The Truth Is Finally Told

12 Sep

It’s an emotional day, not only for Liverpool supporters, but football fans all over the world. After 23 years of lying and victim blaming, the truth has finally come out. The Hillsborough Independent Panel has released their report and the scope of the cover up and smear campaign is absolutely astounding.

Hillsborough was the worst sporting related tragedy in English history. 96 men, women and children lost their lives while thousands more were injured in what can only be termed as a huge operational clusterfuck and utter lack of emergency preparedness.  To add insult, the warning signs were there long before. In 1981 at another FA Cup semi final match at Hillsborough, Spurs fans were crushed and hundreds had to be taken over the barriers onto the pitch as this video attests. Obviously, no one in charge heeded what were some very serious omens (many of the people in comments for that video shared similar experiences at the same ground).

What is incredibly painful is that the police sought to shift the blame to the fans painting them as a drunken mob who brought this tragedy upon themselves. The report brought up some dreadful details. All the dead had their blood alcohol levels tested, even the children, in an attempt to try to push the blame back to fans. 164 witness statements were “significantly amended” and 116 were found to have “explicitly removed negative comments” about the police. Most heartbreaking: 41 people out of the 96 “had the potential to be saved.”

I remember well the pictures that came across the pond at the time – they’re forever burned into my head – fans pressed up against the fences, not even having enough breath to scream, while the life was crushed out of them. I hate crowds with a passion and am claustrophobic at the best of times due to some incidents from when I was younger. Those pictures gave me nightmares. I can’t even imagine what people who lost their loved ones thought seeing them.  I just can’t and won’t post them here. When I think of what those people endured and the utter shite that has been slung at them in the 23 years since, it makes my blood boil. Douchebags like The Sun have still not issued an apology (as of this writing) for the crap they posted back then. However, the man who was the editor at the time, Kelvin MacKenzie, did release an apology today saying he had been misled by police. Fair enough, but why jump to the conclusion that those horrible things were true? Why not do a bit of, you know, investigation? Find out the truth? Why not give the dead the benefit of the doubt? Did you really think that there were no innocents involved, for fuck’s sake? I’m guessing for the families that this apology is too little, too late.

Those who survived suffered as well. Here’s an account of someone who made it out alive and if you check the comments on BBC’s live coverage of the verdict, you’ll see similar thoughts from many others as well.

I cried this morning reading the report and watching the press conference.  In the interest of  transparency (finally), the report has been released along with the 450,000 documents that were reviewed by the panel. There is a full site for the independent panel. It makes for harrowing reading. The incompetence and sheer amount of ass-covering is jaw dropping. This was a case of a widespread, concerted effort to cover up the truth. If they had put that much attention into their disaster planning and crowd control measures, then the 96 wouldn’t be dead in the first place. It’s just sickening. I don’t know how these people have lived with themselves for the past 23 years.

Prime Minister David Cameron today made a statement to the House of Commons in which he said unequivocally that Liverpool fans were not to blame for the tragedy.

Here it is in its entirety:

THE FULL STATEMENT

Today the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Reverend James Jones, is publishing the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

The disaster at the Hillsborough football stadium on 15th April 1989 was one of the greatest peacetime tragedies of the last century.
But the Inquiry didn’t have access to all the documents that have since become available, it didn’t properly examine the response of the emergency services, it was followed by a deeply controversial inquest, and by a media version of events that sought to blame the fans.

As a result, the families have not heard the truth and have not found justice.

That is why the previous government – and in particular – the Rt Hon Member for Leigh was right to set up this Panel.

And it is why this government insisted that no stone should be left unturned and that all papers should be made available to the Bishop of Liverpool and his team.

Mr Speaker, in total over 450,000 pages of evidence have been reviewed.

It was right that the families should see the Report first.

As a result the government has only had a very limited amount of time to study the evidence so far.

But it is already very clear that many of the report’s findings are deeply distressing.

There are three areas in particular.

The failure of the authorities to help protect people.

The attempt to blame the fans.

And the doubt cast on the original Coroner’s Inquest.

Let me take each in turn.

FINDINGS: FAILURE OF THE AUTHORITIES

First, there is new evidence about how the authorities failed.

There is a trail of new documents which show the extent to which the safety of the crowd at Hillsborough was “compromised at every level”.

The ground failed to meet minimum standards and the “deficiencies were well known”.

The turnstiles were inadequate.

The ground capacity had been significantly over-calculated.

The crush barriers failed to meet safety standards.

There had been a crush at exactly the same match the year before.

And today’s report shows clearly that lessons had not been learnt.

The report backs up again the key finding of the Taylor Report on police failure.

But it goes further by revealing for the first time the shortcomings of the ambulance and emergency services response.

