Chapter 6: Parallel investigations

Submissions to the Taylor Inquiry

2.6.34 Within weeks of the disaster, following the appointment of LJ Taylor, 'Salmon letters', setting out potential allegations against SYP, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club (SWFC) and Sheffield City Council (SCC) were issued the Assistant Treasury Solicitor.[15] In June a Salmon letter was issued to Dr Wilfred Eastwood, the safety engineer retained by SWFC. The letters ensured that recipients were aware of the potential criticism against them arising through the inquiry. Written so soon after the disaster, they indicate the early official appreciation of key issues.

2.6.35 The SYP letter noted the following potential criticisms: failure to take adequate steps to control the crush outside the Leppings Lane entrance; failure by officers outside the ground to liaise adequately with those inside and vice versa; failure to properly monitor the state of pens 3 and 4; failure by officers to react appropriately when people began to lose their lives; inadequacy of contingency plans to deal with the emergency; and failure to consider deferring the match kick-off.[16]

2.6.36 Potential allegations levelled at SWFC and SCC (the local authority responsible for the ground's safety certificate) and raised in their Salmon letters were also extensive:

  • several 'significant failures' in applying the Green Guide on safety (signage, stewarding, emergency planning and structural matters)
  • insufficient turnstiles for the Leppings Lane terrace, poor signage and a steep slope in the tunnel feeding the pens
  • failure to take steps to ensure the pens did not get overcrowded
  • the collapse of a barrier in pen 3 could indicate a lack of strength
  • failure to prepare for a capacity crowd and for fans arriving without tickets, and inadequate stewarding
  • inadequate access for ambulances or fire engines to the playing area and insufficient provision of first-aid equipment.[17]

2.6.37 In addition to the above, Dr Eastwood's Salmon letter also noted that the 'construction, disposition and height' of crush barriers in the Leppings Lane terrace constituted a 'number of failures to follow the Green Guide'.[18] Further, the introduction of radial fences in 1981 and terrace alterations in 1985 reduced capacity. Dr Eastwood had 'failed to take proper account of this in his advice to the Club and in his dealings with the Local Authority'.

Written submission from SYP and the 'Wain Report'

2.6.38 Organisations and individuals were invited to present their cases to LJ Taylor in oral evidence and through written submissions. Within SYP a team of five senior officers, led by C/Supt Wain, was involved in an intensive exercise to establish the police case.[19] On 26 April an initial trawl of material was discussed by senior SYP officers and their legal advisers.[20] This appears to be the foundation to what became the 'Wain Report'.[21]

2.6.39 The record of a meeting held earlier on 26 April demonstrates the wide range of issues under investigation:

  • the history of semi-finals at Hillsborough since 1948
  • the differences between the 1988 and 1989 semi-finals
  • discussions between the police and the Football Association (FA) at the planning stage of the 1989 match
  • timescale and progress of the match and the feasibility of delaying the kick-off
  • Lord Justice Popplewell's recommendations relating to segregation after the Bradford fire in 1985.[22]

2.6.40 Addressing the later meeting Deputy Chief Constable Peter Hayes reported 'people' stating 'they had never seen ... so many non-ticket holders arriving, so much alcohol brought to the football match and therefore having to be consumed or disposed of at the turnstiles'.[23] Fans were obdurate and at the turnstiles they 'were trying to bribe their way into the match'.
2.6.41 SYP Counsel advised it 'may help if we look upon ourselves as "the accused" '. He advised officers to 'cast your net as widely as you can, gather what you think myself or Mr Metcalfe [sic], in our most perverse mood may require of you'. Peter Metcalf, a solicitor representing SYP, suggested, 'we don't call this present investigation an inquiry as such, but we look upon it as a gathering of evidence. You should be careful not to use the word inquiry'.

2.6.42 The team of SYP officers led by C/Supt Wain, under the direction of DCC Hayes and advised by Mr Metcalf, was tasked to gather evidence of the events on the day.[24] Chief Inspector Norman Bettison deputised for C/Supt Wain in the latter's absence and provided an alternative contact for officers' queries.

[15] Named after Lord Justice Salmon who recommended their use in his 1966 report on Tribunals of Inquiry.
[16] 'Salmon' letter sent by fax from David Brummell, Assistant Treasury Solicitor, to Hammond Suddards, 9 May 1989, HOM000002700001, pp2-3.
[17] 'Salmon' letter sent by fax from David Brummell, Assistant Treasury Solicitor, to Davies, Arnold, Cooper, 9 May 1989, TSO000000260001, pp3-4. 'Salmon' letter sent by fax from David Brummell, Assistant Treasury Solicitor, to Keeble Hawsons, 9 May 1989, HOM000002700001, pp4-5.
[18] 'Salmon' letter sent by fax from David Brummell, Assistant Treasury Solicitor, to Reynolds, Porter, Chamberlain, 9 May 1989, TSO000000260001, pp1-2.
[19] Chief Superintendents Mole and Wain and Chief Inspectors Drabble, Brooke and Bettison.
[20] Minutes of SYP meeting with Counsel, 26 April 1989, SYP000096360001, pp58-104.
[21] The 'Wain Report', undated, SYP000096980001.
[22] Minutes of a meeting held to discuss the SYP presentation of evidence to Lord Justice Taylor, 26 April 1989, SYP000097190001, pp1-12.
[23] Minutes of SYP meeting with Counsel, 26 April 1989, SYP000096360001, pp58-104.
[24] Message to all divisions, 2 May 1989, SYP000096840001, p282.