• Hillsborough - a personal view

    The recently published report on the Hillsborough disaster has once again focused attention on standards of policing and the relationship with police legitimacy. This is my story and my version of events as they unfolded and impacted on me and my team.

    I was a sergeant working in Wallasey Merseyside and on night duty on that fateful day. I recall watching the events unfold on TV during that day and wondering what impact it would have on our plans during the night. I was posted to the custody suite at the time and this included management of colleagues who worked in the General Enquiry Office (GEO). Almost as soon as we arrived at 1030 for our 1100 start we sent half of our staff to work in the Casualty Bureau in Liverpool. Their job would be to answer questions as they came into Merseyside and liaise with South Yorkshire Police. Throughout the night the news from South Yorkshire got worse and worse.

    In the early hours a member of my team asked me to speak to three young men who were at the station counter. The three had been to the game and could not find their friend. They had searched for him for hours and had tried to get information from the police but they could not trace him. My staff contacted the Casualty Bureau who reported that there was a great deal of confusion in Sheffield and they could not get any information. I took down their details and promised to contact them as soon as we had any information.

    About an hour later a gentleman came into the GEO and again I was asked to speak to him. I took him into a small side room and he told me that he was the father of the boy that the three friends had recently spoken to me about earlier and he asked me to try to trace his son. After what seemed an eternity we confirmed that his son was one of the people who had lost their lives. It fell to me to give him the terrible news.

    After I told him he did not immediately get upset. Instead he looked at me and told me that I reminded him a great deal of his son. This was one of those occasions that I will never forget. It was terribly, terribly sad. The man then returned home to give his wife and his family the news that they must have dreaded.

    Late in the morning those that had been sent to the Casualty Bureau returned to the station. They were exhausted and looked drained. They had endured a very emotional night.

    In the days that followed my section and I were deployed to Anfield were scarves, shirts and flowers fell from the top of the Kop right down to the halfway line. I am an avid Evertonian and I was proud to see many blue shirts mixed in with the reds of Liverpool and colours of many other football clubs. We spoke to football fans from all over the country as they came to pay their respects. It was a solemn and moving occasion that had a lasting impact on many of those present.

    It is only correct that any injustices in the weeks and months following this event are dealt with. Having been a police officer for 30 years and a senior police officer for half of that time I, along with many colleagues and former colleagues feel ashamed of the stories that are now emerging. But at the same time I am proud of my staff for the sympathy and professionalism that they displayed on the weeks following this tragedy.

    People will rightly focus on the negative aspects of the new report and no doubt further action will be taken. But there were those who delivered a professional service and maintained the highest standards of policing. The standards and traditions that we hold dear are apt to be challenged in the weeks and months ahead, but in my view, the most important thing is that justice is not only done but is seen to be done.

    As a final note, a few weeks after the disaster I visited the man mentioned to see how he was coping and see whether we could help in any way. He introduced me to his wife and told me how they had found some comfort and were trying to come to terms with the loss of their son. I only hope that the publishing of this report and the events that follow bring some comfort to the families of the 96 who lost their lives.

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