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Hillsborough disaster documents released

Liverpool fans hold up a banner relating to the Hillsborough disaster. Photo: Sean Dempsey/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Official documents relating to Britain’s worst sporting disaster, in which two Welshmen died, will be released today.

Ninety-six Liverpool supporters died in a human crush at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium on April 15, 1989, during the start of an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

They included John McBrien and Steven Brown from North Wales.

The families of those who died will this morning be given first access to more than 400,000 pages taken from organisations including the Government, Sheffield City Council and the emergency services.

The release of the Hillsborough documents comes 23 years after the disaster and follows a long campaign by relatives and those who survived.

An inquiry into the disaster by Lord Justice Taylor, published in 1990, found that the main reason for the disaster was a failure by police to control the crowd.

It was also critical of other organisations, including Sheffield Wednesday football club and Sheffield City Council.

But no individual or organisation has been held fully accountable for the disaster –something the families say is an ‘injustice’.

They have also criticised the ‘3:15pm’ ruling, which refers to the Coroner's decision that the jury would not hear evidence of events after 3.15pm on the day of the disaster.

Margaret Aspinall, who lost her 18-year-old son James in the disaster, is Chair of the Hillsborough Families Support Group.

She says the families want the legal system to acknowledge what happened beyond 3.15pm.

She also blasted the recorded verdict of accidental death, saying: "They did not all die in an accident and it's absolutely ludicrous to suggest that."

The Hillsborough Memorial outside Liverpool's Anfield Stadium Credit: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Steve Rotheram, a Liverpool supporter who was in the stands at Hillsborough that day, said he hoped the release of the documents would help everyone involved to ‘understand the bigger picture’.

It's hard to calculate the effect that the deaths of 96 people had on those involved, those who lost relatives and also those who witnessed the perishing deaths and survived, and for fans who have been wrongly blamed for the tragedy. The panel has had to trawl though nearly half a million documents. Some of them may appear to be superfluous and of no real relevance, but they may help us understand the bigger picture and perhaps explain the chain of causation and some of the things that happened at a Government level and in the aftermath of the tragedy.

– Football fan Steve Rotheram

51-year-old Chris Whittle is one of thousands of people who went to the game that day. He was caught up in the crush but managed to get out.

I screamed because it hurt that much. When we were coming back in the car, on the radio the death toll kept going up and up - 30, 40, 50, 60, 70. That night I didn't sleep a wink because I thought I was going to die. In fact, I was one of the lucky ones because I came home and 96 didn't.

– Football fan Chris Whittle

The Hillsborough Independent Panel has been overseeing the release of the papers.

It was set up in 2009 amid a wave of public pressure on the 20th anniversary of the disaster.

The panel will make public its findings at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral before a candlelit tribute is held for the 96 victims.

A report explaining the contents of the documents will be published by the panel in due course.

South Yorkshire Police are expected to make a statement following the release of the documents.

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