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: Fans were unlawfully killed.

Byline: Amy Caulfield

A coroner has called for international football matches to be halted unless police in both countries are satisfied that adequate precautions have been taken to protect fans.

West Yorkshire coroner David Hinchliff also heavily criticised Turkish police for their handling of violence which erupted when Leeds United travelled to Istanbul, leaving two Leeds fans dead.

Kevin Speight and Christopher Loftus died from stab wounds received during clashes between fans ahead of a Uefa Cup match against Galatasaray in April 2000.

Returning verdicts of unlawful killing at the inquests into their deaths, Mr Hinchliff said: 'The police gave the impression they were targeting the Leeds supporters.

'Many were struck with batons, many were taken to the police station notwithstanding the fact that they were injured and needed hospital treatment.'

He described the police, who repeatedly refused to co-operate with West Yorkshire officers, as 'disorganised, uncoordinated, not in control of the situation and ill-prepared.

'The police seemed to be out of control and their ability was described by witnesses as being diabolical'.

He said he was writing to the FA and Uefa to recommend the introduction of an international protocol to protect fans attending football matches.

Mr Speight, aged 40, and Mr Loftus, aged 35, died after trouble erupted in the centre of Istanbul on the eve of the semi-final clash.

Summing up the inquest at Leeds Coroner's Court, Mr Hinchliff described the attacks as 'an organised ambush' by Turkish fans, some of whom were carrying knives and machetes.

He said: 'Turkish nationals were observed charging down the streets, arming themselves with any missiles they could get their hands on and throwing them in the direction of the Leeds fans.' He added: 'It was a pre-planned and orchestrated attack.'

Mr Hinchliff said post-mortem examinations showed Mr Speight had 12 flesh injuries, including two stab wounds, and Mr Loftus had 26 flesh injuries, including five stab wounds.

He said: 'I do not hesitate to regard Kevin Speight and Christopher Loftus as being unlawfully killed.'

The families of both men welcomed the verdicts but were also critical of the Turkish police and Uefa.

Solicitor Paul Burnley, speaking on behalf of Mr Loftus's family, said: 'The evidence has shown that Christopher's character was beyond reproach. He was an innocent bystander murdered for supporting his football team.

'The family, however, are distressed and concerned to learn from specialist West Yorkshire Police officers givingevidence of the total lack of co-operation or professional policing by the Turkish police that night which directly led to the deaths.'

Philip Howell, solicitor for Mr Speight's widow Susan, said: 'Uefa are on record as saying they cannot control events outside a football ground which is not, strictly speaking, correct.

'They are the organisers of the tournament which attracts the crowds and they take a vast amount of money from these competitions but do not take responsibility. We are sure that if Uefa imposed the policing protocol, it would probably have averted the tragedy.'

He added: 'Two murders and this attitude are surely enough to get Uefa to take action. A course of action was suggested at the inquest with regard to taking steps to prevent this sort of tragedy happening again.'

A 22-year-old man was jailed in May 2002 for killing Mr Speight and Mr Loftus. Last year an appeals court overturned his sentence and ordered a retrial. Kevin Speight
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 23, 2004
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