The horror of the story now emerging about Bradford City’s Valley Parade ground conflagration that killed 56 football fans shocks even those hardened by the constant drip-feed of scandals that have numbed the national consciousness as accountability is dumbed down by an over-powerful self-interested and self-protective Establishment. The book just published 30 years later by Martin Fletcher, who escaped the fire aged 12, casts a lurid light on the way that the disaster, if not hushed up, was certainly not properly investigated. The inquiry before High Court judge Popplewell was held only 3 weeks after the disaster and only lasted 5 days before deciding it was caused by a match or cigarette.
It failed to uncover, what Fletcher has painstakingly discovered, that the owner of the football ground at that time, Stafford Heginbotham, had had fires at no less than 9 buildings he owned or controlled over a period of 18 years. He received insurance payouts of £27m at today’s money value, including £2.74m from his Bradford firms. Moreover, at the time of the Bradford City ground blaze, he had been in desperate financial trouble, and had been told just 2 days earlier that it would cost £2m to bring the ground up to required safety standards. Was the fire then just an accident, and why was it dealt with so superficially?
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