Prime minister apologises as the real truth about Hillsborough is discovered
April 1989. FA Cup semi-final day. Liverpool versus Nottingham Forest, Hillsborough. In what was meant to be an enthralling match between two teams with aspirations of reaching a Wembley final, tragedy struck: 96 Liverpool fans died and more were left seriously injured or brain dead as the stand collapsed, crushing the fans.
Over 23 years have passed, but the families who lost loved ones that day have had to endure even more heartbreak since then, as the blame has been firmly pointed at Liverpool fans’ actions.
The media and South Yorkshire police blamed the consequences of that dreadful day on the fans’ behaviour.
The outrage and the campaign by the victims’ families, to not only clear their loved ones names but also to get justice for them, has been relentless.
Mr Hicks, whose two daughters died that day, said if the state did not start legal proceedings the families would do it themselves.
“We have two eminent lawyers. They will take the long-term look,” he told Newsnight.
“If I come back to David Cameron’s statement [to MPs], he said quite categorically that the state had let us down.”
“So we will give the state the opportunity to put that right. But if it looks as though they’re not going to do that, then we will do as we’ve done before and we’ll take it out of their hands.”
The report published on Wednesday was compiled by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which had scrutinised more than 450,000 pages of documents over the past 18 months, many of them previously unseen papers.
Following the publication, David Cameron apologised to victims’ families for the “double injustice”, which he said was both in the “failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth,” and in the efforts to denigrate the deceased and suggest that they were “somehow at fault for their own deaths”.
On the front page of its Thursday edition, the Sun newspaper apologised for its infamous story headlined Hillsborough: The Truth which alleged Liverpool fans had picked the pockets of victims, urinated on police and attacked officers trying to save lives.
In a video on its website, current editor Dominic Mohan said the paper was “deeply ashamed and profoundly sorry”.
The families have always challenged the original inquest, which concluded that all the victims had been dead or brain dead 15 minutes after the game had kicked off at 3pm.
By analysing post-mortem test results, the Hillsborough panel found 28 of the 96 victims had had no “obstruction of blood circulation” and there was “separate evidence that, in 31, the heart and lungs had continued to function after the crush”.
The medical adviser on the panel, Dr Bill Kirkup, said up to 41 of the 96 who died could have potentially been saved if they had received treatment earlier.
Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, said what the families had gone through was an “absolute disgrace”.
“They were the liars and we were the truthful ones,” she said.
“It doesn’t make us feel better, because we will always be the losers at Hillsborough.”
Liverpool fans and relatives of the victims have campaigned for 23 years to find out exactly what happened on the day of the disaster, which saw the biggest loss of life at any UK sporting event.
South Yorkshire Chief Constable David Crompton said : ”If people have broken the law, then they should be prosecuted.”
The report found police and emergency services had made “strenuous attempts” to deflect the blame for the disaster on to fans.
The report found 116 of the police statements identified for “substantive amendment” had been “amended to remove or alter comments unfavourable to South Yorkshire Police”.
What happened yesterday will not eradicate the 23 years of hurt, but hopefully in the not too distant future the victims and their families will get some long-awaited justice.
Paul Jones, football correspondent