The major incident plan was not fully implemented.

Rescue attempts were held back by failures of leadership and co-ordination.

And, significantly, new documents today show there was a delay from the emergency services when people were being crushed and killed.

FINDINGS: ATTEMPT TO BLAME THE FANS

Second, the families have long believed that some of the authorities attempted to create a completely unjust account of events that sought to blame the fans for what happened.

Mr Speaker, the families were right.

The evidence in today’s report includes briefings to the media, and attempts by the Police to change the record of events.

On the media. Several newspapers reported false allegations that fans were drunk and violent and stole from the dead.

The Sun’s report sensationalised these allegations under a banner headline “The Truth.”

This was clearly wrong and caused huge offence, distress and hurt.

News International has co-operated with the Panel and, for the first time, today’s report reveals that the source for these despicable untruths was a Sheffield news agency reporting conversations with South Yorkshire Police and Irvine Patnick, the then MP for Sheffield Hallam.

The Report finds that this was part of police efforts – and I quote – “to develop and publicise a version of events that focused on – allegations of drunkenness, ticketlessness and violence.”

In terms of changing the record of events, we already know that police reports were significantly altered but the full extent was not drawn to Lord Justice Taylor’s attention.

Today’s Report finds that 164 statements were significantly amended – and 116 explicitly removed negative comments about the policing operation – including its lack of leadership.

The report also makes important findings about particular actions taken by the police and coroner while investigating the deaths.

There is new evidence which shows that police officers carried out police national computer checks on those who had died in an attempt – and I quote from the report – “to impugn the reputations of the deceased”.

The Coroner took blood alcohol levels from all of the deceased including children.

The Panel finds no rationale whatsoever for what it regards as an “exceptional” decision.

The report states clearly that the attempt of the inquest to draw a link between blood alcohol and late arrival was “fundamentally flawed”.

And that alcohol consumption was “unremarkable and not exceptional for a social or leisure occasion”.

Mr Speaker, over all these years questions have been raised about the role of the government – including whether it did enough to uncover the truth.

It is certainly true that some of the language in the government papers published today was insensitive.

But having been through every document – and every government document including Cabinet Minutes will be published – the Panel found no evidence of any government trying to conceal the truth.

At the time of the Taylor Report the then Prime Minister was briefed by her private secretary that the defensive and – I quote – “close to deceitful” behaviour of senior South Yorkshire officers was “depressingly familiar.”

And it is clear that the then government thought it right that the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire should resign.But as the Rt Hon Member for Leigh has rightly highlighted, governments then and since have simply not done enough to challenge publicly the unjust and untrue narrative that sought to blame the fans.

FINDINGS: ORIGINAL CORONER’S INQUEST

Third, and perhaps most significantly of all, the Bishop of Liverpool’s report presents new evidence which casts significant doubt over the adequacy of the original Inquest.

The Coroner – on the advice of pathologists – believed that victims suffered traumatic asphyxia leading to unconsciousness within seconds and death within a few minutes.

As a result he asserted that beyond 3.15pm there were no actions that could have changed the fate of the victims and he limited the scope of the Inquest accordingly.

But by analysing post mortem reports the Panel have found that 28 did not have obstruction of blood circulation and 31 had evidence of heart and lungs continuing to function after the crush.

This means that individuals in those groups could have had potentially reversible asphyxia beyond 3.15pm in contrast to the findings of the Coroner and a subsequent Judicial Review.

And the Panel states clearly that “it is highly likely that what happened to those individuals after 3.15pm was significant” in determining whether they died.

RESPONSE

Mr Speaker, the conclusions of this report will be harrowing for many of the families affected.

“The families have long believed that some of the authorities attempted to create a completely unjust account of events that sought to blame the fans for what happened. The families were right.”

Anyone who has lost a child knows the pain never leaves you. But to read a report years afterwards that says – and I quote, “a swifter, more appropriate, better focused and properly equipped response had the potential to save more lives”, can only add to the pain

It is for the Attorney General to decide whether to apply to the High Court to quash the original inquest and seek a new one.

In this capacity he acts independently of government. And he will need to examine the evidence himself.

But it is clear to me that the new evidence in today’s report raises vital questions which must be examined.

And the Attorney General has assured me that he will examine this new evidence immediately and reach a decision as fast as possible.

But ultimately it is for the High Court to decide.

It is also right that the House should have an opportunity to debate the issues raised in this report fully.

My Rt Hon Friend the Home Secretary will be taking forward a debate in Government time. And this will happen when the House returns in October.

APOLOGY

Mr Speaker, I want to be very clear about the view the government takes about these findings and why after 23 years this matters so much, not just for the families but for Liverpool and for our country as a whole.

