Posted On Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 08:11:20 AM
London: British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday he was “profoundly sorry” for failures and cover-ups in the wake of the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster in which 96 spectators died after a crowd crush in the stadium.
He was speaking as an independent report found that police at the time had scrambled to deflect the blame for Britain’s worst sporting disaster onto Liverpool football fans to cover up their own flawed response.
• A picture taken on April 20, 1989, shows thousands of flowers and wreaths left on Liverpool’s Anfield stadium pitch in memory of the 96 football fans who died during a match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest
The victims died in an overcrowded fenced-in enclosure at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, northern England, a tragedy that changed the face of English football and ushered in a new era of modern, all-seated stadiums.
Britain was shocked by harrowing images of young fans crushed against metal fences, bodies lying on the pitch and spectators using wooden advertising hoardings as makeshift stretchers on a warm Spring afternoon.
The report, issued after a two-year investigation into the deaths, said police had sought to blame the Liverpool fans, portraying them as aggressive, drunk and ticketless and bent on packing into the already crowded stadium.
“The tragedy should never have happened,” the report’s authors said in a statement. “There were clear operational failures in response to the disaster and in its aftermath there were strenuous attempts to deflect the blame onto the fans.”
Senior police edited their officers’ witness statements from the day to paint them in a less damaging light, the report said. Their emergency response was flawed and badly organised.
While inquiries found hooliganism played no part in the disaster, the police crowd management plan was preoccupied with preventing disorder, the report said. Liverpool fans had been tainted by the Heysel stadium disaster in Belgium in 1985.
Fighting inside that stadium led to Juventus fans being crushed against a wall that collapsed. Six Liverpool fans and 33 supporters of the Italian team died.
The real danger at Hillsborough lay in the emergency services’ poor planning and a stadium that failed to meet minimum safety standards, the report said. Its capacity was overstated and previous crushes at Hillsborough had been ignored.
Speaking in parliament, Cameron called the disaster “one of the greatest peacetime tragedies of the last century” and acknowledged that the report would be harrowing for relatives of the deceased.
“It was wrong that the families have had to wait for so long — and fight so hard — just to get to the truth,” he said. “And it was wrong that the police changed the records of what happened and tried to blame the fans.”
► On behalf of our country, I’m profoundly sorry for this double injustice that was left uncorrected for so long
- David Cameron, in the house of commons