Hillsborough police came from disgraced squad

Key detective was under investigation, reports Graham Ball
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The Independent Online
The family of one of the Hillsborough disaster victims is demanding to know why the handling of the controversial inquest into the tragedy was put into the hands of police who were themselves at that time under investigation for misconduct.

Mrs Anne Williams is to ask Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, for an explanation of how an officer who was in charge of gathering vital evidence of how her son Kevin died had come from a squad accused by its own chief constable of "cavalier" and "sloppy" practices.

The officer, Detective Superintendent Stan Beechy, was formerly head of the controversial West Midlands Serious Crime Squad, which was disbanded in August 1989 as part of a massive Police Complaints Authority inquiry into widespread allegations of misconduct.

Other senior detectives transferred at the same time were given new posts in "Community support services", "Road safety and talks in schools" and "Routine administration". None was ever charged with an offence.

Supt Beechy's new role was described officially as "studying technical aspects of Hillsborough". In fact he was the second most senior policeman in charge of the Coroner's Court. His key role was involved in the acquisition and selection of evidence to be put before the jury.

The inquest into the deaths of the Liverpool soccer fans has concluded that they were all effectively dead at 3.15 on the fateful afternoon of 15 April, 1989.

But many families have challenged this version of events, believing more could have been done to save them and that some could have survived. None has campaigned harder than Mrs Williams to find the truth of what took place amid the chaos of Britain's worst soccer stadium disaster.

"I have discovered that important evidence was not put before the jury in Kevin's case," said Mrs Williams. "They claimed that one key witness, PC Derek Brudder, was mistaken when he wrote in his statement that he tried to flag down an ambulance to save Kevin, even though I subsequently discovered the police already had the video evidence to back up Mr Brudder's account."

In the uproar over the handling of the disaster by the South Yorkshire police it was decided that another, impartial force be called in to investigate their role and organise the inquests and provide evidence for the subsequent Taylor report.The South Yorkshire police nominated their West Midlands colleagues. Det Supt Beechy was transferred to "non-operational duties" and seconded to Hillsborough on 14 August 1989.

Mrs Williams said : "The jury and none of the families had any idea that officers handling the inquest were themselves under suspicion. Mr Beechy was in charge of the evidence concerning Kevin; he should have presented the jury with the photos that supported Derek Brudder's evidence.

"Mr Brudder said that Kevin was alive at 3.37 when an ambulance went past; at first they said there was no such ambulance; later we got hold of time-dated TV footage, available to the police at the time, and proved he was right. I spoke to a paramedic in that ambulance who told me he could have saved Kevin's life had the police allowed him to stop."

Mrs Williams has gathered evidence to support her claim that her 15-year- old son Kevin was alive at 4pm, 45 minutes after the inquest claimed he was dead.

By claiming that all 95 who died that day did so at 3.15 the obligation on the police and rescue services is effectively ended at that point. But the families question how the authorities can be so certain in every case.

Mrs Williams has discovered that a statement from a fellow Liverpool fan, Steve Hart, who helped pull Kevin from the crush and confirmed he was alive after 3.15, was never put to the inquest.

Sheila Coleman, a researcher who sat in on every inquest to compile an official record of events for Liverpool City Council, was critical of the role of the police. "At one point Superintendent Beechy rang me and told me not to come to the inquests as I would not be allowed in. I went anyway," she said.

Mr Beechy, who has been retired for five years, said yesterday: "I definitely believe that the inquest got to the truth of what happened on that day and I can see no reason for it to be reopened. I feel truly very sorry for what happened to the families."

Tomorrow, Mrs Williams is meeting Edward Fitzgerald, QC, and the leading forensic pathologist Dr Ian West to prepare her third appeal to the Attorney- General for a new inquest. "Now we have new medical evidence to support the witness statements that weren't available at the inquest in May 1990," she said. "I am determined not to give in."