In Brief

Paul Nuttall admits he did not lose 'close friends' at Hillsborough

Ukip press officer offers resignation after party leader is embarrassed on radio over claims about tragedy

Ukip leader Paul Nuttall has admitted claims on his website that he lost "close personal friends" in the Hillsborough disaster were false.

In a 2011 post on the website attacking attempts to block the publication of files concerning the Hillsborough Inquiry, Nuttall was quoted as saying: "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."

However, during an interview with Radio City News yesterday, he denied he made the claim, saying: "I haven't lost a close, personal friend. I've lost someone who I know."

Presented with evidence of his own quote live on radio, he insisted: "I haven't put that out. That is wrong."

Ukip press officer Lynda Roughley has taken full responsibility for the quote and offered her resignation.

"Paul is a man of great integrity and would not say something he knew to be untrue. It's me who has made this mistake and one I feel absolutely terrible about," she said.

"I am frankly mortified at the distress this issue has caused Paul and may have caused to anyone involved with the Hillsborough tragedy. I have today offered my resignation. I could not be more sorry."

The Ukip leader has apparently refused to accept her resignation.

Nuttall, who is standing in the upcoming Stoke Central by-election on 23 February, had this week faced questions over claims he was actually at Hillsborough on the day of the disaster.

A teacher and a friend from Nuttall's school told The Guardian he had never mentioned being there, while Joe Benton, Labour MP for Bootle for 25 years, said that to the best of his knowledge, Nuttall had not mentioned Hillsborough when he stood against him as Ukip's candidate in the 2005 and 2010 general elections.

Nuttall insisted he was there with his father and two uncles and that only the "scum of the earth" would suggest otherwise.

"I just want to make it perfectly clear. I was there on that day. I've got witnesses, people who will stand up in court and back me 100 per cent," said Nuttall.

The MEP is also under investigation by police following reports of an allegation of election fraud, after it emerged that the house declared as his home address on his nomination papers for the by-election was unoccupied.

A Ukip spokesperson said: "We are entirely happy that all rules have been complied with. If and when the police decide to talk to us we will be happy to help them."

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