The news that a Senior Merseyside Police officer blamed drunken Liverpool for causing the Hillsborough disaster is depressing, annoying and, sadly, unsurprising.
This has come to light through papers leaked to the BBC. These are part of thousands of documents that were due to be made widely available to the families of those who died later this year. At the moment they are being reviewed by the Hillsborough Independent Panel. The papers said
“One officer, born and bred in Liverpool, said that he was deeply ashamed to say that it was drunken Liverpool fans who had caused this disaster, just as they had caused the deaths at Heysel,”
Strangely that officer is not named. Furthermore there is a letter from the Kenneth Oxford, Merseyside Chief Constable, who is presumably named because he has now passed away.
“A key factor in causing the disaster was the fact that large numbers of Liverpool fans had turned up without tickets. This was getting lost sight of in attempts to blame the police, the football authorities, etc.”
The note is initialed “MT”, which suggested that Margaret Thatcher, read it. Apparently the line about “drunken Liverpool fans” is underlined by hand. To be balanced the BBC website added this caveat.
“It is important to bear in mind that this was written just days after the Hillsborough disaster and the views of the chief constable and those of his senior officers may well have changed over the subsequent weeks.”
May be so but it is does illustrate the sign of the times. Football’s image in 1989, wasn’t good. Any trouble and it was automatically assumed to be hooliganism. My, my how different to the “gentrification” of the game now where politicians, of the same party that sought to unfairly tar Liverpool, and other fans, at that time, now clamour to show their so called footballing “credentials” to order to appear to “down with the voters”. Football is now a “political football” worth chasing and keeping possession of?
The statements for Oxford and “PC Anon” were a premature knee jerk reactions based on ill considered assumptions without being versed with the full facts as revealed by the official enquiry which, ironically, found the police were a fault. Oxford also expressed unease about the fact that Anfield was turned into a shrine for fans to visit. Presumably had the death of Princess Diana occurred before Hillsborough he would have changed his view, given the similar scenes at the more “up market” Kensington Palace?
It’s ironic that all this occurs in a week where we are told that every police officer will have to face fitness tests, perhaps the powers that be should extend it to the brain? However, I’m prepared to accept that Oxford et all got it wrong and were simply less than tactful, not to mention premature when expressing their opinions. For all I know there may be other papers where they backtrack and say so. That to me is the point, why just this paper? Out of all the thousands of papers that are up for review why should this particular document be leaked and for what purpose? I guess we can look at it two ways?
Firstly the document was leaked to let people know about how Liverpool fans were being viewed at the time (as if we didn’t know) – trialled and condemned before the full facts were heard? Thatcher, the police, supported by papers like The Sun, were intent on shifting the blame from themselves to the fans, as they were “easy meat” it also suited them as they were trying to introduce an football identity card scheme at the time. The paper could have been leaked with the message of “look what they said, this is what those who wanted justice were up against from the start”
More likely however, in my book at least, is the second reason and for this we have to fast forward from 1989 to now. Picture this, Liverpool aren’t exactly the most popular club in the country at present thanks to stain of racism associated with it. So someone decides to rake up more bad news for the club to deal with. The implication is that even parts of Liverpool’s own police force thought the fans were responsible. So, rather look forward with a view to getting the justice they deserve, this leak has now, for the umpteenth time, placed families back in the position of having to defend themselves and their loved ones who died. Steve Rotheram, the MP for Liverpool Walton said this.
“Somebody has chosen to pick, out of the millions of documents, that particular aspect. Which, for me, is just reinforcing for some people the lies of nearly 23 years ago. I genuinely believe it’s malicious, it’s a nefarious act by somebody. If they wanted the truth to emerge, they needed to only wait a few more months for the independent panel to report.”
And that is the crux of it. Whoever, leaked this document is a callous mischief maker at best and at worst is a spiteful, mean spirited coward. Someone who as no regard or consideration for the loss of life and those who have deal with it day after day for twenty three years without any closure.
If the BBC had any bottle that would expose this slug however I’m sure they won’t. They will hide under the journalist’s defence about confidentiality and never revealing their sources. It’s depressing.