As the Hillsborough report is published online, we want to know your memories of the day, how the news filtered through and what you think of today’s findings
15:35 12 September 2012
Update: Kelvin MacKenzie, the editor of The Sun when the paper ran a front page story blaming fans for the Hillsborough tragedy, today offered his “profuse apologies to the people of Liverpool”.
Writer Steve Downes on how the news filtered through to Norwich City fans
I was a 15-year-old Norwich City fan, standing on the Holte End at Villa Park with my dad and brother. For most of the match I was terrified, because the end was so overloaded with supporters that I thought something disastrous was going to happen.
At one point a big surge ended with me pressed against a crush barrier with a bruised rib. News of what was happening at Hillsborough began to filter through via people’s radios in the first half.
The talk of the terrace was that the Liverpool fans had “kicked off”. Then the story began to clear, and it was obvious that some supporters had died. Nobody knew how many, or why.
At this stage, if I’m being honest, I remained more concerned about Norwich City, who were putting on their usual FA Cup semi-final no-show.
When the final whistle blew, we went back to our bus and the driver told us the grim reality of the Hillsborough disaster. Scores of people were dead. And suddenly the match that I had just watched meant nothing – absolutely nothing.
After the initial “it could have been me” reaction (we were similarly squeezed in at the previous match, the FA Cup quarter final at West Ham), I was left with a sick feeling in my stomach, thinking about the awful demise of so many people.
The journey home was quiet, as the fans reflected on something that was far more important than football.
Kelvin MacKenzie, the editor of The Sun when the paper ran a front page story blaming fans for the Hillsborough tragedy, today offered his “profuse apologies to the people of Liverpool”.
Mr MacKenzie, who wrote the headline The Truth on the controversial report, said in a statement: “Today I offer my profuse apologies to the people of Liverpool for that headline.
“I too was totally misled. Twenty three 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.
“As the Prime Minister has made clear these allegations were wholly untrue and were part of a concerted plot by police officers to discredit the supporters thereby shifting the blame for the tragedy from themselves.
“It has taken more than two decades, 400,000 documents and a two-year inquiry to discover to my horror that it would have been far more accurate had I written the headline The Lies rather than The Truth.
“I published in good faith and I am sorry that it was so wrong.”
Trevor Hicks of the Family Support Group said the apology offered by Kelvin MacKenzie was “too little too late” and referred to the former editor of The Sun as “a lowlife”.
The report has revealed how police and emergency services made “strenuous attempts” to deflect the blame for the Hillsborough disaster onto innocent fans, newly published documents about the tragedy revealed today.
The disclosures were made by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which has been overseeing the release of thousands of official documents relating to Britain’s deadliest sporting disaster.
Ninety six Liverpool supporters died in a crush at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium on April 15, 1989, where their team were to meet Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final.
Norwich City were playing in the other semi-final on that day, against Everton at Villa Park.
Introducing the report to the Hillsborough families at the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool, Bishop James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool and chairman of the panel, said: “For nearly a quarter of a century the families of the 96 and the survivors of Hillsborough have nursed an open wound waiting for answers to unresolved questions.
“It has been a frustrating and painful experience adding to their grief.
“In spite of all the investigations they have sensed that their search for truth and justice has been thwarted and that no-one has been held accountable.
“The documents disclosed to and analysed by the panel show that the tragedy should never have happened.
“There were clear operational failures in response to the disaster and in its aftermath their were strenuous attempts to deflect the blame onto the fans.
“The panel’s detailed report shows how vulnerable victims, survivors and their families are when transparency and accountability are compromised.
“My colleagues and I were from the start of our work impressed by the dignified determination of the families.”
He added: “The panel produces this report without any presumption of where it will lead. But it does so in the profound hope that greater transparency will bring to the families and to the wider public a greater understanding of the tragedy and its aftermath.
“For it is only with this transparency that the families and survivors, who have behaved with such dignity, can with some sense of truth and justice cherish the memory of their 96 loved ones.”
In its summary the panel said: “It is evident from analysis of the various investigations that from the outset South Yorkshire Police sought to deflect responsibility for the disaster on to Liverpool fans ... there is no evidence to support this view.”
The documents also reveal the “extent to which substantive amendments were made” to statements by South Yorkshire Police to remove or alter “unfavourable” comments about the policing of the match and the unfolding disaster.
The documents show, for the first time, that South Yorkshire Ambulance Service documents were “subject to the same process”, the panel said.
They went on to say the wrongful allegations about the fans’ behaviour later printed in some newspapers, particularly The Sun, originated from “a Sheffield press agency, senior SYP officers, an SYP Police Federation spokesperson and a local MP”.
The panel said the Police Federation, “supported informally by the SYP Chief Constable”, sought to develop and publicise a version of events derived in police officers’ allegations of drunkenness, ticketless fans and violence.
“The vast majority of fans on the pitch assisted in rescuing and evaluating the injured and the dead,” the panel said.
The panel said their report raises “profound concerns about the conduct and appropriateness of the inquests”.
The documents go on to reveal the original pathologists’ evidence of a single, unvarying pattern of death was “unsustainable”, the panel said.
The families have always disputed the accidental verdict which followed the inquest into the deaths.
The report found that 116 of the 164 police statements identified for “substantive amendment” were “amended to remove or alter comments unfavourable to SYP.”
One police officer said he only accepted the changes because he was suffering from post-traumatic stress and that he considered it an injustice for statements to have been “doctored” to suit the management of South Yorkshire Police, the report found.
The panel also found that access to Cabinet documents revealed that in an exchange about her Government welcoming the Taylor Report into the tragedy Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher expressed her concern that the “broad thrust” of the report constituted a “devastating criticism of the police”.
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