Stadium safety spotlight

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The criminal investigation into the Hillsborough disaster will look back as far as 1975, detectives have revealed.

Assistant Commissioner Jon Stoddart, who is leading Operation Resolve, the criminal investigation into the Hillsborough disaster, said the investigation was ‘in very good shape to get to the bottom of the causes of death and to get to the truth’.

Speaking at a briefing in Warrington yesterday, he said 500 witnesses had been interviewed and ‘far more light’ had been shed on the events of April 15, 1989.

He said investigators were looking at safety at the Hillsborough stadium in previous matches going back to 1975.

His deputy Assistant Chief Constable Terry Sweeney said investigations would be made into handheld police camera footage taken in the gymnasium which had an unexplained 10 minute gap.

Concerns with the ‘integrity’ of the tape were raised by Pete Weatherby QC, representing 22 of the victims’ families, at a pre-inquest hearing on Monday.

ACC Sweeney said: “The tape itself will be independently assessed by forensic specialists from Mr Weatherby’s chambers and also our own.”

He said officers working on the case were doing their ‘utmost’ to make sure next year’s inquests start on time.

Assistant Commissioner Jon Stoddart, the officer in overall command of Operation Resolve, said his team was determined to meet targets set which would allow the inquests into the deaths of the 96 fans to go ahead on March 31.

He said: “The main focus of our work continues to be providing the coroner with all the information he requires to enable him to begin the inquests on March 31.

“Over the past nine months, Operation Resolve hasfaced some challenging demands to service the inquest and my team have met all of those deadlines.

“We are absolutely determined to meet future targets set and we will strive to continue to provide the inquest team with all they need.”