Anthony McIntyre was less than impressed by a former police chief's book on the Hillsborough disaster. 


Thursday past marked the 32nd anniversary of 96 Liverpool fans who were unlawfully killed by South Yorkshire Police at Sheffield's Hillsborough Stadium during the course of the 1989 FA Cup semi-final. 

It was sunny in Drogheda on Thursday as I stopped to talk with a neighbour and fellow Liverpool fan. We swopped memories of how we had learned of the news three decades ago. Liverpool fans of a mature age always remember exactly what they were doing when the news broke. My neighbour had been watching the game on television: I had been listening to it on the radio in my prison cell, thirteen years into a life sentence. 

The week that is in it prompted me to share some thoughts on one of the range of books written about the tragedy. It would feel much better to discuss a book that had been written to tell the truth rather than one written to chop it to pieces. By the time I had put the book down, I was in no doubt: Norman Bettison is a machete man. 

It is not possible to claim to enjoy any book about the events of Hillsborough Stadium on 15 April, 1989. This one, I derived absolutely no pleasure from although for different reasons than usual. The others exuded humility and authenticity. This oozed narcissism and disingenuousness. 

It is a work that is well written but not well told. It is not the untold story of Hillsborough but in the untelling of what really happened on the day and after, a fundamental truth is revealed: the police are so crooked they can't possibly lie in bed straight. The book prompted such revulsion that one observer said ‘Book burning is a terrible thing, but if Bettison could move publication forward to November 5, we might make an exception.’ Neil Welby has forensically demolished both Hillsborough Untold and its author. What can be added here is of minimal value compared to that. 
 
Norman Bettison was an Inspector with South Yorkshire Police in 1989. Off duty on the day, he attended the match as a spectator. He claims to have been a life long Liverpool supporter but oddly stood in the Nottingham Forest end of the ground. 

His dark arts were not practiced at the match but in its wake. He sought to extend his "peripheral" role at the game and inject it into the characterisation of his very central role in the months and years that followed. 

In the aftermath of the disaster Bettison helped amend officers’ statements to lessen the deleterious effect that the original raw statements would have caused. Much of the Wain Report which was submitted to the Taylor Inquiry had been written by Bettison. It was a strategic attempt to influence Lord Justice Taylor's Inquiry and was laced with police accounts of drunken, tickletless and aggressive fans. Bettison sat through every day of the Taylor inquiry as the South Yorkshire Police chief constable's plenipotentiary. Later he would lobby against Taylor, making a video for MPs showing crowd violence at soccer games, none of it in any way related to Hillsborough.

Many years later evidence would be given against Bettison to the Hillsborough Independent Panel by two fellow students on a business course he was attending not long after the crush. Their claim was that he had told them that the strategy of the South Yorkshire Police was to blame the fans. When he applied for the role of Chief Constable of Merseyside in 1998 he failed to mention Hillsborough in his application. 

All of this is tackled in the book but in a way that would earn a red card in today's game. 

The narrative sounded like bad plastic surgery looks - false. It was an exercise in evasion and self exculpation. Bettison loved the fans and only wanted to help them. He was critical of colleagues but only it seemed when there was no where else to go and if the bus was to be kept on the road those extra passengers weighing it down had to be thrown under it. He got rid of dead weight but solely for the purpose of keeping the South Yorkshire Police ship afloat. Everything was packaged just too neatly, betraying the fact that the script had been well rehearsed. It sounded like a case for the Defence, the author in the dock.  

Whereas match commander on the day David Duckenfield’s cover up seemed incompetent, Bettison's appeared much more sinister: as a cover up operative he was special forces and Duckenfield a grunt.

In ways Bettison conveyed the demeanour of Gerry Adams when the latter cynically lined up with the McCartney women after their loved one, Robert had been stabbed to death by IRA members. Adams sought to present himself as their friend while all the time undermining them. Bettison, frequency labelled a narcissist, does likewise.

He insidiously sought to cast relatives like Trevor Hicks, whose two teenage daughters died, and Margaret Aspinall, whose teenage son also lost his life, in a tinged light. He had to apply more subtlety than he wanted: besmirching the relatives head on was a losing strategy. He was more forceful when tackling Maria Eagle whom he blamed for being responsible for much of the serious reputational damage sustained by South Yorkshire Police. She had accused him under parliamentary privilege in 1998 of being part of a police black propaganda unit out to smear the fans.

Reading Hillsborough Untold chills in the way that reading Pet Sematary does. There is a dark malevolence in the pages working incessantly to corrupt wholesomeness. There is no doubting its commitment, which is not to the fans or their families but to the crooked baton of South Yorkshire Police. It is a dedicated effort to to refute the alleged existence of a plot within the South Yorkshire Police force to cover up the events of the day, despite the police lying from the get go. For Bettison the use of the term Salem shows essentially the overriding thought informing Hillsborough Untold: there was no cover up, just a witch hunt against South Yorkshire Police.