Mr Speaker what happened that day – and since – was wrong.

It was wrong that the responsible authorities knew Hillsborough did not meet minimum safety standards and yet still allowed the match to go ahead.

It was wrong that the families have had to wait for so long – and fight so hard – just to get to the truth.

And it was wrong that the police changed the records of what happened and tried to blame the fans.

We ask the police to do difficult and often very dangerous things on our behalf.

And South Yorkshire Police is a very different organisation today from what it was then.

But we do the many, many honourable police men and women a great disservice if we try to defend the indefensible.

It was also wrong that neither Lord Justice Taylor nor the Coroner looked properly at the response of the other emergency services.

Again, these are dedicated people who do extraordinary things to serve the public.

But the evidence from today’s report makes very difficult reading.

Mr Speaker, with the weight of the new evidence in this Report, 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.

Indeed, the new evidence that we are presented with today makes clear that these families have suffered a double injustice.

The injustice of the appalling events – the failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth.

And the injustice of the denigration of the deceased – that they were somehow at fault for their own deaths.

On behalf of the Government – and indeed our country – I am profoundly sorry for this double injustice that has been left uncorrected for so long.

Mr Speaker, because of what I have described as the second injustice – the false version of events – not enough people in this country understand what the people of Merseyside have been through.

This appalling death toll of so many loved ones lost was compounded by an attempt to blame the victims.

A narrative about hooliganism on that day was created which led many in the country to accept that it was somehow a grey area.

Today’s report is black and white. The Liverpool fans “were not the cause of the disaster”.

The Panel has quite simply found “no evidence” in support of allegations of “exceptional levels of drunkenness, ticketlessness or violence among Liverpool fans”, “no evidence that fans had conspired to arrive late at the stadium” and “no evidence that they stole from the dead and dying.”

Mr Speaker, I’m sure the whole House will want to thank the Bishop of Liverpool and his Panel for all the work they have done.

And I am sure that all sides will join with me in paying tribute to the incredible strength and dignity of the Hillsborough families and the community which has backed them in their long search for justice.

While nothing can ever bring back those who have been lost with all the documents revealed and nothing held back the families, at last, have access to the truth.

And I commend this Statement to the House.

The Attorney General is now reviewing the report and will decide whether to request that the High Court overturns the original inquest verdict and starts a new inquest.

England and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard lost his cousin that day. Jon-Paul Gilhooley was the youngest victim to die at age 10. Stevie made a brief statement.

Crosstown rivals Everton showed their support for the 96 today as this picture from @photogareth shows.

Respect. Because team affiliation has nothing to do with something that was a tragedy for all football fans. We go to games with the hopes our team will win, we’ll have a great day in the sun with our mates and come home with some good tales to tell. Football (and sport overall) is about joy, friendly competition, camaraderie. On April 15, 1989, it turned in a moment to something tragic with a painful legacy of lies and misinformation touching off a 23 year fight to clear the names of innocent people. This is just the first part of a long journey on the road to justice for the 96. I agree with Stan Collymore, it’s time for some people to be arrested and prosecuted for their part in this. Paul Dalglish expressed it beautifully (and succinctly) today on Twitter: “After truth must come justice. After justice can come peace.

I hope the families sleep a little bit easier tonight. The fight is still not over, but a major hurdle has been cleared.

Let’s take a moment to remember those who lost their lives while supporting their team:

John Alfred Anderson (62)
Colin Mark Ashcroft (19)
James Gary Aspinall (18)
Kester Roger Marcus Ball (16)
Gerard Bernard Patrick Baron (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)
David 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)
Thomas Steven 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 Darren Hewitt (17)
Nicholas Michael Hewitt (16)
Sarah Louise Hicks (19)
Victoria Jane Hicks (15)
Gordon Rodney Horn (20)
Arthur Horrocks (41)
Thomas Howard (39)
Thomas 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 David Kelly (38)
Carl David Lewis (18)
David William Mather (19)
Brian Christopher Mathews (38)
Francis Joseph McAllister (27)
John McBrien (18)
Marion Hazel McCabe (21)
Joseph Daniel 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 William Rimmer (21)
David George Rimmer (38)
Graham John Roberts (24)
Steven Joseph Robinson (17)
Henry Charles Rogers (17)
Colin Andrew Hugh William Sefton (23)
Inger Shah (38)
Paula Ann Smith (26)
Adam Edward Spearritt (14)
Philip John Steele (15)
David Leonard Thomas (23)
Patrik John Thompson (35)
Peter Reuben Thompson (30)
Stuart Paul William 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)

Rest in Peace. YNWA.

