The police force involved in the initial investigation into the the Hillsborough disaster is trawling through its archives after finding new documents relating to the tragedy at its headquarters.
West Midlands Police, which examined South Yorkshire Police’s handling of the disaster, said the documents, some of which are understood to be held on computer disks, have been passed to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
In a statement, the West Midlands force said ‘recent unrelated searches’ of secure storage areas in Birmingham had ‘uncovered two items of material related to Hillsborough’.
The statement added: “These documents have been passed to the IPCC to help in their investigation of the Hillsborough disaster.
“As a result of the find, West Midlands Police has announced a rigorous, systematic search of its archives which is expected to take around three months.
“Specially trained police search officers will scrutinise storage areas at Lloyd House, Nechells Green police station where the force’s investigation of South Yorkshire Police was focused, and other buildings.”
It is understood that the IPCC has yet to establish whether copies of the newly found documents were already held within material gathered by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, or in statements available to previous inquiries.
West Midlands Police’s official archive storage facility in Derbyshire, where up to 17,000 documents are held, will also be subjected to further examination as part of the searches, which began last week.
West Midlands Police Deputy Chief Constable Dave Thompson said the force was committed to the IPCC’s Hillsborough investigation and to supporting the new coroner’s inquest due to be held next year.
The officer added: “We have no reason to believe West Midlands Police holds any more Hillsborough-related material but, due to the recent finds, we want to be able to assert this with the highest degree of confidence to the inquest coroner.
“That’s why we’ve announced a rigorous, systematic search of all archived material in our buildings. This is a voluntary move initiated by West Midlands Police and demonstrates our commitment to openness and transparency.
“We will leave no stone left unturned. If any material relating to Hillsborough remains on West Midlands Police property, we are confident the search will uncover it.”
The IPCC is currently carrying out an independent investigation into allegations surrounding the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 Liverpool supporters died.
The investigation is reviewing allegations surrounding amendments to witness statements, the actions of police officers after the disaster, and the role of West Midlands Police.
Commenting on the material found at West Midlands Police headquarters, a spokesman for the IPCC said: “The recovery of documents is a fundamental part of the IPCC’s investigations relating to the Hillsborough disaster.
“We have made progress in recovering much of the documentation that was available to the Hillsborough Independent Panel, but have also identified that there is additional documentation in existence which may be relevant to the investigations.
“West Midlands Police believed all its documentation in relation to Hillsborough was stored in the South Yorkshire Police archive.
“However two sets of documents have been located by West Midlands Police on their premises since the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report.
“As a result of this discovery the IPCC, which is investigating West Midlands Police role in the initial investigation into the disaster, has asked for confirmation that there are no further documents in existence.
“West Midlands Police will now conduct a thorough search to determine whether there is any additional documentation in existence and, if found, this will be handed over to the IPCC. The IPCC will be monitoring the progress of these searches closely.”
The documentation, which includes two floppy discs and paper records relating to the inquiry, were found by chance at the force’s headquarters in Birmingham, Mr Thompson said.
He added: “In the last few months we have found some documentation, not sure of its relevance or whether it’s copies or not, in the document storage in the force so we are now undertaking a detailed search to make sure we’ve no further documents.”
He said it was not known what information is held on the floppy discs as they had no way of accessing them.
“We’re beginning to go through a phase where we are looking at the buildings we hold.
“We’re beginning to look at refurbishing and so it was quite simply a routine check of some of the document storage that found the items.
“They were found over the last couple of months. They’ve not been found in one go.
“There were a couple of occasions where documentation turned up. They’ve been found as part of routine clearance of storage areas in the forces headquarters.
“Our duty in this case is when we find documentation to hand those over to the IPCC. It’s their investigation. Our voluntary search for documents is simply about making sure all material is available to them and it’s for them to decide the significance of what we hand over.”