Wednesday, 6 January 2016



Police force refers itself to IPCC over inferno 
Survivor of 1985 fire welcomes the move 
West Yorkshire Police’s decision to refer itself to the police watchdog over the 1985 Bradford City fire disaster has been welcomed by Martin Fletcher, who survived the fire but lost four of his relatives to it. 
West Yorkshire Police’s (WYP) referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) comes after officers met Fletcher and his legal representatives to discuss new claims about the fire in his recent book. 
The IPCC must now decide whether to look into WYP’s role in investigating the inferno, in which 56 people died. 
Fletcher was 12 when he watched the Bradford City- Lincoln City game in the 74-year-old main stand at the Valley Parade ground, with his father, brother, grandfather and uncle. He was forced to flee when smoke began rising from the all-wooden structure. 
All four of his relatives died in the fire. Heartbroken, Fletcher paid little attention to the inquiry, which began just 13 days after the forensic search of the site was completed and lasted only five and a half days. It did not take witness statements from most survivors. 
The inquiry’s judge, Lord Popplewell, had said beforehand “blame will not be apportioned”. He concluded the fire’s cause was the dropping of a lit match, cigarette or tobacco on to litter that had collected underneath the stand. 
As he grew older, Fletcher began investigating events on that fateful day of 11 May. Earlier this year he released his book Fifty-six: The Story of the Bradford Fire. It unearthed flaws in the inquiry and inconsistencies between what the Bradford City owner Stafford Heginbotham and the club told the press and authorities. 
Fletcher had also examined fires at Heginbotham’s other businesses. Investigative journalist Paul Foot first wrote about them after being contacted by a local fire safety officer in 1985. 
The football ground fire was discovered to be one of nine. All had a similar pattern, spreading quickly, producing huge amounts of toxic smoke and devastation, and catching the fire brigade unaware. 
The response of the football authorities, including supporters’ organisations, has been to ignore Fletcher, and some Bradford City fans have criticised his efforts. But he has been sent fresh evidence. 
‘Serious issues’ 
According to a WYP spokesperson the force has contacted the IPCC because “serious issues have been raised, both in a book by Martin Fletcher and subsequently by Mr Fletcher’s legal representatives. A senior officer met with them both to discuss these matters in detail. These issues relate not just to WYP, but to a number of other agencies and organisations.” 
Fletcher said he was “delighted” by the move. “It is a proper testament to the open and transparent nature of modern policing,” he said. 
Fletcher has previously praised the courage of WYP officers and the emergency services, and believes that without their bravery the death toll in 1985 would have topped three figures. “Any criticism of the emergency services I have concerns the command and control failures that were never properly addressed,” he said. 
Fletcher’s book has sold well and was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award. But he is likely to return to his tax consulting work. 
“The IPCC decided within a month to investigate when South Yorkshire Police referred itself to them over the 1989 Hillsborough disaster so I would hope a decision is pending,” he said. 
An IPCC spokesperson confirmed it was “considering the referral before making
a decision as to whether it should be investigated”. 


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