Everywhere I went, and to every job I attended, it was the sole topic of conversation. The people of Bradford really came together though. A Charity was started and money flooded in. The sums being raised were enormous. All the Police officers on duty at the ground were sent a form to fill out from the charity. I eventually received £4000 which I sent back.
Most of the officers sent their money back with notable exceptions. One of the officers who had been up the road from the ground on Manningham Lane when the fire started made a claim. He said he thought he was a Zebra running from a bush fire on the plains of Africa. He got £4000 and he kept it. The rotten thing was he openly boasted about this claim and that he got it for nothing, as he was not really involved in the fire in or at the ground.
Shortly after the fire, there was a big Requiem Mass at St Cuthbert’s church in Heaton. All the Officers on duty at the fire were required to go. A large number of dignitaries including Neil Kinnock and his wife Glenys were also going. I will always remember Terry Yorath one of the Bradford City coaches at this Mass. He looked totally broken. He did a great deal in and around Bradford. He attended lots of charity events and church services. I don’t think he ever got back into football afterwards.
We were offered Counselling, free of charge, but being hard, hairy-arsed Coppers, no one took advantage of this. It was not that we were being awkward idiots, it`s just that at that time counselling was looked upon as a big weakness, a failing. It certainly was not Macho. We were then actually ordered to attend Counselling.
I had a phone call from an Indian girl called Prya. She wanted to come to my house and I flatly refused. She asked me where we should meet and I said the pub. She couldn’t go to a pub as an Indian woman. So being a clever arse I said we couldn’t meet then. Never mind. She called me back and arranged to meet in a pub at Lidget Green. I met her there and a few tables away from us sat her father. He had agreed to come as a chaperone.
We got a drink and I said.
“Come on then counsel me.”
She said, “It doesn’t work like that Stephen. I have no magical answers for you. I don’t do quick fixes.” I said “Well, to be honest, I think this is a waste of time. I am fine.”
“Really, how can you be after what happened? You must think about it. Let me ask you a question. Do you feel angry or useless?”
“That’s a bit hard.” I said.
“Think about it, do you feel you could have done more or are you happy you did all you can?”
“I am happy I think. It was such a shame and very sad, but it was so hot that I could not get back into the people who were calling us.”
“So there is a feeling, is there, that you let anyone down?”
That was it, I was gone. Within ten minutes, there I was sat in this pub with a total stranger. Her father four tables away and I was sobbing uncontrollably. I met with Prya a few times afterwards, and then later in my career when I had some really bad stuff to deal with she was invaluable. I fully recognise Counselling and endorse its value.
A public inquiry was convened about the fire. This was headed by Justice Popplewell. It was held in the council chambers in the Town Hall. It went on for months. There was a large number of Barristers involved acting on behalf of the families, the club, the council, police, and all other agencies. A lot of backsides were twitching. The press were there in large numbers and reported daily on what was happening. The so-called reporter who claimed he saw someone throw an incendiary device got slaughtered here. I think on a daily basis when he attended the inquiry he was lucky to get away without serious injury. I was called on three occasions and had to wait around all day. We were allowed into the chamber to watch proceedings. It was very boring and slow. I never did get to give evidence. I think the video from the TV Company said it all and thankfully we were not asked to relive it in that theatre.
There was a lot of talk about those officers inside the ground being awarded the Queens Police Medal for gallantry. The problem was though they could not identify each individual person`s actions that warranted such a medal. Therefore none of us got one.
After the inquiry, there was a final church service. All the officers on duty were told to be there. We had to stand in Full Dress uniform outside the main Police station in a long line. All the dignitaries came along the line and shook our hands. The lady Mayoress of Bradford was a jolly large lady, and well known and liked within the city. As she was coming down the line I could see that she had her right hand gloveless to shake hands with everyone. She had in her left hand, her glove, handbag and the programme for the service.
As she got to me she went to shake my hand but dropped her glove. She bent down to pick it up and very loudly farted; she stood up again waved her hand at me and said.
“Ooh hark at me!” She just carried on up the line. We just collapsed laughing.