Hillsborough: Lies Exposed as Liverpool Fans and Families Finally Hear the Truth

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2012

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10:  The Hillsborough memorial is covered with tributes at Anfield Stadium, the home of Liverpool Football Club on September 10, 2012 in Liverpool, England.  On Wednesday relatives and friends of the 96 victims of  the Hillsborough football stadium tragedy in Sheffield on 15 April 1989 will see the full disclosure of all documents relating to the disaster when they are made public at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral.   (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

"It is right for me today, as Prime Minister, to make a proper apology to the families of the 96 for all they have suffered over the past 23 years. The injustice of the appalling events; the failure of the state to protected their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth and then the injustice of the denigration of the deceased, that they were somehow at fault for their own deaths. So, on the behalf of our government, and indeed our country, I am profoundly sorry that this double injustice has been left uncorrected for so long."

Those were the words spoken by Prime Minister David Cameron this morning, words fans and families of Liverpool Football Club, the club affected by the Hillsborough disaster which claimed 96 lives, have been waiting more than 23 years to hear.

After more than eighteen months of studying documents and researching thoroughly what took place at Sheffield Wednesday's football stadium on April 15th 1989, an independent panel today presented its absolute verdict—the families were right.

For the uninitiated, that day saw Liverpool and Nottingham Forest play out an FA Cup semifinal at Hillsborough, a game which had to be abandoned just minutes after starting due to what was fast becoming a killing field behind Liverpool's goal. Overcrowding in the Leppings Lane end of the stadium due to police incompetence led to dozens of supporters being crushed, and the eventual deaths of 96 of them.

So much could, and should, have been done to prevent the deaths, yet in the aftermath of the game the police force responsible was concerned with one thing only: shifting the blame for the disaster onto the innocent fans, who had been forced to watch their loved ones die at a football match.

Key Facts of the Independent Panel's findings:

  • Over 450,000 documents were looked through.
  • There was a delay from emergency services when fans were being crushed.
  • 28 people had definite evidence no obstruction of blood circulation.
  • 31 had evidence of heart and lung functions after the crush.
  • It is highly likely that events after the 3:15 p.m. time limit initially imposed by the coroner played a part in determining whether these supporters died.
  • 164 police statements were significantly amended.
  • 116 of them explicitly removed negative comments about the policing operation including their lack of leadership.
  • This was part of police efforts "to develop and publicise a version of events that focused on allegations of drunkenness, ticketlessness and violence."
  • Evidence shows police carried out blood-alcohol level checks on ALL victims INCLUDING children, which the panel finds no rationale for whatsoever.
  • Further evidence that police officers carried out computer checks on victims to "impune the reputations of the deceased."

In the early morning before PM David Cameron's speech, the bereaved families gathered to hear the findings of the panel.

Though they had known themselves through first-hand accounts and experiences that the slurs and lies spread for years about what occurred were wrong, hearing it proclaimed and admitted, officially and out loud, must have been a simultaneously heart-wrenching and yet bitter-sweetly gratifying moment.

As Cameron put it:

The Sun's report sensationalised these allegations under the banner, 'The Truth'. This was clearly wrong and caused huge offence, distress and hurt. A narrative about hooliganism that day was created which led many in the country to accept that somehow it was a grey area. Today's report is black and white: the Liverpool fans were not the cause of the disaster. 

For almost 23 years and five months, nearly all supporters of Liverpool—and indeed of Everton, fellow Merseysiders—have refused to buy the newspaper which printed the lies claiming that Reds supporters robbed the dead bodies, urinated on the policemen trying to save lives and beat up a police officer giving one victim the kiss of life.

A hollow-sounding and well-overdue apology from the publication in question was summarily dismissed by Liverpool supporters and the Hillsborough families in the aftermath of the announcement.

First hand accounts of what went on at Hillsborough during the crush itself present a more harrowing, disturbing and shocking revelation of the event than any cold statistics could, yet the lengths to which the South Yorkshire Police clearly went to in an attempt to deflect any wrongdoing and failing on their part onto the supporters shows a despicable and deplorable contempt, on many levels.

Contempt for the supporters themselves who lay in the Hillsborough gymnasium, given up for dead before they had even stopped breathing and, in the case of 15-year-old Kevin Williams, had stopped moving and speaking.

Contempt, for the justice system that they themselves were supposed to uphold, in trying to pervert and distort the image of the victims, that they were drunken, unruly or criminalistic and had brought their fate upon themselves.

Contempt, on top of all else, for the entire nation who were fed—and in many cases, willingly swallowed—the lies which the police themselves started.

Many, many people in England and beyond her borders have never known or been interested in finding out for themselves the truth about what happened at Hillsborough, preferring to accept what was publicly put out, regardless of the fight for almost two-and-a-half decades by those affected.

Let it go, they said.

It was reported, so there must have been at least some truth in it, they said.

Well, let this be heard loud and clear: Liverpool fans were not the cause of the disaster.

The failings of the police and the emergency services shoulder the vast majority of the blame, though Sheffield Council and the Football Association of England still have their own accountability issues to deal with.

