FA, police and Sheffield Wednesday face calls to be held to account on eve of memorial for disaster's 24th anniversary
The families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster have renewed calls for the people responsible for the establishment cover-up that followed to be made fully and swiftly accountable ahead of Monday's Anfield memorial service to mark the 24th anniversary of the tragedy.
The annual service, in remembrance of the 96 victims of the disaster on 15 April 1989 at an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, is the first since the Hillsborough Independent Panel definitively demonstrated that the causes were the unsafe ground and the inadequate response of the emergency services.
After a three-year review of more than 450,000 pieces of evidence, it also revealed for the first time the scale of the establishment cover-up that swung into action immediately after the disaster to deflect blame from the police and smear Liverpool fans.
In the wake of the panel's report, the original verdicts of accidental death have been quashed and a new inquest ordered. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is also conducting a wide-ranging inquiry into police culpability and malpractice, which could take up to two years, and the former Durham police chief Jon Stoddart is re-examining the case for new criminal charges.
But Jenni Hicks, the mother of Sarah and Victoria Hicks, who were 19 and 15 respectively when they were killed at Hillsborough, said that if the families were forced to fight for accountability it would be a "third national disgrace" to follow what the prime minister, David Cameron, called the "double injustice" of the disaster and the cover-up. "The first national disgrace was that 96 people died at a football match. The second was the lies and the cover-up. The third will be if they make the families fight for the accountability. We're still working towards the inquests, which I would think will be the next stage of the journey, "said Hicks, speaking in a programme to be aired this week on Liverpool FC's television channel.
"Hopefully the correct verdict will be put in place, which for me will be that those 96 people were all unlawfully killed. This campaign isn't about vengeance, it never has been. It's about putting something very wrong right. It's basically about enduring and unconditional love for our loved ones."
A pre-inquest hearing will be held on 25 April in London, where a coroner is expected to set out the terms and scope of the new inquest.
The independent panel's report raised grave concerns over the 3.15pm cut-off time imposed in the original inquest by Dr Stefan Popper, which "led to the mistaken belief that an effective emergency services intervention could not have saved lives".
The report revealed that 41 of the victims might have been saved had the emergency response been better. It also found that 116 of the 164 police statements doctored afterwards were changed to show the police in a better light, and that the South Yorkshire ambulance service had also altered statements to deflect criticism.
A memorial sculpture, the first in Liverpool city centre, is being unveiled on Sunday and Monday's memorial service at Anfield will include the lighting of candles for each of the 96 victims and a minute's silence at 3.06pm, the time the match was abandoned.
Brian Benson, whose son David was 22 when he died, said the families also wanted others shown by the report to bear responsibility – including the Football Association and Hillsborough's owners, Sheffield Wednesday FC – to be held accountable.
"I feel very strongly, we all do, that the FA should be accountable, that [the former West Yorkshire police chief constable] Norman Bettison should be accountable and stripped of his knighthood – and he should not have been allowed to retire, that was the biggest cover-up. The Sheffield Wednesday football ground for having no safety certificate and also the ambulance service for not being able to cope," he said.
• Live coverage of the Hillsborough memorial service will be broadcast from 2.15pm on LFC TV on Monday (watch free on Sky Channel 429 & Virgin Channel 544)