Fresh allegations emerge over scale of Hillsborough cover-up

“SIGNIFICANT” numbers of fans present at the Hillsborough disaster have come forward over recent weeks to warn investigators that their witness statements were altered or repressed.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has revealed that a raft of fresh allegations over the conduct of South Yorkshire Police have been made since it launched its inquiry into Hillsborough last month.

IPCC chief executive Jane Furniss told MPs on the Home Affairs select committee that fresh documents have also emerged that were not handed over to the Hillsborough Independent Panel for its two-year investigation.

The panel’s report, published in September, absolved Liverpool fans of all blame in the tragedy and laid bare a shocking cover-up and smear campaign led by South Yorkshire Police.

Alongside its report, the panel - chaired by the Bishop of Liverpool - published 450,000 pages of documentation that it had gathered to compile its report.

But Ms Furniss revealed there is still more evidence to be compiled as her watchdog considers whether police officers were guilty of misconduct or criminal offences.

“The panel did not receive all the documents that are available,” she said. “There are more documents that have come to light since they did this report.

“Secondly, because of the level of contact we’re now having with bereaved families and survivors, we’re also already hearing from quite significant numbers of the public who were at the match on the day who said - ‘I tried to make a statement and wasn’t allowed to’; or ‘I made a statement, and the statement on the (panel) website isn’t the statement I made’; or ‘I was bullied into withdrawing information’.

“So there are new allegations coming to light as a result of us announcing what we’re doing.”

The scale of the challenge facing the IPCC was laid bare when Ms Furniss revealed that “at least” 2,400 police officers will have to be investigated.

She said Home Secretary Theresa May has personally pledged that sufficient money will be made available for the IPCC to carry out its inquiries – but that the IPCC is nevertheless still being forced to cope with a 21 per cent cut in its core funding as part of the Government’s austerity drive.

“At the moment the Home Office are maintaining we need to make the savings they require, while at the same time having conservations with me about more money for Hillsborough,” Ms Furniss said.

“So we’re in a slightly kind of ‘double-minded’ conversation with them about that.”

IPCC chairwoman Dame Anne Owers told MPs that investigations into former West Yorkshire Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison are continuing despite his resignation earlier this month after weeks of pressure over his own role in the police response to Hillsborough.

“The investigation we are currently doing into Norman Bettison is around allegations made about his conduct following the publication of the panel’s report and the referral to us,” she said.

“Those are conduct matters we are dealing with now and which we are investigating.

“In relation to anything that happened at or around Hillsborough, if there are proven allegations against Sir Norman or any other officer involved, then irrespective of whether they are now serving as police those can be investigated by us and can still result in prosecutions.”