That is for the future though; today came the truth and going forward must come the justice for the wrongs to be righted, as much as it can be anyway. Nothing will bring back those who were lost.

Chief Superintendent Duckenfield—who gave the order to open the gate which initiated the fatal flow of spectators into the central pens and later claimed that supporters "kicked the gate down" themselves—must be brought to justice. He was in charge, he gave the order, and the blood of the 96 deaths is ultimately on his hands.

Purposeful? Of course not. Grossly incompetent and unfit to do his duty? Undeniably so.

Forty-two ambulances were called to Hillsborough as it became apparent that fans needed medical attention.

Half an hour after the game had been stopped, one single vehicle had made it onto the pitch.

All the while, Liverpool fans were creating makeshift stretchers out of advertising hoardings to bring out the injured from the crowd. Not the police. Not, save for very few instances, trained medical staff.

Ninety-six people died as a direct result of the crushing at Hillsborough, and the reaction of those charged with protecting them was to extract blood samples to test for alcohol levels, in the hope of laying the blame squarely at the fans' doorstep. When that didn't work—the report clearly shows and states that excessive alcohol consumption played no part whatsoever—the police resorted to background checks on the deceased, running their names through a criminal database.

Anything but admit their own faults, deficiencies and incompetence.

Dozens of those fans could have been saved.

That is the underlying issue which drives at the heart of the matter. More than half of the people who died at Hillsborough were aged 21 or under, and they could have been saved had they received proper due care and attention.

For the families who have campaigned so long and so relentlessly, this is a monumental day. A big step towards victory and ultimate accountability for those who were in the wrong.

Twenty-three times since their loved ones were lost, Liverpool supporters have come together to remember the anniversary of the 96 who perished and to reaffirm their belief that, one day, justice would be done.

Today, that day seems just that little bit closer.

RIP and YNWA the 96

Jack Alfred Anderson, 62

Colin Mark Ashcroft, 19

James Gary Aspinall, 18

Kester Roger Marcus Ball, 16

Gerard Baron Snr, 67

Simon Bell, 17

Barry Sidney Bennett, 26

David John Benson, 22

David William Birtle, 22

Tony Bland, 22

Paul David Brady, 21

Andrew Mark Brookes, 26

Carl Brown, 18

Steven Brown, 25

Henry Thomas Burke, 47

Peter Andrew Burkett , 24

Paul William Carlile, 19

Raymond Thomas Chapman , 50

Gary Christopher Church, 19

Joseph Clark, 29

Paul Clark, 18

Gary Collins, 22

Stephen Paul Copoc, 20

Tracey Elizabeth Cox, 23

James Philip Delaney, 19

Christopher Barry Devonside, 18

Christopher Edwards, 29

Vincent Michael Fitzsimmons, 34

Steve Fox, 21

Jon-Paul Gilhooley, 10

Barry Glover, 27

Ian Thomas Glover, 20

Derrick George Godwin, 24

Roy Harry Hamilton, 34

Philip Hammond, 14

Eric Hankin, 33

Gary Harrison, 27

Stephen Francis Harrison, 31

Peter Andrew Harrison, 15

David Hawley, 39

James Robert Hennessy, 29

Paul Anthony Hewitson, 26

Carl Hewitt, 17

Nick Hewitt, 16

Sarah Louise Hicks, 19

Victoria Jane Hicks, 15

Gordon Rodney Horn, 20

Arthur Horrocks, 41

Thomas Howard, 39

Tommy Anthony Howard, 14

Eric George Hughes, 42

Alan Johnston, 29

Christine Anne Jones, 27

Gary Philip Jones, 18

Richard Jones, 25

Nicholas Peter Joynes, 27

Anthony Peter Kelly, 29

Michael Kelly, 38

Carl David Lewis, 18

David William Mather, 19

Brian Christopher Matthews, 38

Francis Joseph McAllister, 27

John McBrien, 18

Marian Hazel McCabe, 21

Joe McCarthy, 21

Peter McDonnell, 21

Alan McGlone, 28

Keith McGrath, 17

Paul Brian Murray, 14

Lee Nicol, 14

Stephen Francis O'Neill, 17

Jonathon Owens, 18

William Roy Pemberton, 23

Carl Rimmer, 21

Dave Rimmer, 38

Graham John Roberts, 24

Steven Joseph Robinson, 17

Henry Charles Rogers, 17

Andrew Sefton, 23

Inger Shah, 38

Paula Ann Smith, 26

Adam Edward Spearritt, 14

Philip John Steele, 15

David Leonard Thomas, 23

Pat Thompson, 35

Peter Reuben Thompson, 30

Stuart Thompson, 17

Peter Francis Tootle, 21

Christopher James Traynor, 26

Martin Kevin Traynor, 16

Kevin Tyrrell, 15

Colin Wafer, 19

Ian David Whelan, 19

Martin Kenneth Wild, 29

Kevin Daniel Williams, 15

Graham John Wright, 17


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