Ukip leader Paul Nuttall admits Hillsborough claim was false

MEP challenged by radio presenter over claim he lost close friends in stadium disaster

Ukip leader Paul Nuttall admits that claims on his website about losing close friends in the Hillsborough disaster were false. Photograph:  Oli  Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Ukip leader Paul Nuttall admits that claims on his website about losing close friends in the Hillsborough disaster were false. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

 

The Ukip leader, Paul Nuttall, is facing more questions about Hillsborough after being forced to admit that claims on his website about losing close friends in the disaster were false.

In an interview with Liverpool’s Radio City News on Tuesday, it was put to him that in 2012 he said on his website that he had “lost close personal friends”. Mr Nuttall denied making the claim.

When the presenter, Dave Easson, who was at Hillsborough on the day of the disaster, showed him the evidence that the claim had been made on his website, Mr Nuttall replied: “I haven’t lost a close, personal friend. I’ve lost someone who I know.”

Mr Nuttall then suggested that he was not responsible for the statement, saying: “I’m sorry about that, but that is something – I haven’t put that out. That is wrong.”

The admission comes four days after the Guardian reported that Mr Nuttall had denied lying about being at Hillsborough on the day of the 1989 disaster.

On Monday, when asked about the claim that he had not been at Hillsborough, Mr Nuttall said: “I feel bloody angry, angrier than I’ve ever been and I thought I had seen everything in politics.

“I know it’s a dirty game, but this is beyond scraping the barrel to be perfectly honest with you. It’s upset me personally, it’s upset my family.”

On Tuesday, Mr Nuttall told the radio show he had been at Hillsborough and described claims to the contrary as cruel. “I was there on that day. I have witnesses, people who will stand up in court and back me up 100 per cent.”

The revelation prompted a number of MPs to denounce Mr Nuttall, with Ben Howlett, the Tory MP for Bath, saying it was “sickening”, while Karl Turner, Labour MP for Hull East, branded it “shocking”. Chi Onwurah, a shadow business minister, said: “I didn’t think my opinion of Ukip’s leadership could get any lower, then I saw this.”

Others questioned whether Mr Nuttall could be believed on other issues. Tom Blenkinsop, another Labour MP, said if the leader of Ukip is “prepared to lie about this, for a very prolonged period of time – what else would he lie to the British public about?”

Mr Nuttall was 12 at the time of the disaster and was a pupil at Savio high school in Bootle. One of his former teachers, a Roman Catholic priest, has told the Guardian that the school believed it had been aware of the identities of every boy who had been at Hillsborough in order to help them through a difficult period, and that Mr Nuttall was not among them.

A fellow pupil at the school who says he has been a friend of Mr Nuttall for decades said the Ukip leader had never mentioned being there. “I have been very good friends with Paul for over 25 years,” he said, adding that during that time they had “never spoken” about Hillsborough.

Joe Benton, who was Labour MP for Bootle for 25 years, said that to the best of his knowledge Mr Nuttall had not mentioned Hillsborough when he stood against him as Ukip’s candidate in the 2005 and 2010 general elections.

Mr Nuttall had not mentioned being present at Hillsborough during any public meeting they had both attended, nor in his campaign literature, Mr Benton said, despite the strength of feeling within the constituency about the police negligence that led to the deaths and the subsequent official cover-up that led to Liverpool fans being blamed for the disaster.

The Hillsborough Families Support Group has also expressed surprise that Mr Nuttall, an MEP for the last eight years, had never been in touch to offer his support.

Staffordshire police have said they are investigating an allegation of election fraud after Mr Nuttall’s nomination papers for the Stoke Central byelection gave an address in the city at which he subsequently admitted he was not living. Knowingly providing false information on a nomination paper is an offence punishable by up to 51 weeks’ imprisonment. Ukip said all rules had been complied with.

Mr Nuttall’s personal website has carried the claim that he had once been a professional footballer with Tranmere Rovers. After the Merseyside club stated that he had been a member of its youth side, but never a professional, Mr Nuttall blamed his website’s statement on a Ukip press officer.

Until late last year, Mr Nuttall’s profile page on the LinkedIn social networking site implied that he had a PhD. He did not complete his doctoral studies, however. Challenged about this, Mr Nuttall insisted that the LinkedIn page “wasn’t put up by us, and we don’t know where it’s come from”. The page was subsequently edited to remove any reference to a PhD.

(Guardian service)