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Monday, November 9, 1998 Published at 17:00 GMT


Pressure grows on Merseyside police chief

Liverpool fans try to save those trapped in the crush

A third member of Merseyside Police Authority has quit in protest at the appointment of the new Chief Constable and his links with the Hillsborough tragedy.

Councillor Steve Foulkes said the appointment of Norman Bettison had caused "outrage and extra grief" among the families of the victims of the 1989 disaster.

The councillors said they did not know that Mr Bettison had been part of a unit set up to investigate what happened at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday's stadium.

[ image: New Chief Constable Norman Bettison]
New Chief Constable Norman Bettison
Relatives of the 96 people who died when a pen holding Liverpool fans became overcrowded say the unit was set up to deflect blame from police onto fans.

They are calling for Mr Bettison to resign before he starts work next week.

Mr Bettison said that details of his involvement with the South Yorkshire Police unit had been available to his interview panel and that his role in the Hillsborough investigation was "peripheral".

Home Secretary Jack Straw has given Mr Bettison his "full confidence".

Two other members of the police authority, councillors Frank Prendergast and Dave Martin, resigned last week.

Councillor Foulkes followed them on Monday, although he was not a member of the appointments panel.

Councillor Foulkes said: "The fact of the matter is that there was an opportunity for Mr Bettison to mention his involvement.

[ image: Protesters call for Mr Bettison's resignation]
Protesters call for Mr Bettison's resignation
"I looked at his application form and his CV and it is not mentioned in there.

"The report from Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary does mention it, but there is some confusion about who got the report and who didn't.

"When we actually got to question him as a Police Authority last week, we asked him why he didn't mention it.

"I genuinely don't think his reasons stood up."

He said he believes Mr Bettison will have a "credibility problem" when he starts work on 16 November and the whole matter could have a detrimental affect on the policing of Merseyside.

Councillors Prendergast and Martin said last week in a joint statement: "We have come to the conclusion that at worst Mr Bettison has not been as candid as the circumstances demanded from the outset or at best, has demonstrated a lack of judgement in not acquainting members fully about his background when asked.

"In either case, it is our view that such circumstances warrant his resignation. If Mr Bettison will not go then we will."

Trevor Hicks, leader of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, welcomed their decision.

Mr Hicks, who lost two daughters in the tragedy, said: "We accept that councillors Martin and Prendergast made a mistake and they were gracious enough to admit it and have tried to put it right."

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06 Nov 98|UK
Straw backs Hillsborough officer

05 Nov 98|UK
Two quit over Hillsborough policeman

02 Nov 98|UK
Merseyside police chief under review

20 Aug 98|UK
Hillsborough private prosecution opens

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