A former chief inspector who was part of the Hillsborough investigation reassured an officer nothing “sinister” was happening when he complained his statement had been changed, a court has heard.
Malcolm Ross, who worked on the West Midlands Police team tasked with investigating the disaster at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final, gave evidence on Monday at the Nightingale court sitting at the Lowry Theatre in Salford.
The court has heard former South Yorkshire Police chief superintendent Donald Denton, 83, Alan Foster, 74, a retired detective chief inspector, and Peter Metcalf, 71, a former solicitor, vetted and amended statements of police officers before they were sent to West Midlands officers.
The court was shown a memo sent from Mr Ross to then assistant chief constable of West Midlands Police, Mervyn Jones, on May 23 1989.
In it, he said he had been contacted by an officer who complained a “material particular” had been altered in his statement, and he would refuse to sign it.
In the memo Mr Ross said: “I explained to him the accepted procedure between the judicial inquiry and the chief constables involved, ie South Yorkshire and West Midlands, and that statements were being examined by South Yorkshire Police legal department in an attempt to remove from the recollections any comments which were made with full emotion following the incident and which were or could be considered embarrassing or detrimental to the South Yorkshire Police in general and individual officers in particular.”
Mr Ross recorded that the officer thought that was “unacceptable” and said he and other officers were very “disenchanted”.
He told the court: “My understanding was then that the role of South Yorkshire Police legal department was to get those recollections and remove the hearsay and to put them onto Criminal Justice Act statements and they would be then fit for purpose.
“That’s what I was trying to reassure him, that in my view, nothing sinister was happening, in my view what was happening was recollections were being made fit for purpose.”
Mr Ross said the sort of comments which would be removed included officers saying things such as “where are the white shirts?”, referring to those of the rank of inspector and above.
The court heard that following Mr Ross’s memo, Mr Jones wrote to South Yorkshire Police chief constable Peter Wright and said: “I thought I would advise you discreetly that we have had two approaches from separate sources suggesting that certain omissions have been made from officers’ recollections.”
As well as the call taken by Mr Ross, he mentioned a call from a journalist at the Sheffield Star raising a similar matter.
The jury was told assistant chief constable Stuart Anderson later wrote a circular to South Yorkshire Police officers, based on advice sent by Metcalf, in which he said recollections were being edited to make them suitable as factual statements.
Ninety-six men, women and children died following the crush in the pens at the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15 1989.
Denton, of Sheffield, Foster, of Harrogate, and Metcalf, of Ilkley, each deny two counts of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice.