Exclusive: Bettison faces call for probe on ‘precious metal theft’

Sir Norman Bettison
Sir Norman Bettison
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FORMER West Yorkshire Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison is at the centre of allegations he was involved in the attempted sale of stolen platinum to a Sheffield metal firm while a serving police officer 25 years ago.

The Yorkshire Post can reveal today that detailed allegations have been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) against Sir Norman – who was an inspector in the South Yorkshire force at the time – with the watchdog being called upon to launch an investigation.

A letter sent by MP John Mann and seen by the Yorkshire Post, claims Sir Norman and another man were recorded on CCTV attempting to sell a “large quantity” of stolen platinum wire to Sheffield firm Johnson Matthey on August 11, 1987.

The wire, hugely valuable and used to monitor temperatures in the steel-making process, is believed to have belonged to another Sheffield firm where Sir Norman’s alleged accomplice worked.

A well-placed source has told the Yorkshire Post officers gathered evidence against both men, but says no action was ever taken after it was referred up the chain in South Yorkshire Police.

The force says, despite extensive checks, it has no record of any investigation taking place.

Mr Mann, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw, has called for Dame Anne Owers, the chair of the IPCC, to look into the new allegations against Sir Norman alongside its ongoing Hillsborough inquiry, which is currently the subject of the biggest ever investigation into the British police.

Sir Norman’s involvement in the alleged cover-up by South Yorkshire Police in the aftermath of the 1989 disaster which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans, has been under the spotlight since the damning findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel were published in September.

In October, he stepped down as Yorkshire’s most senior police officer in the face of growing political pressure over Hillsborough.

However he has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

The source has told the Yorkshire Post there was an original investigation into the attempted sale of the platinum wire during which officers took witness statements, studied CCTV footage and interviewed Sir Norman’s alleged accomplice under caution.

Due to the alleged involvement of a serving police officer, the source says the case was then referred to the South Yorkshire Police Complaints and Discipline Department, but never came to anything.

It is understood contemporaneous evidence relating to the alleged sale of stolen platinum will be made available to the IPCC as part of any inquiry.

“I have spoken to the same well-placed source as the Yorkshire Post and received the same detailed allegations,” Mr Mann said.

“The information provided is extraordinary, and it is of great concern that these claims have only emerged now.

“I am pleased that the IPCC has been presented with the opportunity to investigate and needs to get to the bottom of what happened.

“The public will want reassuring that any investigation at the time was fully concluded by South Yorkshire Police and made known to the appointments panel when Mr Bettison was later twice appointed as chief constable.

“These new claims raise yet more questions about how South Yorkshire Police was run in the 1980s.

“From the information I have received, I am very surprised at allegations the officers were not asked to report in person to their superiors on the case, were not asked to be involved in further interviews with suspects and witnesses 
and were not informed of any conclusions to the investigation that they referred to the disciplinary department of South Yorkshire Police,” Mr Mann added.

Steve Phillips, technical director of Sheffield Forgemasters one of the largest individual steelmakers in the UK who has worked for decades in the industry, says the theft of platinum wire and other precious metals from firms is a long-running issue.

He says individuals are unable to trade without proper certification and a full history of where the metal came from.

“There are only certain companies that will own it,” Mr Phillips added.

It is understood the tight controls over the trade of platinum wire prompted Johnson Matthey to contact South Yorkshire Police when the alleged approach was made to the firm in 1987.

IPCC considers letter from MP

An IPCC spokesman said: “The IPCC can confirm it has received a letter from John Mann MP containing allegations against Sir Norman Bettison in relation to an alleged incident in 1987.

“The allegations are not Hillsborough related. We will examine the information contained within Mr Mann’s letter and, given the historical nature of the information, we will have to assess how it should be dealt with.” A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “I can confirm that South Yorkshire Police have made extensive checks of our systems and records to determine whether any paperwork exists relating to this issue and we have not found any records.”

Sir Norman Bettison was contacted at home by the Yorkshire Post but declined to comment.