– Lozil

15 Responses to “The Truth Is Finally Told”

  1. cindy yin (@meridiansour) September 12, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

    the most powerful of your posts so far. it took 23 years to reveal the truth, i hope it doesn’t take that long for justice to come.

  2. Sveva September 12, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    I was just a little girl when this happened, but I clearly remember the shock and emotion this tragedy caused in my family, just four years after the Heysel disaster.
    I wonder if justice after 23 years can be still called justice, as you said “too little, too late”. My thoughts are with the families and friends.

  3. sweethearthalo September 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    When I look at the age of the ones who died, it’s horrible. 14,15,16 and so on and so on. I’m so sorry for the families. So many people die without any reason, they died because they wanted to watch their team play. It’s heartbreaking.
    Thank you for the post and let’s all take a moment to remember how fragile life actually is and that we should be thankful for what we have… and always love your club.

    YNWA.

  4. Kiki September 12, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    I’m so relieved this has finally come out and so saddened that it took so long for the families to find out the truth. It’s disgraceful and cowardly the way it was covered up when these people were in pain and mourning the loss of their relatives. It pains me to see how young some of those fans were that died and how many families seem to have lost more than one member in the disaster. I only hope something like this will never happen again.
    YNWA

  5. black widow September 12, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    thank you so much for posting this.

    my introduction to football and my first love for a club (and player) was liverpool. LFC will always have a part of my heart, and this is just one of the reasons why. i remember when this happened, the horror of the news compounded with the disbelief over the accusations didn’t make me sad as much as it made me angry. a family member lost her fiance at hillsborough, and a friend lost a friend of his. i hope they, and all those affected by this — families, fans, players, and the club — are feeling some small sense of closure today. it isn’t over yet, but it’s a step in the right direction. YNWA.

  6. Mandi September 12, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    I cried this morning as I read the news. I’m not sure if the were tears of happiness, joy, sadness, grief or relief. Probably all of them.
    I remember the first time I heard about this disaster and what the S*n printed. I couldn’t believe it. I’m so happy the truth has come out. Let’s all just hope it doesn’t take 23 years for the justice and peace portions. YNWA JFT96

  7. Mel September 12, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    I saw a documentary about Hillsborough – 20 years after. It was mindblowing how the police in particular acted. When people tried to escape the section that was overfilled, and jumped onto the field, the police men were ordered to line up and barricade the end where the Sheffield fans where, because the drunken out of control Liverpool mob would start a riot! What a conspiracy! People tried to safe their lifes! The took the advertising banners along the field, and used them as stretchers to get the dead out of the section. They are very much up to know good – my ass!!!!!!! I am so angry, and that noone

  8. Mel September 12, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    I saw a documentary about Hillsborough – 20 years after. It was mindblowing how the police in particular acted. When people tried to escape the section that was overfilled, and jumped onto the field, the police men were ordered to line up and barricade the end where the Sheffield fans where, because the drunken out of control Liverpool mob would start a riot! What a conspiracy! People tried to safe their lifes! The took the advertising banners along the field, and used them as stretchers to get the dead out of the section. They are very much up to know good – my ass!!!!!!! I am so angry, and that noone has been held accountable 23 years later is unbelievebly inacceptable!

  9. CinematiqueChic September 12, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    This is really hard to read, because it’s just so heartbreaking. I hope this leads the way to justice, and that the families can get peace. YNWA.

  10. Katie Ann September 12, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    Respect to Steven Gerrard for all the interviews in which he spoke about the need for justice and insisted that the truth would come out in time. I’m glad that- finally- it’s the case. Such a tragic event, and my thoughts are with everyone connected to it. YNWA.

  11. Nooria September 12, 2012 at 10:46 pm #

    Wow. This story always leaves me speechless no matter how many times i encounter it. May justice be brought to the 96 innocent victims.

  12. jellyace September 13, 2012 at 12:52 am #

    This was a difficult read. I’m glad people are finally stepping up and declaring the truth. Thank you for this, Lozil.

  13. mygypsyspirit September 13, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    I only learned about this tragedy quite a few years after it happened. I was young when it happened and, unfortunately, it wasn’t something that made major news in the area I’m from.
    This is a tragedy that transcends team affiliation. The more I learned about it, the more I had respect for players, coaches, and fans of Liverpool even though I am not a fan myself.
    I especially respect Steven Gerrard, who was 9 years old when the tragedy happened. He lost his cousin, Jon-Paul Gilhooley aged 10, in the incident. He still speaks about the tragedy and conducts himself admirably, just like the rest of the families of the victims. The only difference is that Gerrard lives in the spotlight, making him almost the face of the Hillsborough disaster.
    Thank you for this. It is gorgeous. I only hope for justice

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