A former chief inspector reassured an officer nothing "sinister" was happening when he complained his account of the Hillsborough disaster had been changed, a court heard.

Malcolm Ross worked on the West Midlands Police team tasked with investigating the tragic FA Cup semi-final.

The court was shown a memo sent from him to his then assistant chief constable Mervyn Jones on May 23, 1989.

In it, he said he had been contacted by an officer who complained a "material particular" had been altered in his statement and he would refuse to sign it.

In the memo, Mr Ross said: "I explained to him the accepted procedure between the judicial inquiry and the chief constables involved, ie South Yorkshire and West Midlands, and that statements were being examined by South Yorkshire Police legal department in an attempt to remove from the recollections any comments which were made with full emotion following the incident and which were or could be considered embarrassing or detrimental to the South Yorkshire Police in general and individual officers in particular."

Mr Ross recorded that the officer thought that was "unacceptable" and said he and other officers were very "disenchanted".

He today gave evidence at the trial of two ex-South Yorkshire Police officers and a lawyer who face allegations linked to the aftermath of the disaster.

Ex-Chief Superintendent Donald Denton, former Detective Chief Inspector Alan Foster and Peter Metcalf, who worked with the force, each deny two counts of perverting the course of justice.

Prosecutors have accused them of amending dozens of officer witness accounts to "mask the failings" of South Yorkshire Police at the FA Cup match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989.

Screengrab taken from video shown to jurors and issued by the Independent Office for Police Conduct of the West Terrace of Hillsborough stadium at 2.54pm on the day of the Hillsborough tragedy. Photo: Independent Office for Police Conduct/PA Wire
Screengrab taken from video shown to jurors and issued by the Independent Office for Police Conduct of the West Terrace of Hillsborough stadium at 2.54pm on the day of the Hillsborough tragedy. Photo: Independent Office for Police Conduct/PA Wire

The accounts were being collected by West Midlands Police ahead of the Taylor Inquiry into the tragedy, which unfolded on the Leppings Lane terrace allocated to Liverpool supporters. Ninety six men, women and children died as a result of the disaster.

Mr Ross told jurors at the trial today: "My understanding was then that the role of South Yorkshire Police legal department was to get those recollections and remove the hearsay and to put them onto Criminal Justice Act statements and they would be then fit for purpose.

"That's what I was trying to reassure him that, in my view, nothing sinister was happening, in my view what was happening was recollections were being made fit for purpose."

The court heard that following Mr Ross's memo, Mr Jones wrote to South Yorkshire Police chief constable Peter Wright and said: "I thought I would advise you discreetly that we have had two approaches from separate sources suggesting that certain omissions have been made from officers' recollections."

As well as the call taken by Mr Ross, he mentioned a call from a journalist at the Sheffield Star raising a similar matter.

The jury was told Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Anderson later wrote a circular to South Yorkshire Police officers, based on advice sent by Metcalf, in which he said recollections were being edited to make them suitable as factual statements.

Denton, 83, Foster, 74, and Metcalf, 71 each deny doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice.

Their trial, presided over by judge Mr Justice William Davis, follows an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct and is scheduled to last up to 16 weeks.

It is being held in a converted court at the Lowry theatre in Salford.

Proceeding