A detailed picture of how the evidence of junior police officers present at the Hillsborough soccer disaster was systematically distorted has been revealed, as an independent panel was to deliver the findings of its exhaustive investigation into the afternoon that claimed the lives of 96 fans.
The Independent obtained four unpublished witness statements written by police constables on duty on the disastrous day of Liverpool's FA Cup semifinal with Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989.
They show how the documents, originally prepared for an internal inquiry, were altered prior to Lord Taylor's official inquiry later that year to ensure that South Yorkshire Police emerged in a more positive light.
The testimony of one constable, 31-year-old Martin McLoughlin, was crossed through so two paragraphs of criticism were deleted. McLoughlin described how police had "appeared to be a bit thin on the ground for the numbers of people involved".
He also detailed how officers had a "poor supply of personal radios" when the decision to allow fans to enter the Leppings Lane end led to many being crushed to death inside the stadium.
These criticisms were struck through and an earlier reference to "the only officer with a personal radio" has been rewritten to read "who had a personal radio", making it appear as though officers were better-equipped.
The apparent manipulation of evidence is revealed in documents initially written as part of the original South Yorkshire Police investigation into the disaster.
- IndependentBy Ian Herbert