Police reject claims in Hillsborough film

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The Independent Online
Police are to watch again a controversial television drama on the Hillsborough football disaster although they believe it raised no new evidence, South Yorkshire Chief Constable Richard Wells said yesterday.

As families of the Hillsborough victims called on the Home Secretary to open a new inquiry into the disaster, Mr Wells said all issues raised in the programme were known to investigators at the time.

Ninety-six Liverpool soccer fans died after a gate was opened to ease crowding outside the Sheffield Wednesday stadium, allowing hundreds to pour on to the terraces where they were crushed. Families believe there should be a new inquiry because the Granada television research cast doubts on police evidence. It suggested officers must have known the severity of the over-crowding in the pens when the decision to open the gates was taken.

Roger Houldsworth, a camera technician, gave a sworn affidavit to the programme-makers that a closed-circuit camera focused on the terraces was not out of order as had been claimed by some witnesses.

Mr Wells said that statements from Mr Houldsworth at the time "were not in accordance with things he is saying today". He went on: "Claims about missing tapes and changed statements were all issues that were known about and dealt with in an above-board fashion in the earlier hearings. There is nothing here to suggest the need for new official scrutiny."

But as pressure from the families mounted, the Chief Constable told them that senior officers would look again at the film "in the cold light of day". He said: "I can give a very solemn undertaking that if there is new material we will pursue it."

Papers on the case have been presented by the Hillsborough Family Support Group to a criminal barrister for an opinion on whether there are grounds for prosecutions and a new inquest. A verdict of accidental death was returned, but families claim the hearing was inadequate.

Trevor Hicks, the support group chairman, said they wanted the Home Secretary to reopen the case. He said that the coroner, Dr Stefan Popper, had told them an inquest was not the proper forum for an investigation and the families did not trust the South Yorkshire police to carry out thorough inquiries.

"Richard Wells says this evidence is not new but it is newly in the public domain. It completely contradicts evidence given by South Yorkshire officers who claimed that the camera if it was not faulty was deficient," Mr Hicks said.

"One of the critical items in the whole scenario is what the police were aware of at the time when they opened the gates."