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Hillsborough Police Chief Bettison Quits
Sir Norman Bettison has resigned as Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, after being accused of a cover-up over the Hillsborough disaster.
The 56-year-old had been due to retire next March, but had been called upon to step down with immediate effect by the region's police authority. He will receive no severance pay.
Amid fears his departure could see him avoid further investigation, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) confirmed the probe into his action would continue.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Merseyside Police Authority, where Sir Norman was previously Chief Constable, said it would be considering what implications his decision would have for his £83,000 pension.
His resignation was welcomed by relatives of the 96 Liverpool fans who were crushed to death in the 1989 tragedy at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough ground.
The post on the Hillsborough Family Support Group's Twitter page simply said: "Yay! He's resigned!!"
In a statement issued by West Yorkshire Police Authority, its Vice Chairman, Councillor Les Carter, said: "I can confirm that the Police Authority has accepted Sir Norman's resignation with immediate effect.
"The media attention and Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation is proving to be a huge distraction for the force, at a time when it is trying to maintain performance and make savings of £100m.
"We therefore believe that his decision is in the best interest of the communities of West Yorkshire."
The statement also included comments from Sir Norman, who expressed sympathy for those bereaved by the disaster.
"I have never blamed the fans for causing the tragedy," he said.
He also refuted reports of a conversation it was claimed he had in the months after the tragedy.
"The suggestion that I would say to a passing acquaintance that I was deployed as part of a team tasked to 'concoct a false story of what happened', is both incredible and wrong," he said.
"That isn't what I was tasked to do, and I did not say that."
He added that he would assist inquiries into the disaster itself and the subsequent cover-up - and that he had sought to remain in post to address the allegations against him.
Sir Norman was a chief inspector with South Yorkshire Police at the time of the disaster. He attended the FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest as a spectator, and was involved in the subsequent force investigation.
He has been under growing pressure since the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, which revealed an orchestrated police cover-up.
Last month's damning report by the panel, which had access to 450,000 documents, found that 164 police statements were doctored - 116 of them to remove or alter "unfavourable" comments about the policing of the match and the unfolding disaster.
A complaint was made to police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) that Sir Norman had supplied misleading information in the wake of the disaster. The IPCC is investigating his role.
Pressure was deemed to have increased on South Yorkshire Police after calls for the Hillsborough inquiry to be extended to the so-called 'Battle of Orgreave', which involved clashes between striking miners and police in 1984.
Margaret Aspinall, Chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, who lost her 18-year-old son James in the disaster, welcomed Sir Norman's resignation and called for his pension to be frozen, pending the outcome of the probe.
"I'm absolutely delighted he's gone but as far as I am concerned he should have been sacked," she said.
Trevor Hicks, HFSG President, said: "We welcome the resignation, because Mr Bettison's position had become untenable and was growing more so with every day that passed. His was a position of trust and he had lost that trust a long time ago."