Hillsborough: When The Police And Media Colluded To Damn Liverpool’s 96 Innocent Victims
THE Hillsborough Disaster continues to make news.Theresa May, the Home Secretary, says she will do her utmost to make it so that official documents relating to the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans in 1989 are published.
Sir Oliver Popplewell says the Hillborough families should move on. But how can you move on when justice has not been done? Popplewell chaired a public inquiry into deaths of 56 people in a fire at Bradford City’s Valley Parade stadium in May 1985. He writes a letter to the Times:
In the aftermath of other large tragedies, those affected have behaved with quiet dignity and great courage
Sir, Many years ago I had the responsibility of conducting a public inquiry into the fire at Bradford City FC. I was also concerned with the riot at Heysel Stadium, Belgium, caused by Liverpool football fans. Both these events were no less tragic than the events at Hillsborough (“Hillsborough families say papers must be released”, Oct 18).
The citizens of Bradford behaved with quiet dignity and great courage. They did not harbour conspiracy theories. They did not seek endless further inquiries. They buried their dead, comforted the bereaved and succoured the injured. They organised a sensible compensation scheme and moved on.
Is there, perhaps, a lesson there for the Hillsborough campaigners?
Sir Oliver Popplewell
This smacks of the tone used by Broris Johnson in a comumn for The Spectator in which he said the police had been made a ”convenient scapegoat“. He observed “the mawkish sentimentality of a society that has become hooked on grief and likes to wallow in a sense of vicarious victimhood“. As the current mayor of London wrote in The Spectator on 16 Oct 2004:
The soccer international between England and Wales last Saturday managed to display in an instant two of the most unsavoury aspects of life in modern Britain. A request by the authorities for a minute’s silence in memory of Mr Ken Bigley, the news of whose murder by terrorists in Iraq had broken the previous day, was largely and ostentatiously ignored. Yet the fact that such a tribute was demanded in the first place emphasised the mawkish sentimentality of a society that has become hooked on grief and likes to wallow in a sense of vicarious victimhood. There had been a two-minute silence for Mr Bigley that same morning in Liverpool, according him the same respect offered annually to the million and a half British servicemen who have died for their country since 1914…
The extreme reaction to Mr Bigley’s murder is fed by the fact that he was a Liverpudlian. Liverpool is a handsome city with a tribal sense of community. A combination of economic misfortune – its docks were, fundamentally, on the wrong side of England when Britain entered what is now the European Union – and an excessive predilection for welfarism have created a peculiar, and deeply unattractive, psyche among many Liverpudlians. They see themselves whenever possible as victims, and resent their victim status; yet at the same time they wallow in it. Part of this flawed psychological state is that they cannot accept that they might have made any contribution to their misfortunes, but seek rather to blame someone else for it, thereby deepening their sense of shared tribal grievance against the rest of society. The deaths of more than 50 Liverpool football supporters at Hillsborough in 1989 was undeniably a greater tragedy than the single death, however horrible, of Mr Bigley; but that is no excuse for Liverpool’s failure to acknowledge, even to this day, the part played in the disaster by drunken fans at the back of the crowd who mindlessly tried to fight their way into the ground that Saturday afternoon. The police became a convenient scapegoat, and the Sun newspaper a whipping-boy for daring, albeit in a tasteless fashion, to hint at the wider causes of the incident…
Johnson would later apologise. But why say anything in the first place? The facts cannot be changed. Bruce Grobelaar was the Liverpool goalkeeper on that day in Sheffield. His testimony is chilling:
“Two minutes into the game, I was aware of a surge behind me. As I looked down into the front of those pens, I could see people pressed up against the mesh. The wire was digging into their faces and people were shouting: ‘Bruce, can you help us, please? We can’t breathe.’ ”
Steve Rotheram, Labour MP for Walton in Liverpool adressed Parliament last night. He read aloud the names of the 96 who died watching their team play football on a sunny April day. Was it wallowing? No. Was it mawkish? No. This was dignified. And it was almost unbearable. To anyone who has ever stood at the game and screamed their team on to glory, this was testing. If you are too cynical to empathise, then at least feel for yourself. It could have been you or yours.
But the police, MPs and media portrayed it as uniquely Liverpool disaster – one made in the city.
Liverpool fans died. And Liverpool fans endured trial by media, sections of which told them that they alone were to blame. Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield had been in charge of police operations. He said Liverpool fans had forced gate C. Not so. This was a lie. South Yorkshire police attempted to blame supporters for the crush by arriving at the ground “late and drunk“. Duckenfield had given the order for the gates to be open. And then the lie grew. The police told their self-serving version of the facts to the FA. The FA told the reporters. And the papers went to town.
