Hillsborough, 24 years on: The truth, the 96, and the tributes.

The Kop at Anfield has been full to capacity this afternoon as Merseyside pays tribute to the 96 Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough. 24 years on. The memories are still raw for many, and the 96 remain a huge part of the LFC and Liverpool city community. It has been a poignant year for the families. The truth revealed for the nation in black and white. Today is possibly the biggest anniversary memorial in the Hillsborough history.

It was the worst footballing disaster in British history and remains one of the world’s worst incidents. 96 Liverpool fans were killed on what was described as a warm, spring day. The cause – they were crushed to death after a string of errors by police officers. The truth of this was only revealed in its full extent in September 2012 when the Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, published the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report. The report found details which the people of Merseyside had known all along – the police had allowed the crush to happen, safety at the ground had been compromised at every level, and ambulances were not allowed onto the pitch. The report found that there was no evidence that suggested the Liverpool fans were responsible.

In other astonishing details, South Yorkshire Police created a false account of the event, painting a picture that the fans were the cause and the police were at risk. The evidence of this came from the documents which showed how 164 witness statements had been altered, with 116 of them being changed to remove any negativity toward the police. Officers took blood samples and checked national databases from all of the victims, some of them children, in an attempt to “impugn their reputation”. The then Conservative MP Irvine Patnick passed on false accounts to the press which led to a widespread view that Liverpool fans were responsible.

Hillsborough

This led to possibly the greatest boycott in the United Kingdom. Kelvin McKenzie, the then editor of The Sun, favoured the headline “The Truth”, suggesting some of those false allegations – fans were ticketless, drunk, violent and urinating on the victims. All accounts of fans at the Sheffield Wednesday stadium contradict these false and malicious reports. The headline and reports were printed just days after the disaster – there was little evidence and the formal investigation had only just begun. Since that headline, the people of Merseyside, regardless of their team, do not buy The Sun newspaper. Campaigns such as “Don’t buy The Sun” are still rife amongst Liverpool today – and quite rightly so. Kelvin McKenzie apologised in the aftermath of the report being published. It does nothing to help or build bridges with Liverpool or the families.

The original inquest, led by Lord Justice Taylor, backed a 15:15 cut off point at the game. The inquiry said that none of the victims could have been saved after this time and all of those who died at the stadium were dead by this time. Therefore, none of the events following this time have ever been investigated. The Independent Report says there was evidence to support that “up to 41” of the 96 could have been saved. It added that by simply placing “merely unconscious” people on their backs resulted in their deaths. Furthermore, due to the Coroners cut off point it was never investigated as to why only one ambulance reached the Liverpool end of the stadium and why no more had been sent in, yet they lined the outside streets.

It has been an astonishing year for the Hillsborough families and has shown how their courage and strength has been worthwhile. New inquests will be held into the deaths of the 96. It makes the 24th anniversary even more remarkable.

Standing ovations are often the scene on the 15th April every year at Anfield. Fans, from Everton and Liverpool, and even those who do not follow football gather for the traditional memorial event. The names of the 96 are read out, followed by hymns and prayers. Readings from the families and those involved with the history of the disaster, including members of LFC, the Bishop of Liverpool and MP’s are often welcomed by the strong and supportive crowd.

The Kop has long been the home to annual memorial services to mark Hillsborough.

The Kop has long been the home to annual memorial services to mark Hillsborough.

Everton Chairman, Bill Kenwright, spoke of how the event would change him for ever. He spoke of how it could have been Everton in the FA Cup Semi-Final, praising the families for their strength and progress. Liverpool’s owner, John Henry, said he was outshined by the work of the families for justice, adding that the families and those who died “will always be a part of Liverpool Football Club.”

It has been an incredible point in time for Liverpool, the families and the search for the truth. The release of these secret documents have highlighted the efforts of the families of uncovering the truth. This strength will continue throughout the inquests and eventual outcome. There have been many apologies; many people outside of Merseyside have stereotyped the fans as causing the disaster. For that, the Prime Minister apologised on behalf of all previous governments. Subsequent apologies surfaced from South Yorkshire Police, Kelvin McKenzie and Sheffield Wednesday Football Club.

There still remains a minority who still do not understand the clear black and white. Comments from many ill-informed individuals still bring hurt to the many who now fully understand what happened in April 1989. It is with great confusion that I see some high-profile figures, such as Oliver Popplewell, as he criticised the conduct of the families and some figures still remain certain that it was the fans fault and that the police were not to blame. All that despite the report conclusion.

