A tribute to the truth about the Hillsborough disaster
On Wednesday 12th September 2012, the world heard the unpalatable truth about the Hillsborough disaster, which claimed the lives of 96 men, women and children 23 years ago. The truth was that the fans were in no way to blame, and that the police lied, and smeared the name of the 96 dead to shift the blame from their shoulders onto the fans. Has there ever been a disaster in British history before where the victims were cruelly lied about in their hour of need?
Lies, amendments and an orchestrated smear campaign, primarily by South Yorkshire Police, but via conservative MPs and the media had led millions to believe a very different story to that finally told last weekend by David Cameron. The truth.
On the afternoon of 15th April 1989, while fans and junior officers were still desperately trying to free the dead and dying from the pile of humanity on the terraces, Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, the match commander on the day told what Lord Justice Taylor was later to describe as a ‘disgraceful lie’. He told Graham Kelly of the FA that Liverpool fans had broken in and caused an inrush to the stadium, yet it was he who had ordered the gate to be opened. He later admitted to this lie, but Graham Kelly had by then unwittingly transferred his lie to the waiting media, and the headlines demonising the victims had long since ran by the time of his admission.
That night, a ten-year-old boy lay dead in the Hillsborough gymnasium with so many others, and had a blood sample taken from his expired body. The reason was to check the amount of alcohol in his system. Ten years old. Some time after this, officers ran the names of the victims through the police computer, checking for a criminal past, in order to ‘impugn their reputations.’
The world now knows the truth, and huge thanks have to go to the painstaking work that the Hillsborough Independent Panel have put in over the last few years for that. Those who still seek to blame Liverpool fans despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary will be in the vast minority now, which is precisely where the families & survivors of Hillsborough have been for the past 23 years.
The truth is the reason why I set out to make this documentary over three years ago. I wanted there to be a body of work online, that would outlive us all, and that would allow those who were there to tell the real story of the Hillsborough disaster in their own words. No script, no agenda, just the ability to tell the story as it happened.
If you visit my blog, and look at some of the comments from the Spurs fans who were in the Leppings Lane end for the FA Cup semi-final in 1981, you will soon see that the Hillsborough disaster very nearly happened then.
Hillsborough wasn’t used as a semi-final venue again for five years after 38 Spurs fans were injured that year, but this showpiece event was back again in 1987, and if you look at the comments on my blog from Leeds fans who were crammed into the Leppings lane end that year it tells its own story. There is a saying by George Bernard Shaw, which I use as an opening for my documentary, “What we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history”.
If anything, the terraces were more dangerous in 1987 and subsequent years. The main and most obvious entrance to the terraces was a long, dark and sloping tunnel that ran underneath the West stand and into the back of the Leppings Lane terrace area. By the time Leeds visited Hillsborough for the FA Cup semi-final in 1987, lateral fences had been installed which divided the length of the terrace into separate pens, and the tunnel now only fed the central two pens. Even under normal conditions, once you walked down the tunnel and into the back of the central two pens you’d find it extremely difficult to get back out again because of the fans following in behind you.
Fatally in 1989 a large exit gate, which was situated immediately behind the tunnel was opened which meant that the trickle of fans entering became a stream of people compressed together. When the police failed to cut off access to the tunnel over 2,000 fans travelled down that tunnel into the already over-full pens. Failure to cut off access to the tunnel after opening the gate was later described by Lord Justice Taylor as “A blunder of the first magnitude”.
Now the truth is out, and widely known, there is less of a reason for my documentary to exist, but I still think it is important that those who want to are given a platform to speak, albeit, 23 years too late.
In the Eighties, the media was a very one-way affair. TV, press and radio told the public what was going on and there was no right to reply. There were no internet chat rooms, no twitter, no blogs and no Facebook for the wronged to hit back against the lies. If Hillsborough had have happened today, there would have been videos of the police opening the gate on YouTube before Duckenfield even opened his mouth to lie.
I hope that the justice is done for all those who suffered so much as a result of a football match, on a bright, sunny, spring day.
For more information and to watch ‘Hillsborough – Leading to Tragedy’, which is the first part of a three-part online documentary visit: thehillsboroughdisasterdocumentary.comTagged in: football, Hillsborough, Hillsborough Independent Panel, Liverpool
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