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Hillsborough inquiry: Police, politicians and officials implicated as families finally learn shocking truth behind tragedy

An independent panel has disclosed a 400-page document on Wednesday morning summarising its findings from a two-year inquest into the death of 96 football fans

The families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster have today learned of the full, shocking extent of the police mishandling and attempted cover-up which caused and followed the tragedy.

A 394-page report compiled by the Hillsborough Independent Panel has revealed attempts to discredit fans from both police and politicians following the deaths on April 15 1989.

Ninety-six people were crushed to death in the Leppings Lane stand of Sheffield Wednesday's ground as an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest began.

A subsequent inquiry handed down a verdict of accidental death, though the independent panel has considered several pieces of evidence not made available during that probe.

'JUSTICE HAS NEVER BEEN CLOSER'
In 394 harrowing and maddening pages and after 23 years of lies and diversion, the truth, finally, is out.

Many in Liverpool have justifiably doubted that this day would or even could come. An apology from a Conservative Prime Minister and the exoneration of the 96 men, women and children who went to a football match and never returned has disgracefully been over two decades in waiting, but the calls for justice from a city that refused to accept the myths and fictions forced upon them have never been allayed.

That the wait took this long and that it was made so agonising for the loved ones of the victims to reach this point will forever remain as one of the great scandals of our time.

Those that have fought for these truths have been left to walk alone for too long, but on what Steve Rotheram, MP for Liverpool Walton described as a “momentous day”, surely the battle from here will not be as trying or isolated.

No longer burdened by lies, the original inquiries into the deaths must be reopened. Justice for the 96 has never felt closer.

Jon Birchall | Deputy Editor

The panel's report has revealed:
  • South Yorkshire police disseminated false information to Conservative MP Irvine Patnick, a source for the subsequent infamous story from the Sun newspaper which, under the headline 'The Truth', made false accusations regarding the behaviour of Liverpool fans before, during and after the disaster.
  • 164 statements made by police in attendance that day were later doctored in order to suit a narrative which laid blame on supporters.
  • 116 "negative comments" were removed from these police statements.
  • Tests for blood alcohol level were performed on all of the 96 victims and, when those proved to be negligible, the criminal records of victims were sought.
  • Dr. Stefan Popper, who presided over the original inquest into the deaths, had suggested that a probe was unnecessary as the cause of death was already known - despite these being required by law.
  • 31 of the victims still had heart and lung function after 3.15pm, the cut off point by which it was adjudged all victims had died in the original inquest.
  • The "shortcomings" of the response from emergency services led to the avoidable deaths of 59 of the victims.
  • Senior police officers accused "drunken marauding fans" of "animalistic behaviour" in the aftermath of the disaster.
  • South Yorkshire ambulance service wrongly discredited criticisms of its conduct from doctors present on the day.
  • The Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was fully aware that the original inquiry contained "devastating criticism" of the police.
  • There is "no evidence of substance" to suggest that the drunken or aggressive behaviour of fans was in any way a contributory factor.

Prime Minister David Cameron has since apologised on behalf of the Government and told the House of Commons that the matter has been handed to the Attorney General with a view to quashing the original inquest verdict.

"The report's findings are deeply distressing," he said in a statement following Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

"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."

The Prime Minister said that "swifter, more appropriate action" from the emergency services could have saved lives. 

CAMERON APOLOGISES OVER HILLSBOROUGH INJUSTICE

MP for Liverpool Walton Steve Rotheram has urged the Prime Minister to co-operate in the quashing of the accidental death verdicts of the 96 victims, insisting that overturning the previous judgement could help "change history".

The families of the bereaved were briefed on the contents of the report, compiled by the independent panel over the course of the last 18 months, early on Wednesday morning at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and stood to applaud the findings which represented a vindication of their 23-year fight for justice.

"The truth is out today, and the justice starts tomorrow," said Trevor Hicks, who lost two daughters in the tragedy and has led the Hillsborough Family Support Group. "We are not looking for scapegoats, we are looking for accountability."

Sheffield Wednesday, whose Hillsborough ground was at the centre of the tragedy, also welcomed the findings of the panel and offered a fresh apology to the families whose fight for justice took a major step forward.

A club statement read: "Chairman Milan Mandaric and the current board of directors have adopted a policy of complete compliance with the requests of the Hillsborough Independent Panel and on behalf of the club would like to offer our sincere condolences and an apology to all the families who have suffered as a consequence of the tragic events of 15 April, 1989.

"Sheffield Wednesday FC welcomes the release of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report and would like to acknowledge the enormous amount of hard work by all involved during what was, and continues to be, an extremely emotive process."

 

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