 ⏩Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

Hillsborough Untold

Anthony McIntyre was less than impressed by a former police chief's book on the Hillsborough disaster. 


Thursday past marked the 32nd anniversary of 96 Liverpool fans who were unlawfully killed by South Yorkshire Police at Sheffield's Hillsborough Stadium during the course of the 1989 FA Cup semi-final. 

It was sunny in Drogheda on Thursday as I stopped to talk with a neighbour and fellow Liverpool fan. We swopped memories of how we had learned of the news three decades ago. Liverpool fans of a mature age always remember exactly what they were doing when the news broke. My neighbour had been watching the game on television: I had been listening to it on the radio in my prison cell, thirteen years into a life sentence. 

The week that is in it prompted me to share some thoughts on one of the range of books written about the tragedy. It would feel much better to discuss a book that had been written to tell the truth rather than one written to chop it to pieces. By the time I had put the book down, I was in no doubt: Norman Bettison is a machete man. 

It is not possible to claim to enjoy any book about the events of Hillsborough Stadium on 15 April, 1989. This one, I derived absolutely no pleasure from although for different reasons than usual. The others exuded humility and authenticity. This oozed narcissism and disingenuousness. 

It is a work that is well written but not well told. It is not the untold story of Hillsborough but in the untelling of what really happened on the day and after, a fundamental truth is revealed: the police are so crooked they can't possibly lie in bed straight. The book prompted such revulsion that one observer said ‘Book burning is a terrible thing, but if Bettison could move publication forward to November 5, we might make an exception.’ Neil Welby has forensically demolished both Hillsborough Untold and its author. What can be added here is of minimal value compared to that. 
 
Norman Bettison was an Inspector with South Yorkshire Police in 1989. Off duty on the day, he attended the match as a spectator. He claims to have been a life long Liverpool supporter but oddly stood in the Nottingham Forest end of the ground. 

His dark arts were not practiced at the match but in its wake. He sought to extend his "peripheral" role at the game and inject it into the characterisation of his very central role in the months and years that followed. 

In the aftermath of the disaster Bettison helped amend officers’ statements to lessen the deleterious effect that the original raw statements would have caused. Much of the Wain Report which was submitted to the Taylor Inquiry had been written by Bettison. It was a strategic attempt to influence Lord Justice Taylor's Inquiry and was laced with police accounts of drunken, tickletless and aggressive fans. Bettison sat through every day of the Taylor inquiry as the South Yorkshire Police chief constable's plenipotentiary. Later he would lobby against Taylor, making a video for MPs showing crowd violence at soccer games, none of it in any way related to Hillsborough.

Many years later evidence would be given against Bettison to the Hillsborough Independent Panel by two fellow students on a business course he was attending not long after the crush. Their claim was that he had told them that the strategy of the South Yorkshire Police was to blame the fans. When he applied for the role of Chief Constable of Merseyside in 1998 he failed to mention Hillsborough in his application. 

All of this is tackled in the book but in a way that would earn a red card in today's game. 

The narrative sounded like bad plastic surgery looks - false. It was an exercise in evasion and self exculpation. Bettison loved the fans and only wanted to help them. He was critical of colleagues but only it seemed when there was no where else to go and if the bus was to be kept on the road those extra passengers weighing it down had to be thrown under it. He got rid of dead weight but solely for the purpose of keeping the South Yorkshire Police ship afloat. Everything was packaged just too neatly, betraying the fact that the script had been well rehearsed. It sounded like a case for the Defence, the author in the dock.  

Whereas match commander on the day David Duckenfield’s cover up seemed incompetent, Bettison's appeared much more sinister: as a cover up operative he was special forces and Duckenfield a grunt.

In ways Bettison conveyed the demeanour of Gerry Adams when the latter cynically lined up with the McCartney women after their loved one, Robert had been stabbed to death by IRA members. Adams sought to present himself as their friend while all the time undermining them. Bettison, frequency labelled a narcissist, does likewise.

He insidiously sought to cast relatives like Trevor Hicks, whose two teenage daughters died, and Margaret Aspinall, whose teenage son also lost his life, in a tinged light. He had to apply more subtlety than he wanted: besmirching the relatives head on was a losing strategy. He was more forceful when tackling Maria Eagle whom he blamed for being responsible for much of the serious reputational damage sustained by South Yorkshire Police. She had accused him under parliamentary privilege in 1998 of being part of a police black propaganda unit out to smear the fans.

Reading Hillsborough Untold chills in the way that reading Pet Sematary does. There is a dark malevolence in the pages working incessantly to corrupt wholesomeness. There is no doubting its commitment, which is not to the fans or their families but to the crooked baton of South Yorkshire Police. It is a dedicated effort to to refute the alleged existence of a plot within the South Yorkshire Police force to cover up the events of the day, despite the police lying from the get go. For Bettison the use of the term Salem shows essentially the overriding thought informing Hillsborough Untold: there was no cover up, just a witch hunt against South Yorkshire Police.

 ⏩Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

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