Families of victims of the Hillsborough disaster reacted with outrage at the "gall" of former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie after he demanded an apology from South Yorkshire Police because of the "personal vilification" he suffered for "decades" over his infamous "The Truth" headline.
Mr MacKenzie, writing in The Spectator today, claims police patrols had to be increased around his house and says he faced physical danger on the streets of Liverpool after an article claiming fans urinated on and attacked police and picked from the pockets of victims caused widespread revulsion.
He admits he was wrong but says "the people who have got away scot-free are South Yorkshire Police". His lawyers have written to the force seeking recompense for "the lies their officers told".
Earlier this month a damning report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel said a cover-up took place to shift the blame onto the victims and that 41 of the 96 lives lost could have been saved. The panel found 164 police statements were altered, 116 of them to remove or change "unfavourable" comments about the policing of the match.
Mr MacKenzie writes in the magazine: "Now I know – you know, we all know – that the fans were right. But it took 23 years, two inquiries, one inquest and research into 400,000 documents, many of which were kept secret under the 30-year no-publication rule, to discover there was a vast cover-up by South Yorkshire Police about the disaster. Where does that leave me?"
Mr MacKenzie and current Sun editor Dominic Mohan apologised for the newspaper's role the day after the panel's report was published.
Yesterday Sue Roberts, secretary of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, said: "The gall of that man to paint himself as a victim and for him to ask anybody for an apology – it beggars belief. He was responsible for a story which was part and parcel of a cover-up designed to blame innocent victims for the disaster. He is trying to turn the tables. He is trying to excuse his role in the cover-up and it stinks."
Steve Kelly, whose brother Michael, 38, died at the Sheffield Wednesday ground on 15 April, 1989, echoed her sentiments.He said: "How low can he go? It's disgusting. At the end of the day, Kelvin MacKenzie put that headline on it, 'The Truth'. The man knows it was down to him."
In his Spectator piece, Mr MacKenzie highlights the fact that other newspapers that ran the same "copper-bottomed" story were not "turned on" by Liverpool and muses whether it was because The Sun had always backed Margaret Thatcher while the city was pro-Labour.
But Mr Kelly said that the backlash of feeling against the Rupert Murdoch-owned red top was because while other newspapers apologised, The Sun "carried on".
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said: "I share the public's contempt that Kelvin McKenzie is trying to portray himself as a victim. The real victims of Hillsborough were those injured and killed, and their families whose reputations were dragged through the mud by this man and his newspaper for years. He had countless opportunities to withdraw his slurs over the past 23 years, not least after the Taylor report. He should hang his head in shame."
A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said the force "awaits Mr MacKenzie's letter with interest".