Hillsborough: Six pieces of evidence to look for this morning

Will the real truth finally come out today, as families hear panel's findings?

The families of the 96 Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough may finally learn today the full story of what happened on 15 April, 1989. The Hillsborough Independent Panel's final report will extend to almost 400 pages. Here are six very significant pieces of evidence to look for:

1. Medical records of the 96 victims

There is a feeling that the medical records of the 96 may produce some of the most relevant testimony, by demonstrating whether or not the Hillsborough inquest coroner, Stefan Popper, was right to say that nothing could have been done – after his self-imposed 3.15pm "cut-off" – to save any of the lives lost. Popper ruled that all the victims died of "traumatic asphyxiation" – the equivalent to being instantly crushed. Yet there is already eyewitness evidence of at least one of the 96, Kevin Williams, appearing to breathe, even speaking, after 3.15pm. Many of those who were injured recovered, so how could the coroner conclude that those 96 were doomed to die? The medical records may be vital. There will be answers for families who have never known precisely how their loved ones actually died

2. Briefings between senior police officers and Downing Street

A BBC Freedom of Information request in March revealed that the Association of Chief Police Officers, including the then Merseyside Chief Constable, the late Sir Kenneth Oxford, wrongly briefed the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, that drunk Liverpool fans were to blame. Former Home Secretary Michael Howard said that this informed her thinking. Today may reveal much more about that flawed briefing process, which dictated the way Liverpool fans were viewed

3. The journalistic process which took place leading 'The Sun' to write its 'The Truth' front page

We should look for detail on the briefings, if any, which took place between South Yorkshire Police and The Sun, which led to the infamous front page of 19 April, 1989. In this week's Hillsborough documentary, its author Harry Arnold said he was "aghast" to see editor Kelvin MacKenzie personally writing the headline that night. But Arnold offered no explanation of how the story had been generated. "The strongest allegations came from a news agency," Arnold said. Did The Sun speak to anyone in authority for this story? Which is the agency Arnold was talking about?

4. Witness statements from junior South Yorkshire police officers, from the 10 boxes of evidence which former Home Secretary Jack Straw ordered the force to deposit in the House of Lords library

This information has been available in the Lords and Commons libraries and Liverpool library but is little known to those who have not followed the case closely. The statements contain annotations, in two distinct handwritings, proving how the junior officers' testimonies were rewritten to create a version of events at Hillsborough which fits with the force's version of what happened. Criticisms of senior officers were removed. Descriptions of Liverpool fans' rowdiness remained.

5. Communication between the emergency services and Sheffield Wednesday

No court, tribunal or public inquiry has ever examined what happened after 3.15pm on 15 April, 1989, so this vital section of evidence will prove or disprove the impression that the emergency service response – with police keeping ambulances outside of the ground and only one making it on to the pitch – was wholly inadequate.

6. Redactions

How much information – if any – has been withdrawn? Michael Mansfield QC, who has provided free advice to the families, encapsulated this point: "I'm wondering, with 400,000 documents, the extent to which the panel have been able to identify whether they've been given everything. What assurances have they sought? Are there documents they know exist that they have not got? Are they going to let the public and families know everything they've seen?"

Comments