Straw sets up review of football tragedy

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The Independent Online
An examination of new evidence from the 1989 Hillsborough football stadium disaster will be set in train on Monday by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary.

The review, to be announced by Mr Straw in a Commons statement, is expected to be headed by a judge or QC who will study previously unseen video film footage and medical evidence which the families of those who died have submitted to the Home Office.

Members of the Hillsborough Family Support Group will meet Mr Straw beforehand to discuss the development. The treasurer of the group, Joan Traynor, whose sons Christopher, 26, and Kevin, 16, lost their lives in the tragedy, said: "All we want is the truth. It has never come out officially. We just want to know why our children died."

Phil Hammond, the group's secretary, whose son Phillipdied, said: "We know they can't run the whole inquiry again but we would like them to look at the main points we have raised and whether we are right or wrong. Obviously we think we are right."

The fatal crush that led to the deaths of 96 fans came after police decided to relieve crowd pressure at the FA Cup semi- final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forrest in April 1989 by opening gates at the Sheffield Wednesday ground. Relatives who were at the match or watching television at home looked on in horror as the tragedy unfolded.

A 1990 inquest recorded verdicts of accidental death, but the late Lord Taylor of Gosforth's inquiry placed most of the blame with South Yorkshire police. Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, the senior operational officer was suspended and then retired on the grounds of ill-health. The force has since been found negligent in a series of legal actions brought by victims' families and rank and file officers traumatised by the tragedy.

Calls for a new examination of the events were heightened with the screening of last December's docu-drama by the film-maker Jimmy McGovern, prompting fresh claims by victims' families of a cover-up.

The Crown Prosecution Service has studied video footage discovered in the archives of Yorkshire Television which South Yorkshire police previously said was of too poor quality to be made available to the Taylor inquiry or the inquest.

The families also believe that more could have been done to save the lives of those injured in the crush. A doctor who helped treat more than a dozen of the injured says that one teenager was still alive 25 minutes after the coroner decided that the victims must have been dead. Dr Stefan Popper, the Sheffield coroner, declined to hear evidence of what happened after 3.15pm on the day.

Anne Williams, the mother of one teenage victim, has gathered evidence that he was alive 45 minutes after the inquest claimed he was dead. She is preparing an appeal to John Morris, the Attorney-General, for a new inquest on her son.

"Kevin did not die from traumatic asphyxia at 3.15 as claimed by the coroner," she said. "He died because of a neck injury. He needed a tracheotomy below the obstruction but the swelling of the bones closed his airway. That would have taken half to three-quarters of an hour to happen."

It is not possible to say at this stage where the review of evidence could eventually lead. But there are hopes that the original inquest verdict could be overturned and some families have suggested bringing private prosecutions of police officers.