By Ellise Nicholls
Two UKIP officials have resigned from the party, labelling leader Paul Nuttall as “unprofessional” and donor Arron Banks as “crassly insensitive” in regards to the Hillsborough disaster.
Last week, Mr Nutall said he was “sorry” about false claims that he had lost a number of close friends over Hillsborough.
Mr Banks later tweeted he was “sick to death” of hearing about the 1989 tragedy.
Stuart Monkham and Adam Heatherington, Liverpool and Merseyside chairmen, have since said such comments were “intolerable”.
Mr Banks has declined to comment while Mr Nuttall is yet to respond.
Ninety-six fans died and 766 injured during the 1989 FA Cup semi-final game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground.
Mr Nuttall said in a radio interview last week that although he knew people who died in the disaster, he was “appalled’ his website had given the impression that he was close to any of the victims.
He claimed he hadn’t checked press released posted in 2011 and 2011 by an aide.
Relatives of victims of the Hillsborough disaster have since accused the MEP of “insensitivity”.
Mr Heatherington said he “completely endorsed Mr Nuttall as the party’s leader, claiming most of the anger in Merseyside was directed towards Mr Banks over his “total disregard” he showed the victims’ families.
He told BBC Radio 4: “It was the Arron Banks’ remarks that I cannot put up with.”
He said Mr Nuttall should have taken down the comments on his website about losing close friends at Hillsborough sooner.
“That’s where he was unprofessional, but he’s apologised, it’s been taken down.
In a statement, Mr Monkham said: “Although the timing of our resignations is unfortunate in light of upcoming elections, both Adam and I wish to make it clear, where the painful subject of Hillsborough is concerned, with closure not yet in sight, this unprofessional approach and crass insensitivity from high profile people closely within and without UKIP is upsetting and intolerable.”