On Tuesday, the Independent Police Complaints Commission asked for those who had submitted evidence to police following the 1989 tragedy at Hillsborough to come forward once again, as the investigation into the aftermath of the tragedy continues. Around five hundred people have contacted the commission thus far but with almost twelve thousand original witnesses, the help of Liverpool Football Club was sought to aid in encouraging as many as possible to speak to the investigators.
Brendan Rodgers spoke simply but eloquently with the aim of motivating large numbers to come forward for a second time. That they should have to do so is scandalous and repulsive, but following the complaints about tampering with the original statements, it is vital that the momentum of the last twelve months is continued. The Families of the Ninety Six have never been closer to justice and even now, the truth is continuing to emerge -- a truth so abhorrent that it has been hard to reconcile.
"I know a lot of witness statements were taken at the time and I would ask those supporters who had witness statements taken to get in touch again with the IPCC," the manager urged. "It is so important for all the victims of Hillsborough and in the fight for justice that we get all those statements in. It means reliving what are not nice memories but it's something which will hopefully continue their fight for justice."
The West Midlands police were responsible for the original criminal investigation into the disaster and it was the evidence provided and gathered by them that informed the initial, now discredited, inquests as well as Lord Taylor's inquiry. The IPCC have discovered discrepancies between some statements taken by that same police force and their own preliminary questionnaires.
As a result, the role of the West Midlands police department is now the focus of a possible criminal conduct investigation and the IPCC have issued requests to speak with anyone who gave written or telephone statements in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. They are also widening the scope of their search for information by inviting those who were present at the semi-final but never gave statements, to come forward and do so now.
The findings of last years Hillsborough Independent Panel report led to complaints by some who read them that their statements had been tampered with by the police. In December, again due to the findings of the panel, the original inquest verdict of accidental death was overturned and that precipitated the biggest inquiry in British history into alleged police misconduct.
Deputy chairwoman of the IPCC, Deborah Glass, insisted that they were trying to "build the most comprehensive account there has ever been about the events of Hillsborough." In order for that to happen she has echoed pleas for as many as possible to share again their memories of the tragedy via new statements to replace the ones originally given to the West Midlands police.
"This is not simply a search on Merseyside for witnesses," said Glass. "It is a national and international search for witnesses. We are investigating events from more than twenty four years ago, and in that time people have moved, sometimes overseas. We want to reach out to them. We want to ensure everyone has a voice in this investigation. I know it won't be easy to revisit such incredibly traumatic events. We will support you through the process in whatever way we can. Eyewitness accounts will be vital in building the evidence base which would be crucial to any future prosecutions or misconduct proceedings."
Witnesses can contact the IPCC at ipcc.gov.uk/page/hillsborough-witness-appeal