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Hillsborough - The Truth and the damned lies

The quest for justice for the 96 has only just begun

Written by . Published on September 12th 2012.

Hillsborough - The Truth and the damned lies

THOSE searching for the truth always knew the guilty were shielding themselves behind a wall of lies. But as the families of the 96 victims of the Hillsborough tragedy discovered for the first time 23 years ago, that wall was bombproof.

The Prime Minister has apologised on behalf of the Government, Sheffield Wednesday has apologised for the failures at its ground and what happened that fateful day in South Yorkshire.  

Trying to say 'it didn’t happen on my watch' 
won’t do. The subsequent parade of senior 
officers from South Yorkshire Police - and others - should have to explain why they kept 
their mouths shut for more than two decades

Now, after being ordered by David Cameron to "face up to his own responsibilities", Kelvin MacKenzie has “profusely apologised to the people of Liverpool” for the outright lies his newspaper printed, under the infamous headline “The Truth”, following the 1989 disaster.

SunHe is still not taking responsibility though: "I too was totally misled,” he added in a statement which went out at 3.06pm, precisely at the moment the city began a two minute silence to remember the dead.

It all came on day of tears and relief, a day that families sat down and steadied and readied themselves for the onerous task of reading, line-by-line, a thumping report as thick as a phone directory. 

On those pages they would learn the extent of the way The Establishment sought to divert blame from themselves to their loved ones. People who never came back, who never got to answer back.

And it was staggering beyond belief. 

As if reading about the cowardly cover-ups were not bad enough, it emerged that 41 of the 96 who died could potentially have been saved.

South Yorkshire Police set out to tell the world they were as clean as a whistle, honest guv, while a coroner tested the blood alcohol levels of the dead, one as young as 10, as they lay 80 miles away in makeshift morgues.  

And to ensure that message was written in stone, 164 police statements were altered and in well over 100 statements comments critical of the police were erased.

Worst still, a campaign of character assassination was launched, even looking at the backgrounds of the deceased, half of them under 21, to see if there was any chance that culpability could be levelled at them.


What is incredible is the extent of the deceit.  Many, many people in authority must have been in on it. Yet it has taken the tenacity of the families, the search for justice for the 96 and the pressure by MPs like Steve Rotheram, Maria Eagle, Andy Burnham and others to extract the truth for all to see.

It raises the question about those in positions of authority who later came to sit in the same uneasy seats of those who sewed the deception in 1989.  Should they have spoken out, especially as it was clear to those with eyes to see that a mother of all cover-ups had been orchestrated?

Trying to say “it didn’t happen on my watch” won’t do. The subsequent parade of senior officers from South Yorkshire Police, and others, should have to explain why they kept their mouths shut for more than two decades. 

No wonder one of the witnesses at Hillsborough said on that dreadful day his respect for authority and the police ended.

The 400-page report is too much to take in and absorb in one go. As every word, every sentence and every paragraph is analysed it will open up more questions and fresh demands for justice for the 96.

Campaigners sought The Truth and they have it, more or less, but that won’t bring closure. It will help end one chapter on one of Liverpool’s darkest hours. But it will open new chapters and questions that could take years to resolve.

Should there be a re-run of the inquests?  Should there be prosecutions or disciplinary action against those who need to be brought to book?  Wrongdoing and injustice does not diminish with time.

Hillsborough Disaster

Rain descended on Liverpool today as the world’s media eavesdropped on what was a momentous breakthrough. The bells across the city rang out in honour of the 96, but for whom or what else did they toll?  They were sending a loud and clear message that this city has been wronged. We knew it and now the world knows it.

Nobody could say the panel, led by Bishop James Jones, was in any way fighting a partisan corner. They had one mission – to extract the truth and the whole truth.

More important than today is what happens in the coming days, weeks and months. Closure has been partial, but it will be some time before that final justice will come.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel, as part of its remit, has not been able to make specific recommendations.  That could be seen more as a strength than a weakness, as the panel set about sifting through half a million pages of notes, reports and statements. In that way the panel is a Trojan horse – breaking through that wall of silence.

Will a new campaign be needed to demand a criminal investigation and prosecutions?

Don't Buy The SunDon't Buy The SunWill The Sun, making the news yet again,  do the right thing and print a page one splash apology tomorrow – and not just in its northern edition?

It has just expressed its "deep sense of shame".

If it does it would only be the start, and a small one at that, of the paper’s rehabilitation in the city.  Many more will see it as too little, too late.

Read the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report here and the official documents here.

The full text of the Prime Minister's apology can be read here

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Jonathan SchofieldSeptember 13th 2012.

