Hillsborough families call for independent scrutiny of investigations

Deborah Glass, deputy chair of the IPCC Photo:

More than 90 police pocket notebooks that could contain crucial new information about the Hillsborough disaster have been recovered by investigators.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which revealed last month that it was looking for the notebooks, said today that 90 had been handed in to South Yorkshire Police by retired and serving officers.

The force has also found boxes of notebooks and other documents that cover the period of the disaster, which could contain vital details.

Deputy chairwoman of the IPCC Deborah Glass said: "This is an ongoing criminal investigation the like of which has never been seen before in this country. Already we are uncovering more about the disaster and its aftermath.

"Hillsborough has had a history of inquiries by the police and others, many completed quickly, coming to flawed conclusions. Our investigations need to deliver the last, definitive account."

Last month the IPCC revealed that at least at one officer made a note of what happened that day, against instructions, and that none of the previous inquiries into the tragedy had recovered any such notebooks.

The disaster, that claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans in 1989, is now at the centre of the biggest ever inquiry into police conduct in the UK.

The IPCC said it has uncovered evidence to suggest that the statements of 74 more officers might have been changed, and that fans' witness accounts could also have been altered.

Investigators are set to appeal for witnesses next week in relation to how West Midlands Police ran their inquiry into the handling of the disaster by South Yorkshire Police.

Around 12,000 people spoke to West Midlands Police as part of their inquiry.

Ms Glass said: "This appeal, which will be launched next week, forms a crucial element to our investigation into how West Midlands Police conducted its inquiries into the disaster. We want to hear people's experiences of that process.

"We have already had a number of people contact us with concerns that their statements were amended and we have no doubt there are others who have not contacted us: we want to be able to present as full as possible a picture of witness evidence, both for the inquests and the criminal investigations."

Liverpool Football Club is expected to promote the appeal during its home match on September 21.

96 Liverpool fans died in the disaster Credit: PA

Sheila Coleman from the Hillsborough Justice Campaign said that independent scrutiny of the investigations into the aftermath of the disaster is "paramount" for campaigners, and that without it they would have no faith in the inquiries.

Currently one IPCC probe is looking at the aftermath of the tragedy, while another inquiry is being led by Jon Stoddart, former chief constable of Durham, into the causes of the tragedy and the 96 deaths.

Ms Coleman said: "Surely after so many years of cover-up and corruption it's not too much for families to expect independent scrutiny of the police and the IPCC investigations?

"Without rigorous scrutiny the Hillsborough Justice Campaign will have no faith in the investigations of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Jon Stoddart investigation team or the IPCC."

Current DPP Keir Starmer is due to leave his role next month. His successor Alison Saunders, who rejected calls for fresh inquests into the deaths in 1996, will not take any decisions over whether criminal charges should be brought in relation to the case.

Instead they will be taken by Crown Prosecution Service chief executive Peter Lewis.