Lawn sceptical on fire claims

A new book claims the fire at Bradford's stadium was one of at least nine blazes at businesses owned by or associated with the club's then chairman Stafford Heginbotham, who died in 1995

The claims are contained in 'Fifty-Six - The Story Of The Bradford Fire', by Martin Fletcher, who was 12 at the time and escaped from the blaze but lost three generations of his family including his father and brother

Lawn said he believed the findings of the official inquiry into the tragedy, led by Mr Justice Oliver Popplewell, which concluded that the cause was an accident probably started by a spectator dropping a cigarette into the rubbish that had accumulated under an old timber stand.

Lawn told Press Association Sport: "I find it hard to believe the fire was started on purpose.

"I feel for the person who has written this book as he has lost his whole family in the fire, but I'm not sure you can start blaming someone who is dead without having proof."

Sir Oliver Popplewell described the claims as "nonsense".

He told BBC Radio Leeds: ''I'm sorry to spoil what is obviously a very good story but I'm afraid it's nonsense for a number of reasons.''

The retired judge said the main flaw in the argument that the fire was arson was that the stand involved had no insurance value because it was due for demolition

He said the fire was examined by experienced and thorough investigators who found nothing suspicious

And he said no question of arson was ever raised in civil legal proceedings

Popplewell also rejected claims his inquiry was held too quickly, three weeks after the fire

He said: ''I can quite understand after having previous fires some suspicion being raised but, as far as I'm concerned, we conducted our inquiry perfectly properly and I have no reason to believe it was anything other than an accident.''

Fletcher says Heginbotham's history with fires, which he claims resulted in payouts totalling around £27million in today's terms, warranted further investigation.

"Could any man really be as unlucky as Heginbotham had been?'' he asks.

A minute's silence is due to be held at every Premier League and Football League match on Saturday, April 25 to mark the forthcoming 30th anniversary

Former sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe said the allegations do not justify a new inquiry into the disaster

Sutcliffe, MP for Bradford South and deputy leader of Bradford City Council at the time of the tragedy, said he knew Mr Heginbotham ''flew by the seat of his pants'' in terms of the finances of the club, but remains convinced by the conclusion of the inquiry

Source : PA

Source: PA