Liverpool FC – 42 Questions to the Hillsborough Independent Panel

It’s been over 23 years since April 15, 1989, when 96 Liverpool fans died during an FA Cup Semifinal clash between the club and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough in Sheffield, and still, most the victims’ families haven’t got a whole lot of answers to rely on to give them a picture of what really happened that day and more importantly, who’s to blame?

Next Wednesday the Hillsborough Independent Panel is supposed to finally produce its long-awaited report, aiming at helping the public understand more about the tragedy and its aftermath. The panel had more than 400,000 pages of documentation from more than 80 organisations to produce the report.

When the panel began its work in 2010,  the Hillsborough Family Support Group asked the panel to answer these 42 questions regarding the events of that tragic day:

1. Why was a venue without a safety certificate used for such a high-profile match? Why have Sheffield Wednesday FC not been taken to task for this lack of duty of care?

2. Why were LFC fans given the smaller end of the ground when they had the largest number of supporters?  LFC had asked for this to be changed, why was their request ignored?

3. Why was Chief Superintendent Duckenfield in charge on the day? What were his qualifications/experience/competency? Why was Chief Superintendent Mole not in charge, as in 1988?

4. Is it true that circumstances surrounding the initiation of a young police cadet in the woods near Sheffield led to the removal of Mole and the installation of Duckenfield?

5. Why were the controls and precautions that had been adopted in the 1988 semi-final not used in 1989?

6. Why was there a 10 per cent reduction in manpower for the 1989 semi-final from the 1988 semi-final? 80 more police officers at the Leppings Lane end could have made a significant difference, filtering fans. Approximately 980 officers were used for the 1988 semi-final, 1000 for the semi-final in 1987 and 1,200 for the semi-final between Wolves and Spurs. Please can you look into documentation which explains the reasons for this reduced manpower?

7. Ref: PC 2302 Powell, Taylor Report, referring to the policing in Leppings Lane at 2.45pm. The following passage was omitted: “The first thing I said was ‘Where are all the Bobbies, there is hardly anyone there’. I could not understand how such a crowd could possibly have gathered. I recall in previous games there was usually a large police presence concentrated on this part of the ground, usually forming some sort of cordon.” Could the panel comment?

8. Why did the police further delay fans making their way by road to the match (ie on the Snake and Woodhead Passes) when road-works were already hindering their journey?

9. Why was the kick-off not delayed?

10. The people in pen 3 were in dire straits by 2.30pm and by 2.45pm were in serious danger of losing their lives. Why has this never been fully investigated?

11. Should there have been two separate inquests – one for those who died inside the ground and a separate one for those outside the ground who came in when the gates were opened?

12. Why did only one ambulance make it on to the pitch?

13. Who stopped the ambulances from coming on to the pitch, telling them fans were fighting? The ambulances were lined up waiting to come in – who stopped them?

14. What happened to the St John Ambulance team who were in attendance on the day? Have their statements and/or testimony ever been scrutinised?

15. We know a meeting took place between Mrs Thatcher, Bernard Ingram, the Home Secretary and the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire, Peter Wright on April 16, 1989 – were minutes taken and are these available?

16. Was this the start of the sanitation process to blame the fans for the tragedy? Ingram still publicly blames ‘drunken ticketless fans’ for the disaster – who misled or encouraged him into thinking this?

17. Why, when they already knew before they opened the gates that pen 3 was overcrowded, did they did not transfer people out of pen 3 into the side pens?

18. Why were only 14 taken to hospital?

19. Why were police statements edited?

20. Why couldn’t the accounts from the police notebooks be used in the mini inquest or anything else for that matter?

21. Chief Constable Jack Leydon, we believe, was involved in compensation claims. (Sir) Jack Leydon was the chairman of South Yorkshire Police Association (SYPA) and is alleged to have been a director of Municipal & Mutual, the insurer of SYPA, South Yorkshire Police (SYP), and Sheffield City Council among others. If this is true, was there an undeclared conflict of interest or worse?

22. Statements prove pens 3 and 4 were overfull by 2.30-2.45pm and people were probably already dying. Why was the order given to open gates and not consider the consequences to the people inside? It wasn’t just one person in the control box, everybody there had a duty of care to those attending the match.

23. Taylor states: “Duckenfield made a blunder of the first magnitude by opening the gates and not sealing off the already full pens.” Other officers in the control box could have told Duckenfield that he needed to close the tunnel leading to pens 3 and 4 before opening the gates. Was this the case and/or was it a deliberate act to undermine Duckenfield?

24. This scenario also applies to the implementation of the major accident and emergency plan: nobody in the control box set the plan in motion, although all had been trained in major accident procedures. Will the panel please investigate this in greater detail than Taylor did especially with their greater access to relevant documentation?

25. At the mini inquest Dr Ernest Gumpet said it wouldn’t be possible to establish life extinct unless a person has had an ECG, so why did only 14 of the victims get to hospital? The rest were declared dead in the temporary mortuary by two doctors with one stethoscope between them.

26. How many people were placed by the River Don, being assumed dead, and for how long were they left – note, we have no evidence backing this point.

27. The treatment the families received at the temporary mortuary on the night of 15 April 1989 requires further scrutiny. Statements were taken immediately after the families had identified their loved ones, without any legal representation. These statements were then used in inquests etc. The inference was all around alcohol.

28. Coroner Dr Popper’s instructions were to take blood alcohol levels on all victims – why were no blood alcohol levels taken from the senior police officers and other key officials as would be the case in, for example, a road crash? This points to the fact that even by 5pm the decision was taken to blame other people and they assumed alcohol played a relevant part.

29. According to senior nurse manager Mr Eccleston (who attended the temporary mortuary at 3.55pm) ‘The scene was of absolute chaos’. With statements like this, how could two doctors still manage to certify people dead?

30. Why did Peter Wright, then Chief Constable of the South Yorkshire Police, make such a speedy exit?

31. Why did South Yorkshire Police request West Midlands Police Force to conduct enquiries and collect statements from witnesses when West Midlands Police were proved at the time to be the most corrupt force in the country? (Half the force were disbanded for their dealings with the Birmingham Six).

32. Why were the radial fence gates of pens 2 and 3 locked when Sheffield Wednesday were told those pens were only safe if the gates were left open? (The fire service stated it was safe only if those gates remained open).

33. Why was the football club or its officials never charged with neglect and/or failing in their duty of care?

34. Will the panel be looking into events as a whole or will they also address individual cases and aspects?

35. How can the panel be sure they have reviewed all the documents? How would they even know if they have been given all the documents? Will the panel be aware if there are gaps?

36. Can we be sure this review will still go ahead even if there is a change of government?

37. Are some documents already redacted? Will the panel be able to see all statements/documents in their original form and entirety?

38. Funding of Chief Superintendent Duckenfield and Superintendent Murray’s defence ran into many millions – this enabled SYPA/SYP lawyers to be able to thwart the families on many occasions at all levels of legal and civil proceedings. It went far beyond the normal employers’ responsibility to its employees – should taxpayers’ money have been used to defend the indefensible?

39. Why were Duckenfield and Murray allowed to retire on enhanced ‘ill-health’ pensions (and thereby avoid discipline/potential loss of pension) as soon as the Police Complaints Authority instructed SYP to initiate disciplinary charges when they (SYP) had failed to do so?

40. What can be done/said about ‘lies’ in police statements (eg a victim’s name was made available to the panel on the request of the family) – where police statement said he was vomiting beer, yet there was no alcohol in his blood alcohol sample.

41. Why were police notes from the day not admissible as evidence?

42. At least nine families still do not have death certificates, they were asked to make themselves and their circumstances known to the panel.