Retired judge sparks fury among Hillsborough campaigners


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The Independent Football

A retired judge has sparked fury by calling on the Hillsborough families to behave more like the relatives of victims of the Bradford City stadium disaster.

Sir Oliver Popplewell, who chaired the public inquiry into the 1985 fire at the Valley Parade stadium that killed 56 people, called on the Liverpool families to look at the "quiet dignity and great courage" relatives in the West Yorkshire city have shown in the years following the tragedy.

He made the comments in a letter to The Times following the Commons debate this week calling for all the Cabinet papers on Hillsborough to be released.

He said: "The citizens of Bradford behaved with quiet dignity and great courage.

"They did not harbour conspiracy theories. They did not seek endless further inquiries.

"They buried their dead, comforted the bereaved and succoured the injured.

"They organised a sensible compensation scheme and moved on.

"Is there, perhaps, a lesson there for the Hillsborough campaigners?"

Home Secretary Theresa May has pledged to release all possible documents on the 1989 FA Cup semi-final tragedy that left 96 Liverpool fans dead.

Labour MP Steve Rotheram (Liverpool Walton) told The Times: "How insensitive does somebody have to be to write that load of drivel?

"It is unbelievable. To mention other tragedies simply because they are football-related, as if there is some common denominator because they happened in football stadiums, beggars belief.

"Was there a conspiracy after the Bradford fire?

"Did the government try to blame the Bradford City fans for setting fire to the stadium on purpose?

"It shows how people right at the top of the Establishment still harbour prejudice and ignorance."

Margaret Aspinall, whose son James died in the disaster, told the newspaper: "He ought to be ashamed of himself."

Meanwhile, earlier today David Cameron today told MPs there "were regrets" over the 1989 Conservative government's handling of the Hillsborough disaster.

Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons, he repeated his pledge to release official documents detailing the tragedy at Sheffield Wednesday's football stadium, which killed 96 Liverpool FC fans.

Mr Cameron said: "We are gong to open up those papers and publish those papers as we promised, so people can see what was happening."

He said the Taylor Inquiry launched in the aftermath of the tragedy was a "proper and thorough investigation" which led to huge changes in the way football grounds and crowds are managed.

But Labour MP Rotheram, who led Monday's Commons debate on the release of Government papers, urged the Prime Minister to admit governments had made mistakes over the tragedy.

Concern has focused on briefings given to then prime minister Margaret Thatcher and her Cabinet.

Mr Rotheram (Liverpool Walton) added: "Twenty-two years is 22 years too long to fight for the truth.

"If it's proven that there was an orchestrated cover-up, despite two decades passing, justice should still prevail and those really responsible for the Hillsborough disaster should be brought to book."

Mr Cameron told him: "I'm hugely sympathetic for the families of the victims and I am sure there are regrets for all the institutions involved at the time, including the government."