The scale of the alleged police cover-up over the Hillsborough disaster was even more wide-ranging than originally believed, it emerged today.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission said it had uncovered evidence that a further 55 officers had amended their statements following the stadium crush which left 96 Liverpool FC fans dead.
The new discovery is in addition to 164 altered accounts - 116 of which were changed to make them appear more favourable to the police - identified by the Hillsborough Independent Panel last year and which prompted an official public apology by the Prime Minister to the dead fans, their families and the survivors of Britain's worst sporting tragedy.
Among its shocking disclosures, which included the suggestion that 41 of the victims might have survived if they had received adequate medical care on the day of the crush, the panel found evidence that South Yorkshire Police carried out a systematic cover-up to exonerate senior officers and took part in a smear operation to put the blame on fans for being drunk and violent.
In her latest update into the inquiry into the behaviour of South Yorkshire Police, IPCC deputy chair Deborah Glass said investigators would begin interviewing officers later this month. More than 1,000 officers from 20 different forces are expected to feature in the inquiry.
She said the investigating team had been contacted by members of the public identifying potentially significant individuals. It had received 230 pieces of correspondence of which 50 referred to police statements.
"The IPCC knows the people who have contacted us are the tip of the iceberg. Therefore preparations are ongoing for an appeal for witnesses to the disaster and this is expected to be conducted in the autumn," she said.
As well as reviewing the allegations surrounding amendments to statements made by South Yorkshire Police officers who were on duty at the Sheffield Wednesday ground in 1989, the inquiry will examine the role of West Midlands Police which led the original investigation into the disaster.
The probe into the policing of the Hillsborough disaster is the biggest ever undertaken in the history of the IPCC. The police watchdog expects to recruit up to 100 staff to work on the investigation.
A separate team led by former Durham Chief Constable Jon Stoddart is investigating a range of organisations involved in the preparation for the event and what happened on the day.
Fresh inquests into the deaths of the 96 victims are set to begin by March 31 next year in the north west of England. Verdicts of accidental death from the original inquest in March 1991 were quashed last year.
The IPPC said a further two sets of documents not seen by the Hillsborough panel had been located at West Midlands Police headquarters. The force is now carrying out a further trawl of its archives to ensure there are no other records which have yet to come to light. It also emerged that the Home Office had identified a number of other organisations which did not contribute documents to the independent panel and investigators are now seeking to confirm whether they are relevant to the inquiries.
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