Turkish man confesses to stabbing Leeds fan

Police in Istanbul last night said a Turkish man had confessed to killing one of two Leeds United football supporters in the city on Wednesday. Post-mortem details published by a Turkish newspaper disclosed that one of the fans had been knifed 17 times.

Ali Umit Demir allegedly admitted under interrogation that he stabbed one of the men, according to Istanbul police.

Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight died after being knifed during clashes between Leeds United fans and Turks before Thursday's Uefa Cup semi-final between Leeds and the Turkish side Galatasaray.

Police refused to say which of the men Mr Demir had admitted to stabbing. "I stabbed him," Turkish newspapers yesterday quoted him as saying as he was brought into the police station for questioning. A total of 15 Turkish men are being held for interrogation over the violence, and six are believed to have been directly linked to the killings. Suspects can be detained for long periods without charge but it is believed that Mr Demir and another man in custody will be charged over the weekend.

Hassan Ozdemir, the Istanbul police chief, yesterday accused Leeds United of not giving police enough information about the number of fans intending to travel to Istanbul. If police had known how many supporters were coming, they would have taken more safety measures, he said.

As the police chief yesterday said his force had found a knife used in one of the stabbings, the newspaper Yeni Binyil said an autopsy had found Mr Loftus, who died almost instantly, was stabbed 17 times, while Mr Speight, who died of his wounds in hospital, was stabbed six times.

As the police in Istanbul paraded the men in custody before the press, one almost fell as he was jostled by photographers and camera crews.

But the streets were calm. All Leeds United supporters had left the city and there were no fears of more violence.

Turkish police said some Leeds supporters offended Turks and made obscene gestures with the Turkish flag, triggering the fight. Leeds fans say they were attacked by knife-wielding Turks and deny the provocation. Yesterday the Turkish press continued to put the entire blame for the violence on English fans, despite Mr Demir's confessions. "We made their heads kiss the ground of our motherland," said the daily Star in a number of frontpage headlines which glorified the killings.

Some papers questioned the actions of Turkish police. Yeni Binyil said they should have taken extra precautions because of the reputation of English fans. Mr Ozdemir said police would have taken greater measures if Leeds had told the Turkish authorities how many fans were coming and where they were staying.

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