Secret Hillsborough files reveal victims were "interfered with"
Published 23:00 22/11/11 By David Collins
Ten victims of the Hillsborough disaster had body tissue secretly removed and stored.
Bereaved families were not told about the samples which pathologists took from vital organs within 48 hours of the tragedy.
Details of the procedures were found in secret papers being examined by the Hillsborough Independent Panel.
The HIP considered the revelation so important that it is informing the affected relatives now instead of waiting until its full report is published next year.
Ten families were sent hand-delivered letters on Monday by the panel informing them about the samples.
Sheila Coleman, of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, said: “This proves things are being kept from the families and have been for 22 years.”
Margaret Aspinall, of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said: “Surely it’s common sense that they should have been told about this before now.
“The next thing is to find out what these tissue samples are, because nobody seems to know at the moment.”
Taking tissue without notifying relatives was legal at the time of the tragedy – which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool FC fans in 1989 – but was banned under the Human Tissue Act 2004.
Furious Liverpool council leader Joe Anderson slammed the body samples revelation as a “scandal”.
He added: “Victims were interfered with without the permission of their families. I think people will want to know who was responsible and will want them sacked if they are still in a job.”
It is understood the tissue was taken during postmortems to help establish the cause of death of supporters who did not show obvious signs of being crushed.
The panel has decided not to reveal which organs the 10 small samples were taken from following the tragedy during the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest in Sheffield.
In a statement, HIP chairman the Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Rev James Jones, said the panel would ensure the tissue is dealt with “respectfully” and in accordance with the wishes of relatives.
He added: “I am sorry this additional distress has been caused to some of the Hillsborough families who have suffered greatly already.
“The panel believes that it is right that affected families should have the chance to find out about this now.”
HIP member Dr Bill Kirkup said: “We are dealing with this as sensitively as we can.”
Professor Bharat Jasani, head of pathology at Cardiff University, said tissue samples are usually no more than one centimetre squared, adding: “A pathologist may feel the need to examine further the cause of death when a visual examination is not enough.
“A sample would allow a thorough investigation under the microscope.”
The Mirror launched the Justice for the 96 campaign in 1996 to support the victims’ families as they battle to find out the truth about the disaster.