Hillsborough papers: Release of documents exonerates fans for disaster
It has been a day of apologies and a day full of emotion for the families of the Hillsborough disaster.
Prime Minister David Cameron, former editor of the Sun newspaper Kelvin MacKenzie and South Yorkshire police have all issued apologies to the families, following the official release today of the independent panel’s findings into the tragedy in 1989.
The panel, set up in 2010, has been scrutinising more than 450,000 pages of official documents.
Some of the panel findings included that a total of 41 people out of the 96 who died ‘had the potential to be saved,’ beyond the 3.15pm cut-off time that had been determined by the original inquest.
The report also found 116 ‘removed negative comments’ - and that 164 statements about police operation ‘were significantly amended.’
Flaws were found in the police operation and new evidence has been revealed that the police carried out checks on those who had died in order to ‘impugn their reputations.’
Cameron offers heartfelt apology
At the House of Commons, Prime Minister Cameron made a statement, admitting that the findings of the panel ‘are deeply distressing.’
He said: “What happened that day – and since – was wrong. It is right for me as Prime Minister to make a proper apology.
“There are no grey areas. Today’s report is black and white. The Liverpool fans were not to blame for the disaster.”
Cameron has also said the Attorney General Dominic Grieve would review the report as soon as possible, to decide whether to apply to the High Court to order a new inquest.
Labour MP Andy Burnham, who has worked very hard to get the documents released since he was heckled at the Hillsborough memorial service in 2009, thanked the Prime Minister for his heartfelt apology.
“I thank the Prime Minister for every single word of his statement today. Their value in Liverpool simply cannot be calculated.
“It comes far too late for many, of course, but finally the full horror of Hillsborough has been revealed – a catalogue of negligence, appalling failure and sheer mendacity; a tragedy that should have been prevented; lives that should have been saved.”
MacKenzie says sorry too but it’s too late for some
Kelvin MacKenzie, the controversial former editor of the Sun newspaper released his own apology for the distasteful headlines that he allowed to be run in the aftermath of the disaster.
The Sun’s source for their hideous front page ‘The Truth,’ came from a local MP and a Sheffield news agency, having been fed information by members of South Yorkshire police.
Some of the outrageous claims included fans robbing the dead and urinating on victims.
MacKenzie said: “I too was totally misled. Twenty three years ago, I was handed a piece of copy from a reputable news agency in Sheffield in which a senior police officer and a senior local MP were making serious allegations against fans in the stadium.
“I had absolutely no reason to believe that these authority figures would lie and deceive over such a disaster.”
His apology will not change the feelings of many on Merseyside, who still boycott buying the Sun after what was said in the aftermath.
Trevor Hicks, who lost his two daughters, Sarah and Victoria at Hillsborough will not accept his regret.
“It is too little, too late. The man is a lowlife.”
He did add: “The truth is out today and the justice starts tomorrow.”
Another gaffe from South Yorkshire
In their official statement today, South Yorkshire police made another gaffe, initially stating the disaster took place on ‘18th April 1989.’
Although they have since reworded this, it was a staggering mistake to make on this day of all days.
The chief constable of the force today said: “Statements were altered which sought to minimise police blame.
“These actions have caused untold pain and distress for over 23 years. I am profoundly sorry for the way the force failed on 15th April 1989 and I am doubly sorry for the injustice that followed and I apologise to the families of the 96 and Liverpool fans.
“South Yorkshire Police is a very different place in 2012 from what it was 23 years ago and we will be fully open and transparent in helping to find answers to the questions posed by the Panel today.”
An emotional day
There have also been official statements from Liverpool FC on their website and from Sheffield Wednesday, whose Hillsborough ground was involved in the disaster.
The group has also received support from fellow supporters and footballers. Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney tweeted: “Everyone involved in the cover up of Hillsborough is a disgrace and needs (to be) punished.”
The families arrived at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral to look at the findings today at 8am before they were made available to the public around lunchtime.
There was a two minute silence at 3.06pm which was the time the referee took the players of Liverpool and Nottingham Forest off the field on the dark day in 1989.
Tonight, there will be a vigil held for the 96 victims at St George’s Plateau. The Hillsborough Justice Campaign will now be deciding whether this new evidence is enough to trigger a new inquest at the High Court.
The findings mean that this almost certainly is likely to be inevitable. The fight for justice will continue but as Margaret Aspinall, who lost her son James at Hillsborough and chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families Support Group said: “the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster can finally rest in peace.”
Liverpool fans are now officially not to blame for the disaster, which is something that the families of the bereaved have always believed.
Today is a major breakthrough for the families and on an emotional day, they have handled everything in a dignified and fantastic manner.
Today won’t bring back the 96 souls who were crushed on the terraces of Hillsborough but now they can rest in peace with the truth firmly out in the public eye.
By Simon Wright – Follow me on Twitter @Siwri88
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