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Police wanted Hillsborough fund for gifts - reports

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Liverpool supporters attend a Hillsborough memorial service 20 years after the disaster, at Anfield, on April 15, 2009. Police officers investigating the 1989 disaster wanted funds donated in memory of the victims to be spent on holiday flats and gifts for officers, British media reported. (AFP/File)

Police officers investigating the 1989 Hillsborough disaster wanted funds donated in memory of the victims to be spent on holiday flats and gifts for officers, British media reported on Tuesday.

Citing documents released during an independent inquiry into the tragedy, which claimed the lives of 96 fans of Liverpool Football Club, regional newspaper the Liverpool Echo said officers from South Yorkshire Police circulated a 'wish list' of ideas in 1991 about how "residual money" from the fund could be spent.

Their list included buying microwave ovens for police station kitchens, new gym equipment, gifts for police officers, and the purchase of a holiday home overseas, according to the paper.

The majority of the ??12 million ($18.8 million, 14 million euros) fund, which was largely made up of donations from members of the public, was given to families of the victims and survivors of the disaster.

Trustees asked the police and other organisations for suggestions on how to use the money that remained, but none of the projects put forward by South Yorkshire Police are thought to have been approved.

The chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, Margaret Aspinall, called the reports "despicable".

"It is one of the most shocking things I've heard in a long time," she told the Echo.

"People often think all of that money went to the families, but they are wrong. A lot of it went elsewhere. I feel that 96 people died for that money and they wanted to use it for new microwaves. It's despicable."

The current Deputy Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, Andy Holt, told the BBC that the force's proposals were made in response to an approach by the fund's trustees.

"As a result, South Yorkshire Police formally submitted a number of suggestions to the trustees of the Hillsborough Disaster Fund which included enhancing the quality of the police control rooms at Hillsborough and other football stadia to improve public safety and the policing of future football matches," he said.

"In addition, a small number of other suggestions were made by individual officers and or staff at the time that included the provision of items of gymnasium equipment in police gyms to help maintain the health and fitness of officers, and the purchase of a holiday flat for use by officers and their families."

The victims of the disaster were crushed to death amid huge overcrowding at one end of Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield prior to an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in April 1989. It was the worst sporting disaster in British history.

Initial verdicts of accidental death were quashed by the High Court in London last December following a long campaign for justice led by families of the victims. New investigations into the deaths are due to begin in March next year.