Pal Flatman recalls his Sanders guilt

SPEEDWAY: Former fellow Witch Nigel Flatman today revealed the Billy Sanders guilt he has been harbouring for the last 25 years.

Flatman saw the Australian rider a short while before he took his own life in April 1985 – a shock death that stunned the speedway world and is still avidly remembered by thousands of Ipswich supporters.

Felixstowe-born Flatman, who is now based in Perth, Western Australia, has kept his meeting secret until today.

He is on holiday with his family and will be handing over Sanders’ leathers so they can be added to the Billy Sanders’ memorabilia collection during Ipswich’s Elite League meeting with Peterborough at Foxhall Stadium this evening (start 7.30pm).

“Billy came round to the motorcycle shop my father Peter had at Felixstowe mid morning and asked him to do some repair work on a frame,” recalled Flatman, who was one of the pallbearers at Sanders’ funeral at St Augustine’s Church, Ipswich.

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“He then asked me for a pen and some paper.

“Looking back now this was obviously for a note that he was thinking of leaving.

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“He said goodbye and a little while later he was dead. I could have been the last person to speak to him.”

Flatman said that he was devastated when he heard news of his mate’s death on the radio a few hours later – and says that he has not fully recovered.

“I had been on the town in London with Billy and few mates after we stopped off on our way back from what turned out to be his final meeting at Swindon on the Saturday night,” added Flatman, who named his son Nathan Sanders after former world number two.

“I knew that everything was not right with Billy.

“He was low, but I didn’t expect him to do what he did.

“I have spent the last 25 years thinking was there something I could have done. Something I could have said

“He lived round the corner from me and we travelled to meetings together and he used to rev me and get me going on the track.

“Billy was a mate – and I may have let him down.”

Flatman, who also has twin daughters Mikala and Bianca, later travelled to see Sanders’ mother Bonnie near Sydney with wife Tracy and visited the rider’s cemetery memorial.

“I helped carry Billy’s coffin and it was the worst thing I have had to do in my life,” added Flatman, whose riding career lasted from 1977 to 1991 and was centred around Ipswich and Peterborough riding full time at Foxhall from 1981 to 1985.

“I have not been to a funeral since – it was horrible.”

Flatman now runs a successful limousine business in Perth, and he has had Sanders’ leathers since the journey back from Swindon 25 years ago.

“Billy left them in my van,” recalled Flatman. “They have a kangaroo on them, and I used them for a few meetings when I first arrived in Australia in 1991.

“Since then they have been a treasured possession, but now is the time to let go.”

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