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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Do you have a minute for Mrs Thatcher ?

Criticised: Dave Whelan wants football fans to remember Mrs Thatcher.

Criticised: Dave Whelan wants football fans to remember Mrs Thatcher.

I was most amused by the response from an elderly Wigan lady on tonight’s news when asked “if she had a moment to remember Margaret Thatcher?” The response was traditional northern “NO” followed by “Not a chance”. The question was being asked to residents after Wigan Football Club Chairman, Dave Whelan, suggested a minute’s silence be held in Baroness Thatcher’s memory.

As I mentioned in my last post, she was a very divisive figure, creating a North/South divide. Her policies allowed the richer people in society become richer, mainly in the South and the working class people suffered as mines closed and industry was privatised in the North of England. So it was most bizarre to hear the chairman of a North West football club ask for a moment to remember the former Prime Minister who had hurt so many during her three terms.

Mr Whelan suggested the nation should pay their own thanks to the service of former Prime Ministers, however the Football Association has said no silences will take place at FA and Premier League games this weekend to remember Thatcher. It is easy to see why. After closing the coal mining industry of the North of England, forcing thousands out of jobs, and subsequently causing riots, it is clear what the reaction will be from the football fans. Booing, chanting and hysteria will surround the games and, judging by responses on Twitter and tonight’s news, many football fans do not wish to pay a minute’s silence to remember someone who had such negative impact on Northern lives.

Margaret Aspinall, Chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said that it would be a “huge mistake” for games to pay tribute to the late PM. She went onto state that many questions still remained unanswered following the Hillsborough disaster, in which the then government played a huge part in covering up the truth of how 96 Liverpool fans were killed at an FA Cup Semi Final. Last years Independent Panel Report highlighted how the police created false stories to blame the Liverpool fans for the death of their own crowd. The government at the time was led by Margaret Thatcher. Although current Prime Minister, David Cameron, did apologise on behalf of previous governments, there was never an apology from Thatcher. A reason which has highly contributed to the belief that Liverpool never loved, liked or admired Lady Thatcher.

Cover Up: Thatcher in the days after the Hillsborough Disaster.

Cover Up: Thatcher in the days after the Hillsborough Disaster.


Lord Sebastian Coe stated that “Thatcher never really understood sport” which supports the fans argument that there should not be a silence in memory of her. At one point, she campaigned for identity cards to be issued to all football fans.

Whilst I agree that marking the death of a woman who did not support the game, someone who was involved in a huge football disaster cover up and a woman who virtually destroyed the lives of many Northern industry families is somewhat inappropriate, I do disagree with the open celebration many people have had in the days following her death. Groups consisting of hundreds of people, many of them who weren’t even born when Thatcher was at No.10, have held banners, cheered and appeared openly joyous about this womans passing. Regardless of her job, Mrs Thatcher was still a mother, daughter, grand-mother and family woman. Former Labour PM Tony Blair said they were in “bad taste”.

It would be a mistake to encourage football games to mark the death of Mrs Thatcher, as it would quite clearly not be adhered to. The only silence which will take place this weekend will be between Liverpool and Reading, marking the 24th anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster. This at such a prominent time in the road to justice. All involved with Liverpool Football Club and those on Merseyside have reiterated that their silence will have no connection to remembering Mrs Thatcher, only remembering the 96 fans who died at the Sheffield Wednesday stadium. Quite right.

Hillsborough: New inquest on the way.

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Following the damning revelations in the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report, the Attorney General ordered the original inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans, victims of the worst football disaster in the United Kingdom, to be quashed and a new inquest be held.

It has been confirmed that the decisions on the new inquest will take place in London on April 25th with the new coroner, Lord Justice Goldring. The decisions will include the location and date of the new inquests.

The road to justice has been long and is not yet at an end. Following the response to the Independent Panel Report in September 2012, the determination of the families and the support of the people of Liverpool, the North West, the UK and football fans alike will seek to bring justice for the 96 fans who travelled to Hillsborough and did not return.