Hillsborough: police evidence was doctored


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The Independent Online

A detailed picture of how the evidence of junior police officers present at the Hillsborough football disaster was systematically distorted can be revealed today, as an independent panel prepares to deliver the findings of its investigation into the afternoon which claimed the lives of 96 fans.

i has obtained previously unpublished witness statements written by police constables, who were all on duty at the Leppings Lane end on the day of Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest in 1989.

They show how the documents, originally prepared for an internal inquiry, were altered prior to Lord Taylor's official inquiry later that year to ensure that South Yorkshire Police emerged from the tragedy in a significantly more positive light.

The testimony of one constable, 31-year-old Martin McLoughlin, was crossed through so two paragraphs of criticism were entirely deleted. PC McLoughlin described how police had "appeared to be a bit thin on the ground for the numbers of people involved" on 15 April 1989.

He also detailed how officers on duty at the stadium had a "poor supply of personal radios" when the decision to allow fans to enter the Leppings Lane end through an exit gate led to many being crushed to death.

In PC Alan Wadsworth's report, the following words were crossed out: "There was no leadership at the Leppings Lane end following the disaster, either in person or on the radio. "

An attempt to deliver praise to Liverpool fans appears to have been crossed from the testimony of another officer, David Sumner.

The apparent manipulation of evidence is revealed in documents that were initially written as part of the original South Yorkshire Police investigation into the disaster. Many still showed their annotations when Lord Justice Taylor suddenly demanded them for his 1989 inquiry into the tragedy. They were placed in the House of Lords library several years ago when the former Labour Home Secretary, Jack Straw, ordered that South Yorkshire Police disclose them.

The doctored statements are one example of the volumes of evidence which the independent panel will have examined since being established in January 2010 on the initiative of Labour MP Andy Burnham, then the Culture Secretary, to bring "full public disclosure".

Labour's Andy Burnham, who is from Merseyside, drew attention to several manipulated testimonies in the House of Commons last October.