12 Sep 2012

Hillsborough: five unanswered questions

Scotland Correspondent

As official documents about the Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 people died, are disclosed, Channel 4 News Correspondent Ciaran Jenkins asks five key unanswered questions about the tragedy.

Liverpool fans are still seeking answers over Hillsborough (pic: Getty)

The files from 80 different organisations, including the government, will be made public after a long fight from campaigners. Allegations persist of a police cover up, and a co-ordinated attempt to blame Liverpool supporters for the tragedy.

Why has nobody been held to account?

The Taylor Inquiry reported in 1990 that mismanagement by South Yorkshire Police was the main cause of the disaster. However, the match commander, Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, resigned from the force due to ill health before disciplinary action could be taken against him. No other organisation or individual has been officially held to account.

Did some of the deaths occur after 3.15pm?

The inquests into the deaths at Hillsborough did not consider evidence after 3.15pm on the day of the disaster, ruling that by then all the victims had received fatal injuries. It meant that the inquests could not investigate the apparently chaotic response from the police after that time.

However, testimony from members of the emergency services has suggested that some victims were alive after 3.15pm. Some families believe the details of their loved ones deaths may be incorrect and are campaigning for the inquests to be re-opened.

Who authorised the changing of police statements?

A number of statements given by police officers on duty at Hillsborough were later altered. Comments about poor organisation and failures in leadership and communication were changed or removed entirely. South Yorkshire Police has said this was not a systematic attempt to hide the truth. However, it has never been revealed who ordered the vetting of junior officers’ statements, and on what grounds.

Who removed two CCTV tapes from the control room shortly after the disaster?

It is believed two CCTV video tapes were taken from the control room at Hillsborough. It is not known who stole the tapes or why they were removed.

Was there a smear campaign aimed at Liverpool supporters?

The disaster was still unfolding as the first erroneous reports that Liverpool supporters were to blame were being circulated. It was most famously the basis for an article in The Sun under the headline The Truth, which led to a boycott of the newspaper on Merseyside which still exists today. The early release of some cabinet papers under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that Margaret Thatcher, who was prime minister at the time, had been misinformed about the cause of the disaster. She was told that some senior police officers attributed the tragedy to Liverpool fans being drunk or turning up without tickets.

The Taylor Inquiry found no fault with Liverpool supporters. The police had claimed the crush in the Leppings Lane end was caused after fans stormed a gate outside the ground. This was later exposed by Lord Justice Stuart-Smith as a “disgraceful lie”.