Police Watchdog Won't Investigate Bradford City Fire

26 January 2017, 13:34

Bradford City Fire

There will be no investigation into potential police misconduct in relation to the 1985 Bradford City fire disaster, which left 56 football fans dead, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has decided.

The IPCC said "there is no indication of potential misconduct by individual police officers'' after West Yorkshire Police voluntarily referred itself to the commission.

But the IPCC did recommend the force makes records of the investigation into the tragedy available to the public.

The referral in 2015 came after a senior officer met with Martin Fletcher, whose father, brother, uncle and grandfather died in the Valley Parade blaze and who had recently wrote a new book about the tragedy.

Mr Fletcher's book claimed the fire was was one of nine that occurred at businesses owned or linked to the club's then chairman Stafford Heginbotham.

The IPCC said it will not be launching an investigation but made a recommendation to West Yorkshire Police, as a result of its assessment, that it should consider making more of its records relating to its original investigation into the causes of the fire publicly available.

IPCC deputy chair Sarah Green said: "The fire at Bradford City's Valley Parade Stadium in 1985 was a horrific tragedy that many of us can recall, resulting in the death of 56 people.

"Mr Fletcher, the complainant, suffered significant loss and trauma himself.

"My decision not to conduct an investigation was not taken lightly; it comes as a result of detailed consideration of both Mr Fletcher's concerns about the role of the police and documents obtained from West Yorkshire Police, as well as evidence which is publicly available.''

She said: "It is possible, with hindsight, to identify things that the police could have done differently, but I do not consider that there is an indication that any individual officer may have breached the professional standards applicable at the time.

"Significant learning was rightly identified at the time of the disaster, and formed part of the evolution towards the modern day approach to policing large events.''

Mr Fletcher's book overshadowed the 30th anniversary of the disaster in 2015.

The official inquiry into the tragedy on May 11 1985, headed by Sir Oliver Popplewell, concluded it was an accident and was probably started by a spectator dropping a cigarette into rubbish that had accumulated under an old timber stand.

The blaze ripped through the wooden structure in just a few minutes as Bradford City played Lincoln City in an end-of-season match, leaving many fans unable to get out.

Fifty-four Bradford City supporters lost their lives in the fire, along with two Lincoln City fans.

More than 200 people were taken to hospital following the blaze, many with terrible injuries.

There were calls for police to reinvestigate the fire following the publication of Mr Fletcher's book but Sir Oliver, speaking to the BBC in 2015, said: "I think the conclusion that this was arson is mistaken.

"There's absolutely no need for another inquiry.

"I mean I think the police ought to have a look and get the fire authorities to have another look at these previous incidents and report.

"But I suspect they'll find nothing of any value.''

Also in 2015, a retired detective told a documentary how officers investigating the disaster worked out who had dropped the cigarette which started the blaze but a decision was taken at the time not to release his name.

He said the man has since died.