UKIP leader admits he didn't lose 'close friends' at Hillsborough

A statement on MEP Paul Nuttall's website had previously made the claim about the 19 disaster

UKIP leader admits he didn't lose 'close friends' at Hillsborough

Stoke Central by-election candidate and party leader Paul Nuttall.Picture by Joe Giddens PA Wire/PA Images

The head of UKIP has admitted he did not lose close friends in the Hillsborough disaster - despite having been quoted as saying so in a 2011 statement.

British MEP Paul Nuttall - who is contesting a parliamentary by-election in Stoke this month - has come under increasing pressure over past comments on the 1989 disaster in which 96 people died.

In a now deleted statement on Mr Nuttall's website from 2011, the MEP is quoted as saying: “Revealing the facts on Hillsborough is hardly a matter of national security, it is a matter of natural justice.

“The briefings in question are the private memos that were sent to the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Without them being made public we will never get to the bottom of that appalling tragedy when 96 Liverpool fans including close personal friends of mine lost their lives."

Mr Nuttall was questioned over the claims on Liverpool's Radio City Talk station earlier today.

The MEP said: "I haven't lost a close personal friend - I've lost someone who I know."

When presented with his previous statement, he said: "I'm sorry about that, but that is something which... I haven't put that out."

Charlotte Hennessy, whose father James died at Hillsborough, told Sky News: "It doesn't matter whether he knew someone or was close to someone, that is someone's loved one.

"It's using someone who has lost their life as a means to get publicity. [Nuttall] needs to take a step back and think what it is like for family members.

The controversy comes amid continued UK media reports regarding Mr Nuttall's presence at Hillsborough on April 15th 1989.

Mr Nuttall, who was 12-years-old at the time, has insisted that he was present at the stadium on the day of the disaster.

"I just want to make it perfectly clear - I was there on that day," he said. "I've got witnesses - people who would stand up in court and back me 100%.

"It's cruel, and it's nasty, and it's making out as if my family is lying as well - which is just not fair or right," he added.