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Wiki slurs civil servant is sacked but won't be named

Hillsborough families spare Liverpool-based official the wrath of social media

Published on June 17th 2014.

Wiki slurs civil servant is sacked but won't be named

THE families of Hillsborough victims have made the decision NOT to name and shame a civil servant unmasked after making abusive changes to a Wikipedia page about the tragedy. 

The 24-year-old official, who worked in a Merseyside government department, has been fired for gross misconduct, MPs in the Commons will be told today. 

The offender, who is from Hertfordshire but who lives in Liverpool with his fiancée, was identified by the Cabinet Office. It followed a Daily Telegraph probe into his activity in the online encyclopedia which left “fingerprints” that linked to his home-town, his employment history and to his Twitter account. 

He used the Whitehall-linked intranet (GSI) to mock the 1989 tragedy in which 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death at Sheffield Wednesday’s football ground.

The junior admin officer edited the phrase “You’ll never walk alone”, to read: “You’ll never walk again.” and inserted the line "blame Liverpool fans" to another paragraph.

He later added the phrase “This is a shit-hole” to the Wikipedia page for Anfield and “nothing for the victims of the Heysel disaster” to a section of the site dedicated to the Liverpool ground’s Hillsborough memorial. 

But despite the nature of the remarks and widespread fury sparked by the revelations in April, the Hillsborough Family Support group say they will not be calling for the man to be publicly named because of the potential social media backlash. 

Margaret Aspinall, chairman of the group, said: "We had a meeting on Friday evening and all the families agreed that his name should be withheld. 

"He has been sacked, and we all took the decision not to name him because social media can be very unpleasant.” 

Margaret AspinallMargaret Aspinall: 'The most important thing is that this has been dealt with and it has not been covered up'

It had been thought that it would be almost impossible to trace the offender through purely technical means and it was initially assumed that official was based in Whitehall. But in the end, some common-sense sleuthing led to the man, an avid Chelsea supporter who is engaged to an Everton fan from the city. 

In his comments about Anfield's capacity, he claimed that attendance at the ground was worse than Chelsea and Everton football clubs — “and even Borehamwood”. 

Wikipediocracy, an internet community watchdog, alerted The Telegraph to subsequent edits that appeared to have been made from the same government IP address to Borehamwood’s dedicated Wikipedia page. 

There he wrote critical comments about recruitment firm Adecco, with whom he had grievances, and left biographical details about his time in the area. 


The investigation later tracked down a man with access to the GSI who had made comments about Hillsborough and Heysel on social media and was also linked to Adecco, Borehamwood, Chelsea and Everton. Online activity also suggested he had made sexist edits to a Wikipedia page on Sky presenter Natalie Sawyer, the Sky presenter about whom he has tweeted fondly. 

It is believed the official denied any wrongdoing when interviewed by Home Office investigators. He was put on “special leave” while his work station was taken apart for evidence. 

A source close to the Cabinet Office’s investigation told reporters: "They are a very junior and young administrative officer. This dismissal is for the 2012 edits only but in the absence of other leads relating to other edits the investigation has concluded.” 

Andy Burnham, the MP who has overseen the inquiry, said: “These edits were hurtful to the families, but all the more troubling coming from a government computer.” 

Natalie SawyerNatalie SawyerLast month Margaret Aspinall told the newspaper she was “frustrated” by what she considered to be the slow progress of the investigation, adding: “We weren’t told they could be from Liverpool - one of our own - that’s so much worse.

“They were big enough and manly enough to do it, and they should face the consequences. Of course, they should be named,” she said

However now it appears there has been a change of heart:  "The most important thing is that this has been dealt with and it has not been covered up. He has been punished."

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

JHJune 17th 2014.

I think they should have exposed him - given he thought he was so brave. Lots of people use pseudonyms and that is fair enough to make comments. But when you are writing something very nasty that you have not got the guts to 'own' thats a different matter! People are very brave behind keyboards. Remember - you should never type out what you would not be happy to have pinned on the wall with your name on it!

1 Response: Reply To This...
DawnJune 17th 2014.

He won't stay anonymous for long. There are a lot of civil servants with Twitter accounts in Liverpool. I hope people see it for what it is, an error of judgment in this blown up hypersensitive world we live in, and don't crucify him. After all, he has been sacked, probably won't get another job and let us remember, he isn't a child murderer. He put something silly on Wikipedia that went unnoticed for two years.

AnonymousJune 17th 2014.

Once again, the dignity of the HFSG shines out and they keep their place on the moral high ground by staying out of this. Good on em. But I'd expect it to leak out somewhere, and world of guano will fall in on him

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 17th 2014.

Hear hear! The whole country should know about the dignity of these people.

Myles FailbetterJune 20th 2014.

A truly magnamimous gesture from the Hillsborough group. (It would have been a tragedy if this creep had been named and lynched)

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