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The truth. But not justice.
That is the amount of days it took for the truth of the Hillsborough disaster to finally come to light after the event often worded “Britain’s greatest sporting tragedy”. But it wasn’t just a sporting tragedy, the scale of the cover up is damning on a much wider scale.
On 15th April 1989 in a FA Cup Semi-Final Clash against Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground 96 Liverpool fans never returned home and a sickening process of covering up began.
The facilities at the ground were poor and at the time football fans were genuinely viewed as hooligans and were treated as such. In order to alleviate strain outside the ground police opened up gates in the Leppings Lane end of the stadium because decrepit turnstiles were unable to cope with the amount of fans the capacity allowed. This is where the lies began.
The evidence released in the report is damning, indicating that a total of 164 statements were altered in the aftermath of the event, with an astonishing 116 changed in order to remove negative comments regarding South Yorkshire police. I think this ultimately speaks for itself.
A lack of police control within the confines of the stadium meant fans were funnelled into two central pens in the lower tier of the Leppings Lane end, pens 3 and 4. Their official combined capacity was 2200 but due to unsafe crush barriers at the front of the stand indicated by previous non-fatal accidents at the ground, this capacity should have been much closer to 1600. When Gate C was opened eight minutes prior to kick off an estimated 3200 people filled these pens, more than double the safe capacity, as there was a complete lack of police guidance.
The game kicked off as normal at 15:00, but 5 minutes later the crush fence at the front of pen 3 collapsed causing people to fall on top of each other, the game was abandoned at 15:06 when the scale of the disaster became known.
As a result of this crush, 96 people died. Of those 96, only 14 ever made it to hospital. The stadium was a death trap, and the authorities knew it, but fans were treated terribly. Over 40 ambulances waited outside the stadium: only one made it in. Fans were restricted to creating make shift stretchers out of advertising boards, and probably the most damning statistic in the report is that 41 people could have been saved had the authorities responded following proper procedure, throwing into doubt the initial coroner’s statement that nobody who died that day could have survived past 15:15. This was not the case.
The Sun newspaper published a report four days after the disaster with a headline entitled “The Truth” claiming fans had pick pocketed victims and urinated on police. The facts established now show this was the fabricated lies South Yorkshire Police put into the public domain through the media in order to cover up their shocking misjudgement on that day.
The disaster resulted in wholesale changed for football in the aftermath of the Lord Justice Taylor inquiry which resulted in stadiums in the top two tiers becoming all seated, amongst other safety features.
But these changes were too late for those 96. The truth is out, but the families’ campaign for justice has only really just begun.