Soccer Fans Harassed Police Helping Victims, Briton Says
Soccer fans kicked and harassed police as the officers tried to rescue victims of the Sheffield stadium disaster, a Conservative lawmaker charged Tuesday as the government officially began its inquiry into Britain’s worst sports disaster.
During the night, the death of a 14-year-old boy pushed the number of fatalities to 95.
Police have been sharply criticized for their handling of crowd on Saturday at Hillsborough Stadium, where the deaths occurred just minutes into a semifinal league championship match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
Irvine Patnick, a Conservative member of Parliament representing Sheffield, said officers told him Liverpool fans hindered police as they tried to save people. Similar claims, attributed to unidentified police officers, appeared in press reports.
“They told me they were hampered, harassed, punched, kicked . . . by Liverpool fans,” Patnick said. “All of this happened to them . . . and now they are being blamed.”
But Peter Taylor, a lord justice of appeal who is conducting the official inquiry, said it is too soon to assess blame.
He said his investigation will cover all aspects of the tragedy, including the behavior of fans outside the match, policing, sports ground safety, crowd control and government plans to require soccer fans to carry identity cards.
“The focus will be to find out what happened and make recommendations as to how this situation can be avoided in the future,” Taylor said.
Meanwhile, in Switzerland, Europe’s chief soccer executive withdrew an earlier remark comparing English fans to wild animals. But Jacques Georges, president of the European Union of Football Assns., also has indicated that fans’ behavior in Sheffield may keep British clubs barred from European Cup tournaments, despite a recent vote to readmit them in 1990.
Meanwhile, in Liverpool, nine injured fans filed writs seeking damages for personal injuries. The writs allege negligence or breach of duty against South Yorkshire police and the Sheffield soccer club.
All the victims were Liverpool fans crushed against a crowd-control fence.