Excellent piece Larry. 'The subsequent parade of senior officers from South Yorkshire Police, and others, should have to explain why they kept their mouths shut for more than two decades'. There was one on Radio 4 this morning who immediately reported a confession by some police officers in South Yorkshire of tampering with evidence way back in 1990 to the Home Office. But he didn't go public. His conscience should have told him to do so. The deception could have ended then.

AnonymousSeptember 13th 2012.

That's what the police do. You don't need any qualifications to join the police. You just need to fit in.

AnonymousSeptember 13th 2012.

Coppers have been bent since my granddad's day when he joined and left the Woolton nick in the 1920s.

John LewisSeptember 13th 2012.

I found the comments made by Jack Straw interesting. He referred to the clashes at Orgreave and said Thatcher's government in the 1980s created a "culture of impunity" in the South Yorkshire police which led to the Hillsborough cover-up.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 13th 2012.

nasty political game that, he was home secretary for long enough to have done something about this travesty of justice, but of course he didnt. He couldnt even wait 24 hours after the report was released to start playing political games.

AnonymousSeptember 14th 2012.

Its still the truth though

Andy MedinaSeptember 15th 2012.

As I Manchester United fan I have to say the great Bill Shankly was right about many things, but football isn't more important than life and death and I stand in solidarity behind and understand the cause of the Liverpool fans who campaign for justice for the 96.

I also have a fairly intimate personal knowledge of the behaviour and problems caused by the criminal and wilful negligence of S Yorks Police in Leppings Lane because I was a student in Sheffield between 1981 & 89 and I spent a lot of time as an away fan in Leppings Lane in the years leading up April 15 1989.

As such, I've added my voice numerous times to calls for justice at Hillsborough. It was a predictable accident, something which I say not just with hindsight but which I said prior as you'll read below:

I was caught up in several crushes in Leppings Lane while the police just stood around and did nothing... just allowing the crowd to wander aimlessly and blindly about, this was in stark contrast for instance to Greater Manchester Police who controlled the crowds like a peaceul military operation!

I was crushed and injured against the exit railings in about 1984 or 5 while people shouted for help and my girlfriend, who just managed to make it through the gap, screamed at the Police who just watched from the other side of the railings (sound familiar?).

At a game earlier in the 80s there was a crush in the corner stand which went on into the start of the game, eventually enough people shouted at the police and the solution was to walk the away fans along the touchline during the game, clear a corner in the home kop by marshalling home fans out of the way and segregate us with a line of police on each side..we were pelted mercilessly with missiles by the home fans and the two thirds of the game we managed to see was very unpleasant.

Two months before the disaster for the Sheff Wed-Man Utd game, I bought seating tickets for myself and my GF. We always stood everywhere else and she was quite unhappy that I'd said we should sit, but she hadn't been to Hillsborough before and I told her it was too dangerous to stand and exactly why...because of the Police negligence.

I think she saw my point of view two months later as we vainly tried to respond to the desperate calls on local radio for anyone trained in resusication (as I am) to get to Hillsborough, only to find the roads around the ground completely blocked.

Shockingly, during a perfectly friendly half time, while the away fans laughed, joked and queued for food and drinks, one S Yorks policeman standing at the entrance to the Leppings Lane tunnel, shouted to the another standing on the opposite side, and I quote verbatim, "Look at these f**king w**kers, who the f**k do they think they are?!" Prompting one very large fan to put his arm around the policman's shoulder and say "there's no need for that mate! We're only here to have a good time!"

There was a brief look of fear across the policeman's face as he realised he might have bitten off more than he could chew, but the only other reaction from the several thousand fans around him were looks of slight contempt and disbelief before they carried on what they were doing.

The police and others denied after that disaster that any S Yorks officer could possibly ever have said anything like "F**k off scouser" to fans pleading for help (as was reported), but I and many others know that it they were more than capable and likely to have done so. I wasn't at the game on 15 April, although, as I said, I did my best to help but I knew enough about Hillsborough and S Yorks Police to have a pretty good idea what was going on and why.

And if I, as an occasional visitor, could see what was going on, then the professionals with knowledge of crowd control who were there week in week out and whose responsibility it was to undertake that crowd control must surely also have seen there was a disaster waiting to happen. As I said, it was nothing more than criminal, deliberate negligence and should never have been allowed to happen! Keep campaiging...my voice is with yours!

AnonymousSeptember 15th 2012.

Andy, you're a good man to take the time, and you're right. Thank you.

EditorialSeptember 16th 2012.

Chilling story Andy. Thank you.

MickeydrippinSeptember 17th 2012.

The whole episode has just gone to prove how negligent and incompetent the South Yorkshire Police were in the 1980s (and maybe still are!!). Sadly however, after all the recent disclosures, there is still some anti-Scouser sentiment being perpetuated on some online forums, by idiots insisting that the tragedy was caused Liverpool supporters.

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