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Hillsborough Enquiry hears from top policeman


John Nesbit, a retired chief superintendent was, according to Friday's Liverpool Echo accused of “spreading a false narrative” in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.

The inquests into the 96 deaths heard John Nesbit was recorded as attending a meeting at Police Federation headquarters in October 1989, after the interim Taylor Report into the tragedy was published.

The meeting was also attended by MP Michael Shersby, the parliamentary adviser for the Police Federation, and a number of South Yorkshire Police officers, including Norman Bettison.

In a discussion about the disaster, Mr Nesbit was recorded as saying: “The fans were trying to barter with the stewards to get in. They did not have tickets and were trying to buy their way in.”

But Mr Nesbit said he had no recollection of attending the meeting.

He said: “I mean, Norman Bettison seems to have a lot to say in here, and I don’t remember being in a meeting with him either.”

Pete Weatherby QC, representing 22 of the families, said: “This is part of putting forward a narrative, isn’t it, to this MP that he will then raise in parliament.”

Rajiv Menon QC, also representing families, suggested the minutes showed the force: “spreading a false narrative about the disaster”.

But Mr Nesbit said he had no memory of the meeting.

Mr Nesbit was asked about the role of Mr Bettison, who went on to become Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, in the team set up to gather information about the disaster and said he thought he acted as a liaison between officers.

The court heard there had been allegations from three officers that Mr Nesbit had tried to influence what they put in their statement.

One officer, David Frost, alleged that Mr Nesbit had taken a group of officers to a pub in the days after the disaster and told them: “We have all got to get our stories straight or a lot of senior officers’ heads will roll.”

But Mr Nesbit said: “That meeting never took place. It is nothing but a pack of lies by one mischievous, vindictive, deceitful officer.”

The court heard officer Adam West, in the same unit as Mr Frost, had also given an account of Mr Nesbit taking officers to a pub in the days following April 15, 1989.

In his account Mr West said: “He (Mr Nesbit) was trying to cover his own backside saying where he was at 3.06pm on the day to get that story straight as almost a deflection strategy about dealing with a lack of senior officers on the pitch.”

The court heard a third officer, Adrian Daley, reported going to Rotherham police station to speak to Mr Nesbit and Detective Sergeant Michael Tissington and being asked to make certain changes to his statement.

Mr Nesbit said he had not been to Rotherham police station since he left a post there in 1986.

The jury was told Mr Tissington also denied the meeting had happened.

Mr Nesbit said he had no part in looking at or vetting statements after Hillsborough.

The court was shown a memo from Chief Superintendent Donald Denton to Mr Nesbit which asked for statements to be gathered from mounted officers.

It said: “It is the intention to submit those reports for vetting by the solicitors acting for the chief constable prior to release to the West Midlands inquiry.”

Another memo, requesting statements from officers in Mr Nesbit’s division, said: ”The written accounts, when obtained, will be subjected to the usual vetting procedures carried out by solicitors acting on behalf of the chief constable, prior to the submission to the West Midlands Police.”

Mr Nesbit was asked what he understood by “the usual vetting procedures” but said he did not think he had ever seen the memo before.

The Enquiry continues.


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