A professor at the University of Sheffield has been criticised for his part in the Hillsborough disaster inquests.
Dr Jonathan Nicholl’s investigation into the relationship between blood alcohol levels and time of entry into the football stadium by those that died has been described as “flawed” by the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, the latest report investigating the causes of the Hillsborough disaster.
The research was carried out under direction of the coroner investigating the deaths of those killed in the disaster and was a recurring feature of the inquests and media coverage of the tragedy.
96 Liverpool fans were killed in the crush at Sheffield Wednesday Football Club’s stadium in Hillsborough in 1989.
The causes of the disaster were originally investigated in the Taylor report, which was published in 1990.
The investigation was reopened in 2009, on the 20th anniversary of the tragedy because it was widely felt that the full facts of the tragedy were not made available to the public.
The Hillsborough Independent Panel released a new report and made all the original documents public in September this year.
The research originally carried out by Dr Nicholl, made a connection between the time of arrival and alcohol intoxication, suggesting that latecomers to the stadium were more likely to have higher levels of alcohol in their blood.
In the original investigation, the Coroner used Nicholl’s report to interpret the significance of alcohol into the deaths at Hillsborough.
Dr Nicholl’s findings have been placed in doubt by the Hillsborough report, which said, there were “six significant problems” with his report.
These include the “flawed” categorisation of the groups which entered the stadium leading to “results that are likely to have arisen through chance alone.”
The Taylor report, which referenced Dr Nicholl’s report, found that the disaster was blamed upon “a lack of police control” and “aggravated by drunkenness, ticketlessness and violence.”
The Hillsborough Independent Panel report states that “there was no attempt to assess whether the results had any significance for the individual or for the occurrence of the disaster.”
However, “It is clear from the coroner’s summing up that he placed emphasis …on Dr Nicholl’s findings that those who had entered the ground after 2.30pm were more likely to have a raised blood alcohol level.”
The new analysis of Dr Nicholl’s research has brought into question the reliability of his evidence to the inquests and according to the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, no link between the time of arrival and alcohol level could be deduced.
Forge Press contacted the University of Sheffield and Mr Nicholl but they were unavailable for commment..
South Yorkshire police said, “It is not appropriate for South Yorkshire Police to comment at this time while the Force is reviewing a wide variety of matters raised in the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel with a view to making a referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.”