Chapter 10: The 3.15pm cut-off

Memorial to the Attorney General, 1996

2.10.142 Following a further request for a fresh inquest in 1996 Alison Saunders, an official in the Attorney General's Office, advised the Solicitor General on the background to the previous refusal.[59] She noted the Divisional Court's finding that the Coroner 'had made a full inquiry and there was overwhelming evidence' that Kevin had died by 3.15pm.

2.10.143 The Divisional Court, she stated, had been 'scathing' about the 'speculative' evidence of Dr Iain West who had criticised the pathologist's conclusions. Dr West's evidence had been included in the 'present application although any weight which may have been attached to it is now severely diminished following the Divisional Court ruling'.

2.10.144 The 'new evidence available since the judicial review proceedings' included the opinion of Home Office pathologist Dr James Burns. The family submitted that his opinion added weight to Dr West's opinion and SC Martin's evidence. While Dr Burns did not disagree with Dr Slater's initial view that Kevin 'lost consciousness very quickly' he accepted SC Martin's evidence that 'Kevin opened his eyes, moved his mouth and said "Mom", flicked his eyelashes, closed his eyes and died'.

2.10.145 Ms Saunders suggested that the Attorney General might 'consider that Dr Burns' evidence should be regarded as similar to Dr West's evidence which the Divisional Court found too speculative to warrant the ordering of a fresh inquest'. She reminded the Solicitor General that his previous response to the earlier application was that the pathology evidence was 'compelling'.

2.10.146 Ms Saunders also considered evidence provided by Tony Edwards, who had driven an ambulance onto the pitch. His account corroborated PC Bruder's evidence that Kevin was alive beyond 3.15pm. The family submitted that the failure by the Coroner to reveal Mr Edwards' account to the inquests was a 'deliberate concealment and suppression of evidence'. Although Mr Edwards had been interviewed by WMP 'in some detail', Ms Saunders considered it 'doubtful whether his evidence alone would have changed the inquest verdict'.

2.10.147 Finally, a Liverpool fan, John Prescott, who had identified himself on a television documentary about the inquests, confirmed PC Bruder's account of resuscitating Kevin and finding a pulse. He also stated that a woman doctor 'confirmed that he was dead'. Ms Saunders concluded, therefore, that Mr Prescott's 'evidence supports the assertion that Deborah Martin must have been mistaken when she asserted that Kevin Williams was still alive when she accompanied him to the gymnasium'.

2.10.148 Ms Saunders' conclusion reiterated the 1992 document prepared by Mr Wooler. She stated that the case was 'the most unsatisfactory of all the Hillsborough victims because the evidential position was confused at the inquest and has subsequently become even more confused'. She doubted 'whether the uncertainties flowing from the evidence have any bearing on a legal issue'. The 'new evidence only serves to confirm that Kevin Williams was dead by the time he reached the mortuary' and therefore 'there seems even less reason to support a new inquest'.

2.10.149 Finally, while recognising that the 'wish of the Williams family to have a clear picture of the final moments of Kevin's life is understandable', Ms Saunders doubted that oral evidence rather than summarised evidence at the mini-inquest 'would have made any difference or enabled the issues to be resolved more satisfactorily'. Thus there was no reason, including the interests of justice, for a new inquest.

2.10.150 In his letter to LJ Stuart-Smith in December 1997, Dr Slater commented that he had met PC Bruder to discuss the case and having heard PC Bruder's account he felt 'no professional need to alter my own opinion'.[60] He stated that he had no knowledge about why PC Bruder had not been called to give evidence nor why he changed his initial statement. He had spoken with PC Bruder about the matter by telephone but did not 'suggest that PC Bruder should alter his initial statement'.

2.10.151 He also stated that he had not been involved in drafting the second statement and 'its contents contain information that did not arise during the course of our conversation'. Dr Slater was 'personally aware of no pressure from HM Coroner or the police to pressurise PC Bruder to change his evidence' and neither had he (Dr Slater) been under pressure 'to make my pathological evidence fit any presumptive 3.15pm cut-off point'.

Memorial to the Attorney General, 2005

2.10.152 A further submission was made by Anne Williams in 2005. A document written by Caroline Monks to the Attorney General, Peter Goldsmith, recommended refusal relying on previous Inquiries and refusals and stating that those who died were 'beyond saving when the emergency services arrived'.[61] She advised that there was 'nothing in the material now presented which is new or additional to that ... rejected by your predecessors'.

2.10.153 The exception was a letter dated 15 November 2002 from Home Office pathologist Dr Nat Cary in which he stated that Kevin's death should have been recorded as 'compression of the neck' rather than 'traumatic asphyxia'.

2.10.154 Ms Monks noted that Dr Cary had accepted that following the neck injury Kevin would have suffered a 'degree of hypoxic brain damage and that the chances of his receiving a lifesaving tracheotomy or cricothyroidectomy in the required time would have been slim but that other measures such as the administration of oxygen and passing of an endotracheal tube could have had some useful effect and might have prevented cardiac arrest'.

2.10.155 Ms Monks considered that Dr Cary's opinion, like that of Dr West and Dr Burns, was 'highly speculative and it seems clear that in any event Kevin Williams was dead by the time he reached the temporary mortuary ... at the Hillsborough Ground'. Ms Monks concluded that Dr Cary's opinion was insufficient to warrant a new inquest and there was no reasonable chance that an application to the High Court would be successful.

2.10.156 Ms Monks referred to the Divisional Court's finding that the 'crucial point was that the extent of the damage caused to the deceased by the crushing would by 3.15pm have been such on the medical evidence that death either had occurred or was by that stage inevitable'. Consequently she recommended that the application be refused.

2.10.157 Within a month an 'internal note' by the Attorney General recorded his sympathy but that was 'not enough to justify a new inquest'.[62] There had been 'an adequate examination of the case ... in the combination of the mini and full inquest and the Taylor inquiry and the Stuart-Smith scrutiny of evidence'. LJ Stuart-Smith had 'held there was no reason to grant another inquest and my predecessors have three times taken the same view'.

2.10.158 Reflecting on these documents it is instructive that in 1992 it was conceded that a case could be made for a new inquest yet by 2006 the refusals were distinctly more unequivocal, based on advice that hardened progressively even as more professional opinion accumulated to challenge the original pathologists' views.

[59] Memorandum from Alison Saunders to the Solicitor General, 'APPLICATION UNDER SECTION 13 OF THE CORONER'S ACT 1988', 13 March 1996, AGO000000480001, pp1-7.
[60] Letter from Dr DN Slater, Rotherham Hospital NHS Trust, to Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, 4 December 1997, HOM000039920001, p10.
[61] Memorandum to the Attorney General, 'KEVIN DANIEL WILLIAMS (DECEASED) APPLICATION UNDER SECTION 13[1][B] OF THE CORONER'S ACT 1988', 11 January 2006, AGO000001240001, pp2-14.
[62] Internal note prepared by Lord Goldsmith, Attorney General, 5 February 2006, AGO000001300001, p1.