19/12/2012 06:00 GMT | Updated 19/12/2012 08:50 GMT

Hillsborough Disaster: Home Secretary Theresa May Announces New Investigation

A new police investigation into the Hillsborough Disaster was announced by the Home Secretary today.

Former Durham Chief Constable Jon Stoddart will lead the new inquiry, which will focus specifically on the 96 deaths of Liverpool fans at the FA Cup semi-final in 1989.

The move comes after a damning report from the Hillsborough independent panel laid bare a cover-up which attempted to shift the blame for the tragedy on to its victims.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: "I am determined to see a swift and thorough response to the findings of the Hillsborough Panel to deliver justice for the 96 football fans who died and the families who have fought so hard on their behalf."

Mr Stoddart will be able to recruit investigators and staff to his team, but he will not be allowed to employ officers or former officers with any prior connection to the Hillsborough disaster.


Fans are helped in the Leppings Lane end

He is also unable to recruit any officers or former officers who worked in the West Midlands, South Yorkshire or Merseyside police forces.

Mr Stoddart will also work closely with the previously announced Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation into police conduct in the aftermath of the disaster.

He said: "I am aware of the great significance and personal responsibility which comes with leading this criminal investigation.

"My first priority is to meet with as many of the families as possible and to establish a working open relationship with them throughout the investigation.

"I have held a number of meetings already and have been struck by the families' humility and steadfast determination to see justice delivered for their loved ones.


Anfield became a shrine to the victims

"My role is to ensure that we determine exactly what happened in the lead-up to and on the day of the disaster and establish where any culpability lies."

The announcement was released ahead of a High Court application to quash the original accidental death inquest verdicts for the 96 fans killed in the crush at Hillsborough.

Some of the families of victims, who have campaigned to have the verdicts overturned, were attending the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London.

The Hillsborough independent panel report triggered a raft of apologies from the likes of Prime Minister David Cameron and former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie.

Mr MacKenzie was the editor of The Sun when it ran a front page story blaming fans for the disaster.


The Hillsborough Justice Campaign has gained huge support this year

It also ultimately led to the resignation of West Yorkshire Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison, who was a chief inspector with South Yorkshire Police at the time.

The panel's report found there were clear operational failures in response to the disaster and up to 41 fans could potentially have survived.

It also found the then chief constable of South Yorkshire, Peter Wright, and his officers, with the help of local Tory MP Irvine Patnick, sought to cover up the failing.

The Liverpool supporters died in a crush at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium on April 15 1989 where their team were to meet Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final.

Hillsborough inquests court case