Today, the 12th September 2012 should go down in history as one of the most significant dates in the history of British Policing and Politics. Today, the Hillsborough Investigation Panel have released their report into the Hillsborough Disaster. The report is 389 pages long. The executive summary is at pages 1 –22 of that report and is very readable and I commend it to you.
As most people are aware 96 people were killed at the FA Cup Semi Final Match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on 15th April 1989. The story of what happened is told very well by the BBC Website. I do not intend to repeat what is said there. I commend that website to you, in particular for the graphic showing how the crushing developed.
The disaster left the city of Liverpool devastated and many families bereaved. The names and ages of the deceased reveal just how young the deceased were and how many were related. Young men and women who had gone to see their team compete for a place in the FA Cup Final but who ended up coming back to Liverpool in a coffin.
John Alfred Anderson (62) Thomas Howard (39)
Colin Mark Ashcroft (19) Thomas Anthony Howard (14)
James Gary Aspinall (18) Eric George Hughes (42)
Kester Roger Marcus Ball (16) Alan Johnston (29)
Gerard Bernard Patrick Baron (67) Christine Anne Jones (27)
Simon Bell (17) Gary Philip Jones (18)
Barry Sidney Bennett (26) Richard Jones (25)
David John Benson (22) Nicholas Peter Joynes (27)
David William Birtle (22) Anthony Peter Kelly (29)
Tony Bland (22) Michael David Kelly (38)
Paul David Brady (21) Carl David Lewis (18)
Andrew Mark Brookes (26) David William Mather (19)
Carl Brown (18) Brian Christopher Mathews (38)
David Steven Brown (25) Francis Joseph McAllister (27)
Henry Thomas Burke (47) John McBrien (18)
Peter Andrew Burkett (24) Marion Hazel McCabe (21)
Paul William Carlile (19) Joseph Daniel McCarthy (21)
Raymond Thomas Chapman (50) Peter McDonnell (21)
Gary Christopher Church (19) Alan McGlone (28)
Joseph Clark (29) Keith McGrath (17)
Paul Clark (18) Paul Brian Murray (14)
Gary Collins (22) Lee Nicol (14)
Stephen Paul Copoc (20) Stephen Francis O’Neill (17)
Tracey Elizabeth Cox (23) Jonathon Owens (18)
James Philip Delaney (19) William Roy Pemberton (23)
Christopher Barry Devonside (18) Carl William Rimmer (21)
Christopher Edwards (29) David George Rimmer (38)
Vincent Michael Fitzsimmons (34) Graham John Roberts (24)
Thomas Steven Fox (21) Steven Joseph Robinson (17)
Jon-Paul Gilhooley (10) Henry Charles Rogers (17)
Barry Glover (27) Colin Andrew Hugh William Sefton (23)
Ian Thomas Glover (20) Inger Shah (38)
Derrick George Godwin (24) Paula Ann Smith (26)
Roy Harry Hamilton (34) Adam Edward Spearritt (14)
Philip Hammond (14) Philip John Steele (15)
Eric Hankin (33) David Leonard Thomas (23)
Gary Harrison (27) Patrik John Thompson (35)
Stephen Francis Harrison (31) Peter Reuben Thompson (30)
Peter Andrew Harrison (15) Stuart Paul William Thompson (17)
David Hawley (39) Peter Francis Tootle (21)
James Robert Hennessy (29) Christopher James Traynor (26)
Paul Anthony Hewitson (26) Martin Kevin Traynor (16)
Carl Darren Hewitt (17) Kevin Tyrrell (15)
Nicholas Michael Hewitt (16) Colin Wafer (19)
Sarah Louise Hicks (19) Ian David Whelan (19)
Victoria Jane Hicks (15) Martin Kenneth Wild (29)
Gordon Rodney Horn (20) Kevin Daniel Williams (15)
Arthur Horrocks (41) Graham John Wright (17)
Every football fan can tell you where they were when they learned what had happened that sunny Spring afternoon in Sheffield. Newcastle were playing away at Arsenal. I was not at the game as I flew to Benidorm that day for a holiday. A doorman there who I had met 2 years before broke the news to me. The holiday was over in my mind as the horor of what had happened was unfolded via the newspapers. There was no internet then. The papers were received 24 hours late in Benidorm. I spent a relative fortune that week buying every English language newspaper.
Those who were at the Arsenal game say the match was irrelevant when the news broke of what happened at Hillsborough.
This blog is not to repeat the events of the day. In my view there were (like with most disasters) a series of incidents colmunating in the loss of life
1. The delayed arrival of Liverpool fans owing to traffic problems
2. The funnel like entrance to the turnstiles
3. Insufficient turnstiles at that end of the ground (23 turnstiles for 24000 fans)
These 3 factors resulted in dangerous build up of fans outside the ground and in order to alleviate possible disaster outside the ground the police commander outside sought permission from the police match commander to open the gates to let fans in. Sadly what was not done was the tunnel leading to pens 3 &4 was not closed off so fans surging in headed into these already over crowded pens resulting in a crush barrier failing and people being crushed.
This was a tragic incident and if the truth had been exposed then this matter would have ended in 1989.
Sadly, the actions of South Yorkshire Police Senior Management and others in position of authority is incredible. All real football fans knew their had been a cover up by the police, but this report laid before Parliament today with a full apology from the Prime minister reveals amongst other things:
1. 164 statements were amended, 116 to take out criticism of the actions of South Yorkshire Police. Many witnesses were put under pressure by SYP (often their employers) to falsify their accounts. It appears that SYP’s solicitors were in collusion with this. Perhaps a matter for the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority to investigate?
If SYP are prepared to falsify/ manipulate/ re write evidence to deflect the blame from themselves, how many cases did SYP officers do the same to obtain convictions against people.
2. The police started from the outset of briefing the media that the fans had forced the gate to get in, were drunk, robbed the dying and urinated on the police. The infamous Sun headline “The Truth” came about as a result of a police briefing.
Now, this story raises an intriguing question in my mind. Given the Sun have been vilified for the 23 years since they ran this story, why in that time have they never revealed SYP as the source of the story? If they had, it would have confirmed what many thought and deflected some of the anger to the real source of the story. At present there is a huge Metropolitan Police investigation into relations between police officers and News International (NI) the owners of the Sun. This is Operation Elveden and is looking at corrupt relationships between the police and NI
3. At least 41 of the deceased could have been saved if they had received medical treatment. For whatever reason, the police prevented any more than one ambulance entering the stadium.
4. This was not the first time there had been serious crowd problems at FA Cup Semi Finals at Hillsborough. In 1981 at the game between Spurs and Wolves there were serious problems at the Leppings Lane End of the ground. Watch the video below. How reminiscent of the 1989 disaster is this?
5. In 1987 at the Leeds V Coventry Semi final, which was the first after 1981 to be held at Hillsborough, the game had to be delayed owing to crowd congestion. However on that occasion the police had set up road blocks on the 2 roads leading to the Leppings Lane turnstiles so as to prevent a build up of fans at the turnstiles. There were several roadblocks and the flow of spectators were regulated. I attended this game and entered the ground via the Leppings Lane turnstiles. There was no serious problems that I recall outside the ground, although as in 1981 and 1988 there were problems of overcrowding within the ground.
Why did the police not use the same simple but effective measures to prevent crowd congestion in 1989? This question does not seem to have been asked at any time by any of the inquiries.