Above anything, THE REAL TRUTH of Hillsborough has strengthened Liverpool as a community who are renowned for ‘sticking together’ and defending their own. The conduct of the families HAS been above and beyond exceptional and now the road to justice and prosecutions is well underway. Anfield is always a sea of emotion during football fixtures, but never as emotional as the time of the Hillsborough anniversary. Standing shoulder to shoulder, fans and ordinary people alike pay tribute to the victims who perished, yet changed the face of football. They will never be forgotten. Their legacy will always be a part of Liverpool.

The 96 Victims
Jon-Paul Gilhooley, 10, M
Philip Hammond, 14, M
Thomas Anthony Howard, 14, M
Paul Brian Murray, 14, M
Lee Nicol, 14, M
Adam Edward Spearritt, 14, M
Peter Andrew Harrison, 15, M
Victoria Jane Hicks, 15, F
Philip John Steele, 15, M
Kevin Tyrrell, 15, M
Kevin Daniel Williams, 15, M
Kester Roger Marcus Ball, 16, M
Nicholas Michael Hewitt, 16, M
Martin Kevin Traynor, 16, M
Simon Bell, 17, M
Carl Darren Hewitt,17, M
Keith McGrath, 17, M
Stephen Francis O’Neill, 17, M
Steven Joseph Robinson, 17, M
Henry Charles Rogers, 17, M
Stuart Paul William Thompson, 17, M
Graham John Wright, 17, M
James Gary Aspinall, 18, M
Carl Brown, 18, M
Paul Clark, 18, M
Christopher Barry Devonside, 18, M
Gary Philip Jones, 18, M
Carl David Lewis, 18, M
John McBrien, 18, M
Jonathon Owens, 18,M
Colin Mark Ashcroft, 19, M
Paul William Carlile, 19, M
Gary Christopher Church, 19, M
James Philip Delaney, 19, M
Sarah Louise Hicks, 19, F
David William Mather, 19, M
Colin Wafer, 19, M
Ian David Whelan, 19, M
Stephen Paul Copoc, 20, M
Ian Thomas Glover, 20, M
Gordon Rodney Horn, 20, M
Paul David Brady, 21, M
Thomas Steven Fox, 21, M
Marian Hazel McCabe, 21,F
Joseph Daniel McCarthy, 21, M
Peter McDonnell, 21, M
Carl William Rimmer, 21, M
Peter Francis Tootle, 21, M
David John Benson, 22, M
David William Birtle, 22, M
Tony Bland, 22, M
Gary Collins, 22, M
Tracey Elizabeth Cox, 23, F
William Roy Pemberton, 23, M
Colin Andrew Hugh William Sefton, 23, M
David Leonard Thomas, 23, M
Peter Andrew Burkett, 24, M
Derrick George Godwin, 24, M
Graham John Roberts, 24, M
David Steven Brown, 25, M
Richard Jones, 25, M
Barry Sidney Bennett, 26, M
Andrew Mark Brookes, 26, M
Paul Anthony Hewitson, 26, M
Paula Ann Smith, 26, F
Christopher James Traynor, 26, M
Barry Glover, 27, M
Gary Harrison, 27,M
Christine Anne Jones, 27, F
Nicholas Peter Joynes, 27, M
Francis Joseph McAllister, 27, M
Alan McGlone, 28, M
Joseph Clark, 29, M
Christopher Edwards, 29, M
James Robert Hennessy, 29, M
Alan Johnston, 29, M
Anthony Peter Kelly, 29, M
Martin Kenneth Wild, 29, M
Peter Reuben Thompson, 30, M
Stephen Francis Harrison, 31, M
Eric Hankin, 33, M
Vincent Michael Fitzsimmons, 34, M
Roy Harry Hamilton, 34, M
Patrick John Thompson, 35, M
Michael David Kelly, 38, M
Brian Christopher Mathews, 38, M
David George Rimmer, 38, M
Inger Shah, 38, F
David Hawley, 39, M
Thomas Howard, 39, M
Arthur Horrocks, 41, M
Eric George Hughes, 42, M
Henry Thomas Burke, 47, M
Raymond Thomas Chapman, 50, M
John Alfred Anderson, 62, M
Gerard Bernard Patrick Baron, M

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