The Sheffield Star: “Many supporters were still propping up the bars at 2.30pm. They raced to the stadium arriving at the Leppings Lane end at the height of the crush. Some of them were the worse for drink, others without tickets were hoping to sneak in. Hubble bubble toil and trouble.. drunkenness and ticketlessness were now added to the equation.”
The Yorkshire Post: “Thousands of fans began the fatal charge… thousands of latecomers tried to force their way into the ground…”
The Daily Star: Dead Fans Robbed By Drink Thugs”
The London Evening Standard: “How long will it take for it publicly to be acknowledged that fans themselves share the blame?… The catastrophe was caused first and foremost by violent enthusiasm for soccer, in this case the tribal passions of Liverpool supporters. They literally killed themselves and others to be at the game.”
Liverpool Daily Post:
So it was at Hillsborough that the yobs made enough nuisance of themselves to convince the police that so-called gates of Hell were opened… the gatecrashers wreaked their fatal havoc. At best it was unfettered zeal. At worst it was uncontrolled fanaticism and mass hysteria which literally squeezed the life out of men, women and children. This was yobbism at its most base. People without tickets who had no right to be there were crushing to death their fellow Scousers. When it comes to apportioning blame, the accusatory finger can also be pointed at Liverpool. Scouse killed Scouse for no better reason than 22 men were kicking a ball.
The Truth; some fans picked pockets of victims; some fans urinated on the brave cops; some fans beat up PC giving kiss of life.
“Drunken Liverpool fans viciously attacked rescue workers as they tried to revive victims of the Hillsborough soccer disaster, it was revealed last night. Police officers, firemen and ambulance crew were punched, kicked and urinated upon by a hooligan element in the crowd.
“Some thugs rifled the pockets of injured fans as they were stretched out unconscious on the pitch. Sheffield MP Irvine Patnick revealed that in one shameful episode a gang of Liverpool fans noticed that the blouse of a girl trampled to death had risen above her breasts. As a policeman struggled in vain to revive her, the mob jeered: ‘Throw her up here and we will **** her’”
Patnick had not been at the game. Who has supplied him with such lurid lies?
The lie had become fact to such a degree that the coroner took blood from all the victims and tested it for alcohol levels. One of the victims, Jon-Paul Gilhooley, was 10.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Press Secretary Bernard Ingham opined:
“I know what I learned on the spot; there would have been no Hillsborough if a mob, clearly tanked up, had not tried to force their way into the ground.”
Mr Rotheram speaks:
“Is it any wonder that some people have doubtful and distorted views as to the exact course of the disaster when misinformation began almost immediately after the players were led off the pitch at 3:06pm. The BBC and ITV News that very afternoon misreported what had occurred and it is important to understand the effect this had as it formed the immediate public perception of Hillsborough… But the faux pas committed in the immediate aftermath when there was much uncertainty and a degree of confusion pales into insignificance when you consider the malicious manner in the way some sections of the press reported things and which still clouds thinking today.
“Just a few days later, before people had even had time to arrange funerals for their loved ones, The Sun newspaper infamously printed the banner headline “THE TRUTH” on the personal instruction of its editor, Kelvin MacKenzie. It claimed that drunken fans had forced the gates open because they did not have match tickets, that they had stolen from the corpses lying around the pitch, assaulted police officers and emergency services, robbed cameras and other equipment from press photographers and urinated on police officers helping the victims. This was one of the cruellest blows and it beggars belief that certain sections of the media still give air time to this most despicable of men to air his bile and mendacity…
“Months later the rag he edited admitted the allegations it had made were totally false. But the damage had been done. To this day the people of Merseyside do not buy that paper. But it has taken the hackgate allegations against Murdoch’s News International for people to at long last sit up and take notice of the claims we made 22 years ago, that there may be some truth to our allegations of collusion between the press, certain politicians and the police.
“It is claimed that truth is the first casualty of war but the same can be said for Hillsborough. Misdirection, obfuscation and damn lies were all used as smokescreens to deflect attention away from the guilty.
“Today I call for the Prime Minister to make a statement in this House and to apologise for the mistakes that were made and the mishandling of this whole tragedy on behalf of a previous government. I would also ask him to join me in pushing for the full disclosure of the senior police officer and Conservative MP who allegedly leaked the story to the press and to press for a front page banner headline in The Sun newspaper admitting that they lied in April 1989.”
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This picture may only be used within the context of the Hillsborough court case. An undated file showing the tunnel at the Leppings Lane end of Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough ground, shown to the jury at Leeds Crown Court. * ...at a private prosecution brought by the Hillsborough Family Support Group. Match commander Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield and Superintendent Bernard Murray deny the manslaughter of two of the victims of the disaster at the FA Cup Semi-Final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday's ground on April 15, 1989.