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Families hail Bettison retirement

Sir Norman Bettison is to retire as Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police after controversy over his role in the Hillsborough tragedy Photo: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

The families of Hillsborough victims have welcomed the retirment of a top police officer who criticised Liverpool fans in the wake of the tragedy.

Sir Norman Bettison, then a South Yorkshire Police chief inspector, sparked fury in 1989 when he said supporters made policing "harder than it needed to be".

Now the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, he announced he will step down in March next year amid an investigation by the police watchdog.

Margaret Aspinall from the Hillsborough Families Support Groups says she's 'very pleased' at Sir Norman's retirement Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire.

"Obviously I'm very, very pleased. I'm absolutely delighted that he's going. But then he'll be going on his full pension, and I'd like to know the full reasons why he's choosing to retire as soon as this."

– Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families Support Group

A complaint was made to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) that Sir Norman - who was off duty on April 15 1989 and went to the match in Sheffield as a spectator - had supplied misleading information after the disaster.

The IPCC also said there was a second element to the referral, which related to a statement the officer made last month following the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

Mrs Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son James died in the tragedy, said: "Why didn't he stay, then, until the IPCC came out with their investigation?"

There were calls for Sir Norman to resign after his comments about the behaviour of Liverpool fans in 1989, but he responded with an apology and said his role was never to "besmirch" the fans and added that the Liverpool supporters were in no way to blame for the disaster.

Later, he was involved in an internal inquiry held by the force in the aftermath of the tragedy. He has denied any wrongdoing in relation to the disaster.

Questions about Sir Norman's role in the investigation of the tragedy have dogged him as he has risen through the higher ranks of the police - most notably when there were protests from the families of those who died when he became Chief Constable of Merseyside in 1998.

In a message posted on the West Yorkshire Police website, Sir Norman said he hoped his departure would assist the IPCC in its inquiry.

I hope it will enable the Independent Police Complaints Commission to fullyinvestigate allegations that have been raised about my integrity. They need tobe fairly and fully investigated and I welcome this independent and formalscrutiny,

– Sir Norman Bettison, Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police
96 Liverpool fans died in a crush at Hillsborough in April 1989. Credit: John Giles/PA Wire

The damning report on the Hillsborough disaster laid bare a shocking cover-up which attempted to shift the blame on to its 96 victims.

The inquiry found that 164 police statements were altered, 116 of them to remove or alter "unfavourable" comments about the policing of the match and the unfolding disaster.

Sir Norman previously defended his role in the aftermath of the tragedy, saying: "I never altered a statement nor asked for one to be altered."

He also said: "I really welcome the disclosure of all the facts that can be known about the Hillsborough tragedy because I have absolutely nothing to hide."

Anne Williams, whose 15-year-old son Kevin died on the Leppings Lane terrace, said the findings of the recent report left Sir Norman with no choice but to retire.

I think the whole lot of them who have been involved for these 23 years should all go for the hurt that they have caused us for 23 years. I don't think he would have retired if it wasn't for the Hillsborough report.

– Anne Williams

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