Hillsborough: Fans' accounts and more police statements 'amended'

Hillsborough campaigner Anne Burkett: "We've lost so many people. How much longer is it going to take?"

Fans' statements after the Hillsborough stadium disaster "may have been altered", the police watchdog has said.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission also said 74 further police statements could have been changed - taking the total number above 200.

Margaret Aspinall, of the Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG), said campaigners had long suspected that fans' statements were altered.

Ninety police pocket books previously unavailable have also been recovered.

They were unearthed by South Yorkshire Police recently, along with notebooks and other documents.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is examining police conduct in the aftermath of the April 1989 disaster, said last month it was looking for police notebooks after one officer it interviewed wrote notes on the day of the tragedy "contrary to instructions" from commanding officers.

Start Quote

We have recovered pocket notebooks from officers who were on duty on the day of the match”

End Quote Deborah Glass IPCC deputy chair

IPCC deputy chair Deborah Glass said the commission needed to deliver "the last, definitive account" of Hillsborough, a tragedy which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans.

Mrs Aspinall, who is HFSG chair, said of the revelation about the fans' statements: "This doesn't surprise me - we thought it happened, now it is in black and white."

The announcement comes a year after the Hillsborough Independent Panel reported its damning findings.

The IPCC said it would investigate after the panel's 2012 report revealed 164 police statements had been altered.

The panel found that 116 of those statements were either removed or changed to alter negative comments about the police operation at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

The revelation that evidence from more officers may have been changed brings the current total to 238.

'Never been seen'

The watchdog is reviewing allegations surrounding amendments to statements and the actions of police officers after the disaster at Sheffield Wednesday's stadium.

It is also looking at how West Midlands Police investigated South Yorkshire Police's conduct for the original inquiry led by Lord Chief Justice Taylor.

A separate team, led by former Durham Chief Constable Jon Stoddart, is investigating the response of all other agencies involved in the aftermath.

The 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster IPCC deputy chair Deborah Glass said it needed to deliver "the last, definitive account" of the 1989 disaster, which killed 96 people

Ms Glass said an appeal for witnesses, to be launched next week, would form a "crucial element to our investigation into how West Midlands Police conducted its inquiries into the disaster".

Hillsborough investigations

Inquest

A fresh inquest headed by Lord Justice Goldring takes place on 31 March at a venue in North West England yet to be confirmed.

The original accidental death verdicts were quashed in December at the High Court after the Hillsborough Independent Panel found that 41 of the 96 who died had the "potential to survive".

Independent Police Complaints Commission

The IPCC is carrying out the largest investigation into alleged police misconduct in UK history, focusing on whether there was a criminal cover-up by South Yorkshire Police of the force's failings.

It is also examining the role of West Midland Police, which first investigated how the South Yorkshire force dealt with the tragedy.

Stoddart investigation

Former Durham Chief Constable Jon Stoddart is looking at the causes of the tragedy and the deaths and examining the actions of a range of organisations and bodies, including South Yorkshire Police.

The police section of the investigation is being managed by the IPCC.

She said: "We want to hear people's experiences of that process. We have already had a number of people contact us with concerns that their statements were amended and we have no doubt there are others who have not contacted us."

'Families' dismay'

She added: "We have recovered West Midlands policy books that have never been seen by previous inquiries.

"We have recovered pocket notebooks from officers who were on duty on the day of the match. We are in the process of interviewing all the surviving officers whose accounts were amended."

But one year after the Hillsborough Independent Panel published its report into the tragedy, 21 victims' families said they were "dismayed" at the IPCC for its lack of progress.

In July, the families met Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and Anne Owers, the IPCC chairman, to express concerns that the Stoddart investigation was carrying out "investigatory work" for the inquest.

The families claimed it would undermine the coroner's independence.

The DPP responded by setting up a scrutiny panel chaired by the retired Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, who chaired the original Hillsborough Investigation Panel.

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