original statement to the statement that she wanted.”

Incorrect

Martin’s 1990 statement said her memory of the disaster was “possibly inaccurate”. Martin told the court, “That’s incorrect. They are not my words.”

Appleton also gave evidence. She confirmed that she visited Martin at her home on 17 March 1990. She said the coroner had asked her to go because Martin’s statement had referred to Kevin saying ‘mum’.

Appleton said, “The coroner thought it was highly unlikely, with the injuries Kevin had sustained, that he would be in a position to speak.”

Appleton said she wrote Martin’s 1990 statement but that, “The words are Ms Martin’s words.”

Mark George questioned Appleton on behalf of Kevin’s family. He said Martin’s original statement said Kevin “started breathing and opened his eyes. His only word was ‘mum’ and then he died.”

George said this was missing from the 1990 statement. He said, “The very thing that you had gone to enquire about is missing in the March 17 1990 statement isn’t it?”

Appleton agreed.

George said Martin had insisted that Kevin said ‘mum’ ever since. He said the only time she didn’t was in the statement written by Appleton in 1990.

George said evidence that Kevin may have been alive as late as 4pm was “inconvenient” to the 3.15pm cut off time. Appleton denied that she was sent to get that part of Martin’s account changed.

The inquests continue.


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