It's black and white: Liverpool fans not to blame for tragedy


Twenty-three years after 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death at the FA Cup semi-final in Sheffield, an excoriating report has revealed the truth about the failings of authorities and their attempts to place the blame for the tragedy on the supporters.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel found that up to 41 of the dead might have survived if they had received adequate emergency care. Only one ambulance was allowed on to the pitch and officials were simply too slow to react. Fresh inquests into the deaths of the football fans and criminal investigations of those responsible for Britain's worst sporting disaster are now expected to take place.

The panel's investigation into the disaster at Hillsborough Stadium, published yesterday, also revealed that South Yorkshire Police carried out a systematic cover-up to exonerate senior officers, and took part in a smear operation to put the blame on fans. Hundreds of witness statements from officers on duty were significantly altered, including 116 which criticised the match-day police operation and its leadership.

In the House of Commons, David Cameron delivered an unequivocal apology to the families of victims, and those who survived the disaster and who have campaigned tirelessly to uncover the truth.

More than 450,000 pages of documents examined by the nine-strong panel revealed for the first time the failure of the emergency response to the unfolding tragedy and the shortcomings of ambulance services on the day of the match.

Trevor Hicks, of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, who lost two teenage daughters in the crush, said relatives would now seek the prosecution of those responsible. "The truth is out today, justice starts tomorrow," he said.

The families stood and applauded the panel, led by the Bishop of Liverpool, Rt Rev James Jones, after hearing details of its findings. One panel member, Raju Bhatt, said the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, was now in possession of fresh information which was "crying out" to be re-examined.

Mr Cameron, left, said it was now up to Mr Grieve to decide whether to refer the matter of the disputed accidental death inquest verdicts back to the High Court. Mr Grieve said he was considering the new evidence.

The Prime Minister told MPs the families and survivors had been victims of a "double injustice" for which he was "profoundly sorry". He said they had endured "the injustice of the appalling events – the failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth. And the injustice of the denigration of the deceased – that they were somehow at fault for their own deaths."