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Hillsborough tragedy 999 response was poor: ambulanceman

By Ian Herbert

The only ambulanceman to have reached the pitch as the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster unfolded has admitted, amid a growing sense that tomorrow's exhaustive independent report into the tragedy will force a fresh inquest, that the emergency service response was "poor".

Tom Edwards told an investigative ITV film on Hillsborough, screened last night, that he was staggered to discover no ambulances following him on to the pitch amid the Leppings Lane End crush and that emergency services did not "give the proper care and attention that was due to the people who were dying". When Edwards' ambulance left the field – one of the iconic pieces of footage from that day – it carried Victoria Hicks, leaving her sister, Sarah, behind. Neither survived.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel, which has scrutinised thousands of pages of new material, is expected to shatter the notion, enshrined by Sheffield coroner Stefan Popper in his inquest after the disaster, that no evidence from after a 3.15pm cut-off on the afternoon of the FA Cup semi-final is valid because any injuries sustained before then by the 96 who died were irreversible. The medical records of the 96 are expected to be a particularly revealing part of the findings.

The panel has received the testimony of Debra Martin, the South Yorkshire Police special constable who said that Liverpool supporter Kevin Williams, who was pulled out of the Leppings Lane stand at 3.28pm, had said the word "mum" to her at some time after 3.37pm. She believes he might have been saved.

The case of Williams, who died between 3.50pm and 4pm, is integral to campaigners' hopes to demonstrate that the 3.15pm cut-off – and therefore the inquests – are invalid and should be struck out. Williams' mother, Anne Williams, has applied to the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, for a new inquest. He is awaiting the full report before deciding whether to apply to the High Court. A fresh inquest for Williams – which seemed an almost unattainable target when the panel was established – would mean the initial accidental death verdicts being re-examined for all 96.

The findings of the panel – which was established in 2010 on the initiative of the then Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, to bring "full public disclosure" of all relevant Government documentation – will bring into the public domain 10 boxes of documents which were lodged in the House of Lords library when South Yorkshire Police were forced to disclose them. Burnham revealed in the House of Commons last October one police constable's handwritten statements from within that hoard. The officer described "several officers wandering about in a dazed and confused state. Some were crying and some simply sat on the grass". A note from a senior officer, attached to the top-right corner of the statement, reads: "Last 2 pages require amending. These are his own feelings. He states that PCs were sat down crying when the fans were carrying the dead and injured. This shows they were organised and we were not. Have the PC re-write the last 2 pages excluding the points mentioned."

Tomorrow may prove to be another uncomfortable day for News International, as the panel is likely to shed light on any police briefings for The Sun, which led that newspaper to its infamous decision to blame Liverpool supporters for the tragedy.

"When I set up the panel I promised the families they'd get the full truth," Burnham said last night. "I'm more and more confident that that is what they will get. From here, they got the truth and now we fight for justice."

The Yorkshire Ambulance Service said it was prevented, by a duty of confidentiality, from responding to Edwards' comments until tomorrow.

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