Exclusive:

Hillsborough - police DID doctor evidence in bid to avoid blame

Evidence of junior officers present at the football disaster was systematically distorted

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 exhaustive investigation into the afternoon that claimed the lives of 96 fans.

The Independent has obtained four previously unpublished witness statements written by police constables, who were all on duty at the Leppings Lane end on the disastrous day of Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final with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, who had nine years' service with the force, described how police had "appeared to be a bit thin on the ground for the numbers of people involved" on the fateful afternoon of 15 April 1989. He also detailed how officers on duty at the stadium had a "poor supply of personal radios" when the catastrophic decision to allow fans to enter the Leppings Lane end through an exit gate led to many being crushed to death inside a stadium, which lacked an up-to-date safety certificate. Pc McLoughlin described how "it seemed very bad that only one in our serial – the sergeant – should have a personal radio. We had great difficulty in finding out what happened and what was happening and for too long a time we were basically working in the dark." All of these criticisms are struck through and an earlier reference to "the only officer with a personal radio" has been rewritten to read "who had a personal radio", making it appear as though the officers were better-equipped.

Pc McLoughlin's testimony that he could hear "the voices of more and more officers … getting desperate" over the police radio is replaced simply with the words "increased radio traffic". Another of the phrases deleted from his testimony reads: "Basically it was chaos".

A similar picture of institutional failing emerges in the testimony of Pc Alan Wadsworth, in whose 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. The only officer I heard on the radio with any form of organization and method was Chief Superintendent Nesbitt (sic) [a reference to John Nesbit, traffic division commander] who did not arrive until later."

An attempt to deliver praise to Liverpool fans appears to have been crossed from the testimony of a fourth officer, David Sumner, who says that "many fans assisted in the removal of the dead and injured from the field".

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 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.

Deposited in 10 boxes, over the years some have emerged to paint a partial picture of the cover-up, upon which these testimonies shed new light. The Labour MP Andy Burnham, himself from Merseyside, drew attention to several manipulated testimonies in the House of Commons last October.

The doctored statements are one example of the volumes of evidence – 40,000 pages in all – which the Independent Panel will have examined since being established in January 2010 on the initiative of Mr Burnham, then the Culture Secretary, to bring "full public disclosure" of all relevant national and local government documentation relating to Hillsborough.

The most keenly awaited evidence in the report to be published today is the medical records of the 96 fans who died in the disaster, which may demonstrate that the Hillsborough inquest coroner, Stefan Popper, was wrong to say that nothing could have been done after his self-imposed 3.15pm "cut-off" time to save any of the lives lost. This decision severely limited the scope of the inquests, which delivered an accidental death verdict.

There is a growing sense on Merseyside that the "cut-off" time will be shown to be discredited, paving the way for fresh inquests into the deaths. Since no court, tribunal or public inquiry has ever examined what happened after 3.15pm, the emergency service response to the events of the fateful afternoon have gone unchallenged since Lord Justice Taylor's report into the tragedy was published in 1990.

A further statement from the boxes reveals how statements were entirely rewritten by officers, allowing none of the criticisms which Lord Justice Taylor directed in his report towards the inexperienced Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield for "failing to take effective control" and making the calamitous decision to open Exit Gate C.

One version of the second officer's statement includes the genuine conclusions he reached. "After the incident I felt shocked and upset," he said. "My enduring feelings are anger and guilt. I was less than 20 yards from people struggling for their life and was not aware of their plight. No radio or Tannoy communications were apparent throughout the incident."

A handwritten annotated note attached to the report asked the Pc to "remove the last page, excluding last paragraph". Another note states: "rewritten as requested". In a second version of the report, also included in the file, all the original criticisms are absent.

What the officers witnessed clearly took its toll on some of them. In 2004, Sheffield Crown Court heard how Pc McLoughlin was so traumatised by the events he witnessed at Hillsborough that he lost his job, marriage and almost his life, when he used skills acquired in the force to make a hoax bomb device and threatened to detonate it at high-security psychiatric unit in Rotherham.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Life and Style
Customers look at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store in Hong Kong
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week