Hillsborough families fall out over peace with 'Sun'

The tabloid which insulted the dead may say sorry, but some relatives cannot forgive. By Mark Rowe

Mark Rowe
Saturday 19 July 1997 23:02

The families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster are split over whether to make their peace with the Sun newspaper over its coverage of the tragedy.

A meeting last week between the Hillsborough Family Support Group chairman Trevor Hicks and Sun editor Stuart Higgins, at Mr Higgins' suggestion, has provoked bitter recrimination from some families.

The Sun sparked outrage on Merseyside after the April 1989 tragedy when, under a banner headline which read "The Truth", it claimed the fatal crush that killed 96 fans at Sheffield Wednesday's ground was caused by drunken Liverpool fans. The story claimed that some stole from the pockets of the dead and urinated on policemen trying to rescue them.

The Sun lost sales of around 200,000 copies a day after a boycott in protest at its coverage. Its sales on Merseyside are still believed to be down by more than 120,000. Kelvin Mackenzie, who was editor in 1989, later admitted the story was a mistake.

The split within the Hillsborough Group is essentially between Mr Hicks and John Glover, who lost a son at Hillsborough and believes the Sun can never be forgiven. Last week, Mr Hicks, who lost two daughters in the tragedy, described Mr Glover as "a maverick". He is said to have threatened to expel Mr Glover from the group for breaking rules of confidentiality over details of the group's meetings.

Mr Glover has responded by accusing Mr Hicks of dominating the families' campaign. "It's no longer the Hillsborough but the Trevor Hicks Family Support Group," he said.

A committee of the Hillsborough Families Support Group voted last week 19-17 against any meeting with the Sun. But Mr Hicks and committee vice- chairman Phil Hammond went ahead as individuals and met the Sun and Liverpool Football Club chairman Peter Robinson and manager Roy Evans.

Mr Glover said: "Trevor Hicks won't talk to me. He puts me down like an idiot. He's a very intelligent man but he's also a Yorkshireman and so doesn't really understand the extreme feeling in this city." Mr Glover's stepson John, who was also at Hillsborough, was last year awarded pounds 200,000 damages against South Yorkshire Police and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Speaking to the Sun is like a kick in the teeth," said Mr Glover. "If the Sun offered me a cheque for pounds 10m to speak to them I would burn it. I would never sell my dead son to that paper. The Sun is just worried about its sales.

"The Sun described the fans as drunken yobbos who were robbing the dead. My son Ian died. My other son, Joseph, tried to give him the kiss of life."

Mr Hicks said he had mixed feelings over a rapprochement but that the paper must make a full apology. "Love it or hate it the Sun is the biggest- selling paper. We need all the publicity we can get in our campaign for justice. We've made clear to the Sun how strongly people feel.

"We don't want a family squabble to blot out our cause."

The Sun had no one available for comment yesterday.

Three weeks ago, the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, appointed Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, a senior Court of Appeal judge, to scrutinise new video and medical evidence, following a long campaign for a fresh investigation by the victims' families.

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